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The Insider

Jan 21, 2002  •  Post A Comment

NBC News’ one-two punch liners
The late-night comedy masters hadn’t even had a chance to crack their first jokes about President Bush’s bruising encounter with a pretzel when Brian Williams, who has proved he can hold his own with “The Tonight Show’s” Jay Leno when it comes to quips and one-liners, knocked one out of the comedy park.
At the Jan. 14 dinner marking the retirement of Ed Scanlon, the deal-maker whose last assignment was to help keep Katie Couric in the NBC family fold, Mr. Williams-who anchors an eponymous show on MSNBC and fills in on “NBC Nightly News” as he waits for Tom Brokaw to step aside as “Nightly” anchor-in his oh-so-elegant way handed Mr. Brokaw a bag of pretzels. To which Mr. Brokaw deadpanned that he’d just extended his “Nightly” contract for 22 years.
Anatomy of a TV critics tour
As surely as the Television Critics Association and executives and stars of the TV industry gather twice yearly in Pasadena, there is the postmortem at which both sides discuss how the tour went and how to make it more productive in the future. This year, the big question was whether the boiled-down tour, generally described as playing to an unusually listless group of critics, might be reinvigorated if it moved to the new Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood. The networks very much want the move, but the critics fear it would mean price hikes that would depress attendance by their colleagues.
There’s also the question of whether corporate synergy and vertical integration will or should drive scheduling of TCA tours in the future. The all-Fox Friday (and all-in-one press binder) was a hit, but some wonder if lumping all of a parent’s progeny together a) diminishes a network’s brand or b) dooms a session covering multiple outlets to be described as starting with a “28-minute filibuster.” Nobody expects a repeat of the day on which UPN could present no netlet executives, no preview tapes and no guarantees that any of the three programs on the agenda would even make air.
Fear no factor for Vince Manze
He’d be the first to admit he’s no Mel Gibson, but there is a little Alfred Hitchcock in Vince Manze, co-president of the NBC Agency, who painted his face green and donned a Philadelphia Eagles jersey for a cameo appearance in promos for the Playboy Playmate special edition of “Fear Factor” that will compete with Fox’s Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 3.
Mr. Manze is the one swinging a hoagielike club in the “Braveheart”-themed promos that are running during “Fear Factor” this month. When the spot’s narrator asks, “Do you want to watch the same old halftime show, or do you want Playmates on `Fear Factor’?” there’s a groan of approval from Mr. Manze and his more-than-motley crew, whose getups include Viking helmets with beer cans attached, an alligator mascot suit and rainbow-colored hair. “The kind of guys you’d either find at a football game or a strip club,” said Mr. Manze.
Did The Insider forget to mention there also are T-shirted Playmates who get doused in cold water?
“It’s just television, and it is all done in fun, where we’re even taking pokes at ourselves,” said Mr. Manze, a Philadelphia native and an Eagles fan. Nonetheless, “I’m going to feel really bad if Philadelphia makes it to the Super Bowl and we’re pulling viewers away with Playboy Playmates.”
Of art and UPN
Speaking of UPN, the same wags who knew that the exit of Dean Valentine as president had been negotiated when his huge art collection came down off the walls (if not out of the way in the halls) are now keeping tabs on the very different collection in the office of UPN Chief Operating Officer Adam Ware, whose contract is up next month. Where Mr. Valentine’s tastes run to the avant-garde (a big, beaded ode to the `70s, for example), Mr. Ware is partial to TV tchotchkes, posters and framed UPN trade ads. Of course, not all the art identified with Mr. Valentine was hung on the wall at UPN. One very red and very big work was painted directly on the wall-for a reported cost in excess of $30,000. No word on the eventual fate of that piece, which visitors to the third floor encounter when they step off the elevator.
Motley crew makes stab at `The Point’
What do ABC daytimer Lisa Ling, multimedia righty Tucker Carlson, newsman-reality host Anderson Cooper, ancient pundit Robert Novak, highly opinionated Keith Olbermann and the conservative but never cautious Laura Ingraham have in common? They have all gotten or will get behind the anchor desk of “The Point” on CNN, since Greta Van Susteren jumped to Fox News earlier this month. Also, they all come equipped with built-in opportunities to talk about or promote their appearances on “The Point.” Messrs. Carlson, Cooper, Novak and Olbermann, of course, appear elsewhere on CNN’s lineup. Mr. Olbermann and Ms. Ingraham have daily national radio gigs in which they can pretty much talk about anything they please, and Ms. Ling’s two appearances became one of the “hot topics” discussed by her posse on “The View.”