The Insider

Oct 1, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Tahiti, anyone?
Keeping “Survivor” contestants out of harm’s way has apparently taken on new meaning. Internet fan sites tied in to the “Survivor” rumor mill are rife with speculation about the site of “Survivor IV,” set to debut on CBS in or around the February 2002 sweeps. A pair of Hollywood agency network series packagers, who requested anonymity, said last week that “Survivor” producers-including creator Mark Burnett-had been thinking of shooting the reality show in the Middle East monarchy of Jordan. However, with the U.S. military gathering in the region since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Pacific island of Tahiti is now gaining “serious consideration” as the “Survivor” setting. A spokeswoman for “Survivor” said a site for “IV” had not been chosen and declined to comment on the speculation about Jordan and Tahiti ever being considered. The third incarnation of the hit series, “Survivor: Africa,” is set to debut at 8 p.m. (ET) Thursday, Oct. 11, on CBS.
Elsewhere on assignment
The buzz among troops at NBC News last week was that Dr. Bob Arnot had taken off for Central Asia without assignment from or knowledge of superiors. Not true, said a spokeswoman. David Verdi, the news executive doling out Operation Enduring Freedom posts, sent the doctor-correspondent to Islamabad because of his expertise on refugee issues but moved him to Karachi when demonstrations there heated up. The Insider, who has followed Dr. Bob’s career path through any number of world conflicts and hot spots, is taking bets on how soon the good doctor does a story in which we see him as healer and correspondent or how soon we hear he has scared off a band of unfriendlies with a chorus of an Elvis Presley hit.
Now for some good news
The good works continue at an inspiring pace in the TV industry. Before addressing second-quarter performance in a conference call early last week, Emmis Communications Chairman Jeff Smulyan said the “first tally” showed that the company’s radio and TV stations had raised more than $4 million for various relief efforts. Belo, which put up $250,000 as part of its pledge to match employee and retiree contributions, had raised more than $5 million for relief agencies through companywide fund-raising campaigns, according to Senior Vice President Skip Cass.
Among the more striking public service announcements are spots that silently display the words of the Pledge of Allegiance, one phrase at a time, on a black screen. Variations on the spot have been seen on WABC-TV in New York and KABC-TV in Los Angeles. Both stations’ creative services directors tell similar stories: People were first uncertain the silence would work and then were quickly convinced of its power. “They took a chance,” said KABC’s Bill Burton, who says the ABC stations’ spots were inspired by one produced by Robin DeLaney, the creative services director at WKRG-TV, Media General’s CBS affiliate in Mobile, Ala.
Somewhere over the radar
Despite the gravity of girding for war coverage, it’s nice to see there is still something of a lighter side for some media types. Coming up with catchy nicknames for media pinups was easier back in the days of the Persian Gulf War, when NBC correspondent Arthur Kent and his leather jacket reported to Saudi Arabia and immediately-not to mention reluctantly -earned the love handle “Scud Stud.” Coming up with a nickname for MSNBC’s Ashleigh Banfield, who is clearly going to be the media darling of Operation Enduring Freedom, is not going to be so easy. Ms. Banfield, not at all reluctantly, spent her first day in Islamabad, Pakistan, telling the press back home how she had cropped and darkened her famously streaked `do because she wanted to fly “under the radar.” She also was able to work in how she had become engaged to Drew Nederpelt-alternately described as a high-tech entrepreneur and an MSNBC producer-while the two still were “overwhelmed with grief and despair” from what they had witnessed, and she had reported, as the World Trade Center collapsed.
After checking in with folks who well know how these types of media stories get written and how they all too often end, The Insider suspects it’ll be easier to coin the appropriate nickname for Ms. Banfield after we know the United States’ weapons of first choice. In the meantime, insiders warn: Don’t get in between Ms. Banfield and the “Today” couch or you’ll get run over by the MSNBC correspondent in her drive to become the next Katie Couric.
The final word, er, question
With all the titles it could have chosen last week for a special program block to be hosted by its new flagship anchor, Aaron Brown, why would CNN have latched onto a title, “Special Report With Aaron Brown,” that mimics the title of one of ferocious competitor Fox’s signature shows, “Special Report With Britt Hume”? Just asking. CNN says it’s temporary. That doesn’t answer the question, but let’s see what Mr. Brown’s corner of the schedule is titled this week.
-With contributions by Michael Freeman