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The Insider

May 20, 2002  •  Post A Comment

CNN’s ticket out of Lucas land …
The day after CNN’s Connie Chung did a live show from “Star Wars” auteur George Lucas’ famed Skywalker Ranch, CNN was asked not to attend a “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones” press junket on the property. The Insider’s tipsters said CNN was tossed off the ranch, but CNN says that’s an exaggeration, that there was “no physical removal” of anyone, that there was a “conversation” and that “as conversations like that go, it was fairly cordial.”
The tipsters also say that what apparently rubbed Mr. Lucas the wrong way was that Ms. Chung, in a taped piece that set up her live May 7 interview with the moviemaker, ever so lightly suggested that “Episode One: The Phantom Menace” was, “to most, a disappointment.”
“For all its special effects, critics complained about stereotyping, stale plot lines, even racism,” Ms. Chung summed up, followed by a sound bite from controversial “Phantom Menace” character Jar Jar Binks saying, “Oh, this is going to get messy.”
At CNN, the stance is that Mr. Lucas expected a one-hour love letter and a wet kiss in return for the access CNN was allowed and didn’t feel he got that.
A Lucasfilm spokeswoman, holding down the fort while principals spread out for “Clones” premieres around the world, said she could not comment on conversations with which she was unfamiliar, but added that “Clones”-inspired interviews still scheduled for CNN include a piece on Mr. Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic.
… And into Dobbs-friendly territory
At the risk of seeming as touchy, touchy, touchy as a special-effects auteur, The Insider has a pop quiz: Who has the most-watched business news show on cable? If you read stories occasioned by the triumphal first anniversary of Lou Dobbs’ return to CNN’s “Moneyline,” you’d probably say Mr. Dobbs, and you’d make CNN very happy.
While it’s true that “Lou Dobbs Moneyline” has indeed bounded decisively past CNBC’s “Business Center” in the past year, it lags well behind Fox News Channel’s “Your World With Neil Cavuto” in total viewership and year-to-year growth.
Oh, said CNN, we don’t consider “Cavuto” competition, since it runs at 4 p.m. and “Dobbs”runs at 6 p.m. We-e-e-e-e were talking about e-e-e-e-evening business shows.
How conve-e-e-e-e-nient for CNN, which doesn’t have to acknowledge that while “Dobbs”’ 496,000 total viewers for April was up an impressive 158 percent year to year, “Cavuto” was up a whopping 223 percent to 747,000 viewers in spite of being handicapped by lower HUT levels (43.2 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. vs. 45.9 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.) and Fox’s being available in 8 million fewer homes than CNN.
The Insider is not being partisan here, just restating her fondness for flackery without omissions, asterisks and fine print in invisible ink. If there is an afterlife and The Insider is damned to spend eternity ducking flack attacks, let there at least be releases headlined, “In a two-way race, `Moneyline’ stopped being No. 2 months ago.”
Another O’Donnell might be talking
Lawrence O’Donnell, who traded Democratic politics for the world of television as his chief employment, is really stretching his TV wings.
In addition to being an experienced talking head who plays well with “The McLaughlin Group,” holding his own as a sometime substitute for Chris Matthews” on “Hardball” and helping give story lines on “The West Wing” an authentic zing, he’s also executive producer and writer of “Mister Sterling,” a heart-on-its-sleeve political drama NBC ordered for midseason. The Insider also hears that Mr. O’Donnell is about to stick a toe in the syndication waters and tape a pilot for a potential Telepictures talker in June. Discussion about possible executive producers has included, among others, Billy Kimball, founding executive producer of “The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn.”
The Insider hopes Mr. O’Donnell is taking his vitamins and eating his Wheaties.
Rep. Tauzin is sharing his riches
As if The Insider needed reminders of how powerful House Commerce chief Billy Tauzin is, the Cajun lawmaker has raised at least $1.25 million for his 2002 re-election bid, even though no one-not even a fringe candidate-has so far stepped forward to challenge him. Does that make the money, much of it from communications giants, little more than political payola? “Absolutely not,” Mr. Tauzin’s spokesman Ken Johnson said. “We’re like the Boy Scouts. We’re always prepared,” he said, noting that opponents have until Aug. 21 to jump in the race. “Some multimillionaire candidate can decide at the last minute to run.” In the meantime, and in full accordance with the law, Mr. Tauzin is redirecting some of his war chest to other GOP colleagues who face tight races-or any candidate at all-with emptier coffers. So media executives beware: That contribution you made recently to Billy may in fact be funding the campaigns of West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito, Kentucky’s Anne Northup or some other pol you couldn’t care less about.#