The Insider

May 6, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Of Bill Maher, TV critics and a new hotel haunt
Bill Maher meets the TV critics of America-at least those who will assemble on July 20, in Pasadena, Calif., to honor their favorite television shows-when he opens the 18th annual Television Critics Association Awards Ceremony.
The Insider can hardly wait to hear just how “Politically Incorrect” he is-or isn’t-after months of being dissed and dismissed as an afterthought in ABC’s late-night schemes and dreams.
Mr. Maher was presumed to be a goner when his ABC contract expires at the end of the year, but then last month, having lost its bid for David Letterman, ABC made nice to Ted Koppel to secure the “Nightline” half-hour and began cautioning people not to assume anything about “Incorrect.”
Meanwhile, the July 9-26 press tour in Pasadena will be the critics’ last professional sojourn at the Ritz-Carlton complex, the location for winter and summer press tours since January 1994, for the foreseeable future. The 2003 winter and summer TCA tours will be held at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel at the new Hollywood & Highland complex that has been touted as more convenient than Pasadena by the networks, which spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their TCA presentations.
One of The Insider’s best friends grumped about giving up the verdant suburban serenity of the Ritz until she checked the Renaissance Hollywood Web site and saw a listing of amenities that ranged from some stunning city views from rooms and a pool terrace and bar to high-speed Internet connections, CD players and coffeemakers in each room.
Almost makes The Insider wish she hadn’t kicked the press-tour habit cold turkey back in the ’90s.
9/11 remembered
Paul Friedman, the No. 2 executive at ABC News, is looking ahead to the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11, when ABC will present some 15 hours of coverage starting at 7 a.m. on “Good Morning America” and ending after midnight with “Nightline.” He has spent much of the past couple of months focused on coverage of the attacks and their aftermath, and he is freshly reminded of just how powerful the images and memories from the day remain.
“We found ourselves sitting there with various parts of our bodies clenched. It is bizarre,” he told The Insider. “It taught us how gripping it still is, even though you know what happens.”
On the afternoon of the attacks, after both World Trade Center towers had collapsed, ABC News decided to “stop using the collapse and the planes going in as wallpaper. We stopped using that stuff.”
Though still images became the rule, there has been the understanding that exceptions to the ban would be made if showing the video was essential to telling the story. Since one of the major elements of the four-hour prime-time block of the daylong remembrance will be a minute-by-minute reconstruction of events before and during the attacks, the possibility of relaxing the ban on the anniversary seems strong.
One of the pressing questions following the announcement was why ABC News had made it so early.
“That’s the record-breaking aspect of this that we’re thinking this far ahead,” Mr. Friedman said with a chuckle. More seriously, he said the network had to start talking to affiliates about clearances for the project, and the network knew that once those conversations began, the news of the project would leak.
The Insider has no idea what he means.
In and out on the ABC upfront front
Speaking of ABC, it was only in late March that The Insider shared the news that the Alphabet network had decided to go outside for an upfront producer and had hired Bob Bain, whose credits range from youth-oriented music specials to last year’s Miss America Pageant. Now, for reasons no one would share, Mr. Bain is no longer involved with the 2002-03 upfront presentation on May 14 at Disney’s intimate Amsterdam Theatre. Instead, the upfront is now the responsibility of Andrea Wong, the alternative series and specials executive who gave the network “The Bachelor,” “Contact: Talking to the Dead” and a Victoria’s Secret fashion show this season alone. Ms. Wong is working with ABC uber-director Roger Goodman and former ABC marketing executive Barry Goodman.
The Insider’s overactive mind swoons with the possibilities. As a running gag, Mr. Bachelor himself, Alex Michel, could winnow down the development list by eliminating one pilot at a time until he decides which one of two potential appointment shows he would promise to, um, sample. A medium could put unemployed or underemployed stars in touch with their departed series-he would, of course, insist that he did not recognize any of the stars to whom he was talking. Or if the ritual single-file march of series casts across the stage continues, perhaps the actors and actresses could be outfitted in miraculous bras and thongs.
Jerry Springer stands for something
One man’s reputation for trash TV is another man’s hook for an ad that’s good for a grin. Dodge has just started a print campaign that proudly declares its Neon has “room for five `Jerry Springer’ guests and their baggage.”