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The Insider

Mar 25, 2002  •  Post A Comment

ABC is upfront about entertainment
There’s a lot riding on the 2002-03 season for ABC, and the Alphabet Network is going to be very upfront about that at its upfront presentation to ad buyers and odds makers in May at the Disney-owned Amsterdam Theatre on New York’s 42nd Street .
The network needs to get across the message that it knows how to get back on track, but it wants to do it entertainingly. Enter Bob Bain, the independent producer whose credits just this season range from “Fox Teen Music Awards” and “Britney Spears in Hawaii!” to “The Miss America Pageant” to producing the upfront (with help from ABC uber-director Roger Goodman).
Among Mr. Bain’s challenges: integrating ABC talent into the show better than in the past, when casts largely filed across the stage; keeping the show to a reasonable and effective running time; and making it play to the strengths of Susan Lyne, who in less than three months as ABC Entertainment president has secured an image as a smart, straight shooter who takes her job, but not herself, seriously.
Early indications are that rather than belaboring well-known data half-hour by half-hour, ABC will focus not on the dark clouds on which network critics have been fixated through this long, dark season but on the silver linings.
The Insider is always happy to be entertained-and never more so than during upfront week, which is second only to Alaska’s Iditarod as a test of endurance.
So The Insider, never short of gratuitous advice, suggests sending Ms. Lyne out in an “Alias” costume (an homage to something that has worked for the network); or putting Entertainment Chairman Lloyd Braun through a stress test a la “The Chair” (proof that ABC can laugh at its mistakes); or having Disney President Bob Iger read a “Top Ten” list of reasons ABC is glad David Letterman stayed at CBS.
`George’ has date with HBO
HBO has picked up the TV rights to “Journeys With George,” the documentary done by former NBC News producer Alexandra Pelosi during the year-plus she spent as a member of the press corps covering the Bush presidential campaign. The 76-minute film debuted March 8 at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Texas.
NBC News could have played the role of stickler in this story: Ms. Pelosi, daughter of House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., gained the vantage point for this up-close-and-oddly-personal look at President Bush on NBC News’ dime and recorded it on NBC News’ hand-held camera, say network sources. But NBC News executives knew of her plans and permitted her to collect the material on the job, as it were. In return, NBC News got the right to a TV sneak peek-footage showing then-Gov. Bush in goofily charming moments was featured in a “Dateline NBC” piece March 13.
An irony, of course, is that NBC News footage that was included in “Journeys” will appear on HBO at a date still to be announced. Only two weeks ago, HBO allegedly made unauthorized use of NBC News footage featuring anchor Tom Brokaw and correspondent Hoda Kotke in “The Laramie Project.” NBC News doesn’t expect anything to come of its protest about “Laramie.”
At least there’ll be a little payoff with “Journeys,” because Ms. Pelosi agreed to pay a license fee for whatever official NBC News footage made its way into her documentary, should it be sold.
Sparring with Springer
Some Los Angelenos nearly went into culture shock at hearing a KFI-AM broadcast on which Jerry Springer seemed to be taking Fox to the woodshed for airing “Celebrity Boxing.” The Insider went looking for clarification and/or amplification from the man whose talk show helped define so-called trash TV with, among other things, the “spontaneous” guest-guest, guest-host, guest-audience, audience-audience, guest-security guard, audience-security guard slugfests that have gone the way of the dinosaur. Instead, The Insider got a kind and gentle spokeswoman who said that what Mr. Springer was saying on the radio was that after reigning as television’s “king of the bottom … to have my title swept away by Fox, to put it simply, it hurts.” All the way to the bank, as they always say.
Is NAB feeling down?
The National Association of Broadcasters isn’t releasing any numbers, but sources say early figures suggest that attendance at NAB’s annual convention in Las Vegas next month might well be down considerably from the 113,363 on hand last year. “We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Stacy Perrus, NAB manager of media relations. “The way things have been going, even if we drop 10 percent, that will be an accomplishment.”