The Insider

Oct 29, 2001  •  Post A Comment

CNN’s two-man band of brothers
The Insider was just about to note that there was an interesting Pakistani brother act straddling competitive lines in and around Afghanistan when she received word that the brothers are now working on the same journalistic side. Kamal Hyder has been a stringer for CNN for some time, working primarily with Nic Robertson, who for a time was the only American TV correspondent inside Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. CNN viewers know Kamal best as a voice on the phone and a postage-stamp-size mugshot attached to his reports, known at CNN as “beepers.”
In mid-September, Kamal’s brother Jamal had begun working for MSNBC and NBC News, whose audiences would know him best as “an NBC News contact,” as he was identified in reports to which he contributed information under what a spokesperson described as an informal agreement. Then CNN wooed Jamal to its team with a less informal agreement, which was wrapped up last week. CNN said then that Jamal was awaiting Taliban permission to re-enter Afghanistan and was expected to be dispatched soon to the eastern part of the country. Kamal, who already had Taliban permission, was expected to take up a post in Kandahar, Afghanistan, this week.
MSNBC and NBC News, meanwhile, already have lined up Jamal’s successor. No word on whether he or she has a brother in the “contact” business.
O’Reilly factors in just about everywhere
What a difference a very-best-seller makes. Outside of his own Fox News Channel show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” Bill O’Reilly could barely get a mention for his late-2000 book of the same title until it had spent months on best-seller lists and Mr. O’Reilly had used his nightly bully pulpit to shame other outlets into acknowledging that with stories and guest spots.
Mr. O’Reilly didn’t have to grease the wheels of the publicity machine for “The No Spin Zone,” which hit bookshelves Oct. 16. In the two weeks since, there have been a two-fer trip to L.A. where Mr. O’Reilly taped an appearance on ABC’s “Politically Incorrect” that aired opposite his appearance on NBC’s “The Tonight Show”; appearances on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “The View”; a taping of Tim Russert’s interview show that runs twice Saturdays on CNBC; and a prolonged encounter with a crew doing a day-in-the-life-of feature for “Access Hollywood.”
It seems the only thing that isn’t falling cooperatively into place is the subject of Mr. O’Reilly’s prime-time special, scheduled to air in mid to late December on sister Fox Broadcasting network. Mr. O’Reilly and producer David Lewis had taken aim at a favorite target-popular culture-before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Now they’re looking for heroes from a number of modern turning points for the United States.
Hot, hot `Hotline’
It was billed as a special, but “Hotline TV: Washington Goes to War,” which WETA-TV viewers could have watched four times last weekend, was really a pilot for a weekly show that folks at The Hotline, a daily news briefing on American politics that is delivered via fax and the Web, have long wanted to do for the Washington public station and PBS stations at large.
The half-hour was hosted by Hotline Executive Publisher Craig Crawford and Bill Clinton press secretary-turned-pundit DeeDee Myers and executive produced by Ann Klenk (“Equal Time”). Politically inclined comedian Jim Morris talked about trying to be funny in less-than-funny times. Clinton cheerleader James Carville donned a black T-shirt and dark glasses for a “Rest O’ Rant” segment, so called because ranting is a way of speech for Mr. Carville and because his two-minute bit about loyal opposition was taped in the Washington restaurant owned by him and his wife Mary Matalin, a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.
“We’re trying not to do the `McLaughlin Group’-`Capital Gang’-`Take 5′ thing,” Mr. Crawford said. “We’re avoiding the roundtable people talking about themselves. It’s pretty wild stuff for PBS-land.” He added that WETA told them upfront that “they were looking for an alternative” to existing public affairs programming and wanted a show with “a little more electricity.”
`Mummy Crazy’ writers (law)suiting up
Exhibit 1: A professor of anthropology named Sidnee Albright is the fictional heroine of “Mummy Crazy,” an original script screenwriters Robert Cole and George Harrison (not the Beatles legend) say they pitched to actress Tia Carrere and Franchise Pictures Chairman Elie Samaha, who later launched “Relic Hunter,” the fall `99 syndicated series in which Ms. Carrere plays history professor and relic hunter Sydney Fox.
Exhibit 2: The Cole-Harrison script for “Mummy Crazy” was registered in March 1991. “Relic Hunter” launched in fall 1999.
In a lawsuit filed Oct. 15 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Mr. Cole and Mr. Harrison charge Ms. Carrere, Mr. Samaha, Franchise Pictures, Fireworks Television and Gaumont TV with copyright infringement and unfair competition. The writers, who seek a jury trial for unspecified punitive and compensatory damages, also cite what they say are other character and plot similarities between their “Mummy Crazy” script and a script written by someone else for “Relic Hunter.” Neither side was available for comment.#