The Insider

Feb 18, 2002  •  Post A Comment

`Jimmy Neutron,’ boy-oh-boy nominee
If ever anyone ever truly has felt honored just to be nominated, it is the folks at Nickelodeon, which received its first-ever Oscar nomination in the Academy Awards’ first-ever Best Animated Feature category. If ever there were an underdog, it is “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” which cost some $25 million to make and has grossed a reported $80 million to date domestically and is competing with the box office and budget big boys “Shrek” (more than $267 million domestic gross to date) and “Monsters, Inc.” (more than $251 million).
The Nick folk, proud practitioners of the “garage band” style of movie- and hit-making that came together in “The Rugrats Movie” (a $150 million grosser), “Snow Day” ($61 million) and “Rugrats in Paris” ($76 million), could have been insufferable after last Tuesday’s milestone.
Instead, Nickelodeon film and TV entertainment President Albie Hecht was “numb” but happy Tuesday after learning of the nomination from his wife via cellphone (“All I hear is `Aaaaaaarrrrrrghhhhh ”Jimmy Neutron””’) and sharing the good news with Nickelodeon President Herb Scannell. There was much popping of champagne corks, wearing of Devolike Jimmy wigs and toasting of the team credited with the movie: Steve Oedekerk, John Davis and Nick movies’ Senior VP Julia Pistor, who was conveniently in New York.
By Wednesday, Mr. Hecht was on such an adrenaline high that he joked to The Insider: “They’ve gotta keep me away from windows.” And don’t anyone try to keep him away from the Kodak Theater at Hollywood and Highland on Oscar night. “I own a great Hugo Boss tux,” he said.
Meanwhile, the plans continue for “Jimmy Neutron” to become a weekly series on Nick next fall, and there’s been talk of a theatrical sequel.
`GMA’ throws book(er) at `Today’
CNN wanted Connie Chung and it got her, thanks in no small part to ABC News’ letting Ms. Chung out of her contract a year early.
The Insider hears that CNN wanted Santina Leuci, the take-no-prisoners producer who was integral to Ms. Chung’s landing the much-watched live interview with embattled California Congressman Gary Condit last summer. But CNN didn’t get her, in spite of having talked about a salary in the neighborhood of $200,000-a neighborhood out of the reach of the average CNN booker.
Instead, Mrs. Leuci, said to have been coveted by numerous stars at ABC News, last week got her wish and began her new assignment as the head booker on “Good Morning America,” where she’ll be working for two of the most competitive women in TV news: executive producer Shelley Ross and host Diane Sawyer, both of whom are determined to narrow the gap between “GMA” and “Today.” That led to the reassignment of Laurye Blackford as line producer.
Muniz in the moment
Frankie Muniz, co-star of “Big Fat Liar,” the big fat hit from Universal Pictures and the star of Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle,” did his part to put his network in the money on Feb. 6 as the star of a sponsored interstitial wraparound in which he talked throughout prime time about his guest appearance on that night’s “Titus” and the experience of being in ”Liar.”
“Frankie is a big star of our network, and the fact is that Universal is one of our bigger movie clients, so we started talking about how a tie-in promotion could make sense for both of us,“ said Fox Television Sales President Jon Nesvig, the architect of the interstitial “Muniz Minutes.”
“I would guess that MTV has done some sponsored interstitials in the past, but this is something we’re only going to do on an occasional, opportunistic basis,” he added. “It made sense to do it with Frankie in terms of enhancing our airtime, yet giving it a different look, one that is a fun and relatable viewing experience for Fox’s core [younger adult] audience demographics.”
Even the creaky, crotchety Insider found the “Muniz Minutes” fun and relatable and, like it or not, has considered herself very much part of Fox’s core audience on Sundays, Mondays and Fridays, until the recent breakup of the “Dark Angel”-“24” lineup left her fruitlessly searching for the real and reliable times of “24” encores on FX and asking-well, more like ranting to-everyone: What’s the purpose of repurposing if it turns into a game of hide-and-seek?
Take two steps, call me in the morning
Julia Louis-Dreyfus appears to be taking the cure years after performing Elaine’s signature bad dance moves on “Seinfeld.” The Insider-and is she everywhere, or what?-spotted the actress, who plays a nightclub singer on the upcoming NBC comedy “Watching Ellie,” polishing her technique last week at John Cassese’s The Dance Doctor Studio in Santa Monica, Calif. Mr. Cassese, who also makes “house calls” for Hollywood taps, uh, types, gave the TV star a healthy dose of fancy footwork. Viewers can decide whether Ms. Louis-Dreyfus needs to seek further treatment after “Watching Ellie” debuts Tuesday, Feb. 26.