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May 14, 2002  •  Post A Comment

‘Nightline’ to handle ‘PI’ spot until Kimmel show starts

“Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher” will leave ABC’s late-night lineup this summer and will be replaced by a half-hour personality-oriented program produced by the “Nightline” team. The week-nightly program — working title “Nightline Closeup” — will be anchored by Ted Koppel and Chris Bury and will be executive-produced by Tom Bettag and Leroy Sievers. The program will air through Jan. 24, when a new hour-long comedy program starring Jimmy Kimmel of Comedy Central’s “The Man Show” debuts.

Ironically, Mr. Koppel’s crew had been hoping to extend the “Nightline” brand to an hour when news broke in March that ABC wanted to woo David Letterman over to ABC and give him the 11:35 p.m. (ET) time slot.

Mr. Kimmel was the hit of ABC’s upfront this afternoon when he dealt with the recent history in a bit of fearless standup about how he came to land his new big gig. “Please, do not breath a word of this to Ted Koppel,” he said to the crowd gathered at Disney’s New Amsterdam Theatre.

He proved he’d read “The Late Shift,” the saga of the last time Mr. Letterman agonized over switching networks after “The Tonight Show” was given to Jay Leno a decade ago. Somehow, Mr. Kimmel said, getting a network late-night slot was supposed to be more of a struggle than he’d experienced with ABC. “I’m pretty sure you have to kiss a lot of ass and hide in a closet.”

Mr. Kimmel didn’t leave the stage until he’d had a little more fun with ABC’s programming problems being addressed by ABC Entertainment Chairman Lloyd Braun and Entertainment President Susan Lyne. “It’s unlikely either of you will be here when [my] show launches,” said Mr. Kimmel.

Later in the upfront, Mr. Kimmel did a mock interview with “The Bachelor’s” Alex Michel and the winner of his search for the perfect woman, Amanda Marsh.

“Many people have accused you of being gay,” said Mr. Kimmel, sending the upfront audience into gales of laughter. Ms. Marsh said she’s “got my proof” that Mr. Michel is hetero.

“Well, the questions remain,” said Mr. Kimmel, with a deadpan worthy of “Saturday Night Live,” looking directly into the camera.

‘Haunted,’ ‘Twilight Zone’ picked up as UPN finalizes fall schedule: UPN’s fall 2002 upfront presentation in New York this Thursday may be short on new news, but not because of any scheduling weaknesses on the network’s part. With only a few holes in its schedule and almost 20 percent season-to-date growth in adults 18 to 34, talent agency sources say the Viacom-owned and CBS-supervised UPN has confirmed fall 2002 pickups on only three shows — two dramas and a sitcom.

Well-known in the media community is UPN’s desire to fill the 9 p.m. (ET) hour time slots coming out tentpole opening dramas “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” on Tuesdays and “Enterprise” on Wednesdays.

On that front, UPN has picked up the back-from-the-dead drama “Haunted,” which is being speculated as a companion 9 p.m. Tuesday lead-out from “Buffy.” “Haunted,” a co-production of Keith Addis’ Industry Entertainment, Viacom and CBS Productions, stars Matthew Fox as a man who comes back from a near-death experience only to find out that he’s haunted by ghosts who help him solve crimes.

Talent agency reps say revival of the classic sci-fi anthology series “Twilight Zone” will likely serve as a lead-out from the “Star Trek” prequel “Enterprise.” “Twilight Zone,” from Trilogy Entertainment and New Line Television, is hosted by Forest Whitaker. Still, some agency sources suggest that UPN could just as easily flip-flop “Haunted” and “Twilight Zone” for the key “Buffy” and “Enterprise” lead-out time slots.

What is said to be somewhat more concrete is the fall 2002 pickup of the urban sitcom “Half & Half.” Sources say it is likely “The Hughleys” — the lowest rated show in UPN’s two-hour Monday urban comedy block — will not be renewed for a fifth season.

Dawn Tarnofsky, president of UPN Entertainment, along with CBS Television President/CEO Leslie Moonves, who has oversight of UPN, are expected to keep the schedule close to vest all the way to Thursday’s schedule announcement. UPN and CBS officials were unreachable for comment.

NATPE 2004 location up in the air: Executives at NATPE have confirmed that while its convention in New Orleans is on schedule for next year, the organization has formally released its commitments to hold its conference in New Orleans in 2004.

“The decision to hold NATPE 2004 in New Orleans was made a long time ago, and since then the television business has undergone the most significant changes ever in the history of this great industry,” said Bruce Johansen, president and CEO of NATPE.

“New Orleans has been a wonderful host for our organization, and we’re looking forward to the possibility of returning there in the future. Make no mistake about it — we will hold an annual conference in 2004. As such, we are currently exploring all possible options available so that NATPE can best serve the interests of our membership.”

ABC signs Kimmel for new late-night show: Coming off its highly pubicized but rebuffed effort to get David Letterman to bolt from CBS last March, ABC has signed Jimmy Kimmel, co-host of Comedy Central’s “The Man Show” and a Fox NFL pre-game fixture, to host a new hour-long ABC late night talk/variety show — to replace ABC’s embattled “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher” early next year.

The axing of “Politically Incorrect,” expected for some time in media circles, is said to come as a result of advertisers pulling out of the show after Mr. Maher made some ill-received comments about the bravery of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers of planes that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, and a rural field in Pennsylvania.

During ABC’s 2002-03 season prime-time announcements at a press conference in New York this morning, Lloyd Braun, chairman of ABC Television Entertainment Group, suggested that “Politically Incorrect” was “not doomed” from the time Mr. Maher made his televised comments last fall. In fact, Mr. Braun went out of his way to compliment Mr. Maher as being “tireless in making a quality show,” but he felt it was time to take ABC in a “different direction.”

“With respect to Jimmy Kimmel, we think he is a very unique talent, very fresh,” Mr. Braun said. “He will allow us over time to get a significant presence in late-night.”

Mr. Kimmel’s talk show is slated for a January 2003 start, filling “Politically Incorrect’s” soon-to-be-vacated 12:05 a.m.-to-1:05 a.m. (ET) time slot coming out of ABC News’ broadly rated “Nightline,” anchored by Ted Koppel.

Local governments want broadband services subject to local franchise fees: Representatives of local government organizations today announced that they have appealed a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission that exempted the cable industry’s broadband modem services from local franchise fees. At a press conference in Washington, the groups said the ruling would cost them $300 million in revenues this year.

“The FCC must recognize the key role local governments play in our system of federalism and should not be able to direct local governments to relinquish control over their city’s streets to private entities,” said Donald Borut, executive director of the National League of Cities. But Marc Smith, a spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, said the savings would help fulfill an important public policy goal, “to advance high speed Internet and broadband technologies.”

WWOR-TV reporter to interview ‘Son of Sam’: UPN affiliate WWOR-TV, New York, which is owned by News Corp., will air an exclusive interview with David Berkowitz, also known as the “Son of Sam” or the “44 Caliber Killer,” Wednesday on the 10 p.m. news. It is his first local television interview in years. Reporter Matthew Schwartz will conduct the interview.

The serial killer has a parole board hearing in three weeks. Mr. Berkowitz reportedly told Mr. Schwartz he does not deserve parole and that he should be in prison for the rest of his life. The interview took place in a maximu
m security prison in upstate New York. Between July 1976 and August 1977, Mr. Berkowitz killed six people and wounded seven, leaving one person paralyzed and another blind.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications