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Jul 22, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Monday, July 22

PBS leads News Emmy nominations

Programming from assorted sources put PBS at the top of the list of nominations for the 23rd Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards, announced this morning by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. PBS-broadcast programming accounted for 41 nominations.

In second place on the list is CBS News, with a total of 26 nominations, followed by ABC News (19), HBO (10), NBC News (10), CNBC (8, all for “National Geographic Explorer” programming), CNN (8), Discovery (3), The Learning Channel (3), History Channel (2), Univision (2), and Animal Planet, Court TV, MSNBC, National Geographic, Nickelodeon and “Inside Edition” with 1 nomination each.

“These entries and nominations reflect the extraordinary year of television news coverage that 2001 proved to be,” said Bill Small, the academy’s vice chairman for news and documentaries.

“The CBS Evening News With Dan Rather” was the most-nominated news program, with seven chances to take home Emmys that will be handed out Tuesday, Sept. 10, at the Marriott Marquis in a ceremony that will be part of a series of events held under the banner of “9/11 to 9/11: A Tribute to News Professionals.”

The first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award will be given to Roone Arledge, ABC News chairman and former ABC Sports president, by ABC newswoman Barbara Walters.

For a complete list of news and documentary Emmy nominees, go to www.emmyonline.org/national/newsdoc/.

Cable rates hearing canceled: The Senate communications subcommittee today announced the cancellation of Wednesday’s oversight hearings on cable TV rates and other issues. Sources said the subcommittee’s chairman, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, is concerned that holding the hearings at a time when the stock market is already tumbling could unfairly add to the cable industry’s financial pains. That’s the same pitch that industry lobbyists were circulating on Capitol Hill.

Fox revival in the offing?: Ushered in by a gospel revival on Sunday morning, with Cedric The Entertainer leading a raucous but righteous chorus from Greater Bethany Church, Fox’s portion of the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif., had a lot to celebrate — despite some adverse rating bumps experienced by the network last season.

With TCA Awards for the 2001-02 season going to “24” as best drama and “The Bernie Mac Show” as best comedy in a ceremony the night before, Fox programming heads Sandy Grushow and Gail Berman used the occasion to elaborate on storylines and schedule moves for the two shows next fall. Also buoyed by strong summer ratings from such reality series as “American Idol,” “30 Seconds to Fame” and “Meet The Marks,” the pair said they were hopeful the added audience circulation and promotion augers well for building awareness for Fox’s prime time schedule and new freshmen series introductions next season.

Seizing on the fact that Fox is the only broadcast network to grow among adults 18 to 34 this summer (Electronic Media, July 15), Ms. Berman announced that Fox has placed a renewal order for “American Idol” to air sometime in the first quarter of 2003. Since beginning production on live Tuesday and Wednesday editions two weeks ago for the talent search, Fox has won three consecutive weeks in the adults 18 to 49, Ms. Berman noted, claiming “Idol” had help improve female demo ratings by as much as 180 percent versus year-ago levels. She expects the audience build for the U.K.-based series to continue to build as the show nears its Sept. 4 finale — and the start of the fall season three weeks later.

“We have created a strong and competitive schedule for the coming season and, unlike last year, our aggressive summer strategy is keeping the lights on and insuring that our fall shows get exposure throughout July and August,” said Ms. Berman, who is president of Fox Entertainment.

Still, Ms. Berman was dogged by questions from TV critics on whether doing another installment is reminiscent of ABC’s subsequent series and ratings burnout of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and other network reality series.

“That is absolutely a consideration,” Ms. Berman responded. “That’s something that we talk about. You don’t want to burn out something that has done well for you. You don’t want to burn out something that’s done well for you. And we think six months going by and allowing it to take a breather before [we] start it again is a good idea.”

Product placement, one of the hot-button subjects of this summer’s TCA tour for broadcast networks, was something that also drew a question about “American Idol” placing Cokes in the hands of the contestants as leading to other in-show plugs on non-scripted and scripted dramas and comedies in Fox’s future.

“There’s no question that it’s an important part component of our future, particularly as it relates to unscripted television,” conceded Mr. Grushow, who is chairman of Fox Television Entertainment Group. “As far as the scripted angle is considered, it’s much more difficult on the scripted front…[we are] dealing with actors…dealing with economic considerations.”

In particular, Mr. Grushow felt that product placement is considered more acceptable in unscripted programming, particularly when it comes to the significantly lower amount of ad revenue pumped into the broadcast networks’ summer schedules. Where product placement is being graphically “imbedded” in off-network repeats of comedies (such as CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond”), it can “easily have negative ramifications when that program makes it down the food chain into syndication,” he said.

“The one thing I’ll say about product placement is it feels a little bit like repurposing felt like last year at this time, that somehow it was the panacea that was going to cure all of the economic ills of the industry, and I don’t think that’s the case,” Mr. Grushow added. “I think what we are looking at is a drop in the bucket. We’re talking about $8 billion in traditional advertising on the six broadcast networks. I don’t think that’s going to be replaced by $8 billion worth of product placement.”

Ms. Berman also announced that “24’s” season-opening episode Tuesday, Oct. 29 (9 to 10 p.m., ET) will be commercial-free and sponsored solely by Ford Motor Company. Ms. Berman gave away little on the storyline for the coming season-long 24-hour, real-time serial — much of which had been widely speculated about on Internet-based fan sites. Ms. Berman confirmed that Counter Terrorist Unit agent Jack Bauer’s (played by Emmy-nominated Kiefer Sutherland) wife Terri (Leslie Hope) is “dead” from last May’s season finale, and the new season picks up with him estranged from his daughter Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) and prematurely retired from CTU.

“Just as his world is crumbling” around him, Ms. Berman said, he gets a call from now-U.S. President David Palmer to enlist his help on “yet another perilous” terrorist plot unfolding that day. But with Terri out of the picture, Ms. Berman announced Sarah Wynter has been cast as a wealthy new love interest who plays a role in helping Jack meet the new terrorist threat. There has also been some unconfirmed Internet speculation that Jack will have to unravel a terrorist group’s plot to explode some kind of crude nuclear device in Los Angeles.

In case the threatened baseball strike materializes, Ms. Berman has a “tactical rollout” of the fall 2002 schedule, and she also hinted the network has a “contingency plan” laid out in such an event. Prior to the week of Sept. 24, the Nielsen-sanctioned official start of the 2002-03 season, Fox will premiere four nights — Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings — starting Sept. 14, before Major League Baseball’s tentatively planned October post-season playoffs, Ms. Berman said.

“Cops” (8 to 9 p.m.) and “America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back” (9 to 10 p.m.) will kick off their Saturday night runs starting Sept. 14; “That `70s Show” (8 to 8:30 p.m.) and “Grounded for Life” (8:30 to 9 p.m.) roll out on Tuesday, Sept. 17; “The Bernie Mac Show” (8 to 8:30 p.m.), “Cedric The Entertainer Presents” (8
:30 to 9 p.m.) and the car chase/action drama “Fastlane” (9 to 10 p.m.) open their season Wednesday, Sept. 18; and the Joss Whedon-created sci-fi drama “Firefly” (8 to 9 p.m.) and the amnesiac-turned-mystery-sleuth “John Doe” (9 to 10 p.m.) debut Friday, Sept. 20.

Monday night’s opening of the David Kelley-produced dramas “Boston Public” (8 to 9 p.m.) and “Girls Club” (9 to 10 p.m.) will start Oct. 21. Two nights after the potential ending of the World Series, on Sunday Nov. 3 Fox’s all-comedy lineup of “The Simpsons” (8 to 8:30 p.m.), “King of the Hill” (8:30 to 9 p.m.), “Malcolm in the Middle” (9 to 9:30 p.m.) and “The Grubbs” (9:30 to 10 p.m.) will premier, followed the next week by new 7 to 8 p.m. episodes of “Futurama” and “Oliver Beene.”

Ms. Berman said the rollout of Thursday, “the night most impacted by sports preemptions,” will have a delayed rollout to “some time” following the November sweeps. Nevertheless, with over half of Fox’s schedule unspooling in September, Ms. Berman said she thinks it mitigates the effect of a baseball players’ work stoppage on Fox’s other planned debuts.

“We’re not prepared to lay out the [entire] contingency plan” if there is a baseball strike, Ms. Berman reiterated, when asked if it would mean pushing up the Sunday and Monday premieres if October again goes without a playoff post-season. “We have gone over it internally. We’ve discussed all the possibilities and ramifications of it. We do have a plan set up.”

Ms. Berman also announced that Fox News will be producing a two-hour special, “:9/11 — The Day America Changed” (anchored by Fox News Channel’s Brit Hume), on Wednesday, Sept. 11 (8 to 10 p.m.) to mark the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

Mitchell joins ‘CBS Sunday Morning’: Though the search for a co-host for CBS’s “The Early Show” is still wide open, one potential candidate is off the list with the news that easy-going Russ Mitchell instead will become a contributor to “CBS Sunday Morning.” Mr. Mitchell will continue as anchor of “The Saturday Early Show” and the Saturday edition of “CBS Evening News.” He also will continue to be an occasional contributor to the renamed prime-time magazine “48 Hours Investigates.”

Decent debut for ‘She Spies’: NBC’s Saturday premiere of action drama “She Spies” exhibited some positive ratings spikes compared with its lead-in programming — “She Spies” star Natasha Henstridge’s star turn in “Species” (1995), which the network ran in its regularly scheduled 8 p.m.-to-10 p.m. (ET) movie showcase.

“She Spies” opened with top-ranked ratings in adults 18 to 49 (1.7 rating/6 share) and adults 18 to 34 (1.6/7), according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research fast national data. However, “She Spies” dropped 11 percent and 6 percent from its first to second half-hour frames among adults 18 to 49 (1.8 rating vs. 1.6 rating) and adults 18 to 34 (1.6 vs. 1.5), respectively.

Still, it was notable that “She Spies” improved the closing hour by 78 percent in adults 18 to 34 compared with the previous two-hour rotation with “Species” (0.9/4). Overall, “She Spies,” which is getting a springboard launch this summer on NBC before moving into syndication, drew 4.79 million total viewers, a 12 percent improvement over its “Species” lead-in (4.27 million).

“She Spies'” 2.9/6 average in households marked 7 percent growth from the movie (2.7/6), although the former finished third in the 10 p.m. frame to CBS’s repeat of “The Agency” (3.6/7) and the last hour of ABC’s oft-run James Bond flick “Diamonds Are Forever” (3.6/7).

Fox won the night in adults 18 to 49 (2.5/10) and households (4.4/10) in typical form, with quadruple repeats of “Cops” across its 8 p.m.-to-10 p.m. schedule. CBS came in second for the night in adults 18 to 49 (1.6/6), with “Big Brother 3” just nosing out “Cops” in the key demo (2.2/10 vs. 2.2/9) at 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. NBC followed with a 1.5/6 average in adults 18 to 49 on the night while ABC came in fourth (1.4//5) with the 007 movie.’Taboo’ debuts Sept. 30: The National Geographic Channel will be breaking “Taboo,” its new weekly one-hour series that examines customs and practices that are acceptable in some societies though forbidden or illegal in others, on Monday, Sept. 30. Issues examined include rites of passage, blood sports, drug use, witchcraft, marriage, food, tattoos, death, sexuality and tests of faith. NGC has given “Taboo” a 13-episode order.

Donahue town hall meeting set: MSNBC’s “Donahue” will originate Wednesday from Houston, where host Phil Donahue aims to “put a human face on corporate greed.” Scheduled is a town hall meeting at which hundreds of former Enron employees will appear. Also booked for the show is Texas columnist Molly Ivins and activist Ralph Nader, whose third-party candidacy Mr. Donahue actively supported during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Forman headed back to WNBC: The executive merry-go-round continues at WNBC-TV in New York, where Dan Forman will return as station manager and senior VP for news. Mr. Forman left WNBC-TV as assistant news director in September 2000 to become news director of rival WABC-TV in New York.

Also getting boosts at WNBC-TV are David Hyman, promoted from director of creative services and programming to VP of creative services and programming; and Anna Carbonell, who is being elevated from WNBC’s director of press and public affairs to VP of station relations, dealing with both WNBC and sister Telemundo station WNJU-TV.

Meanwhile, at WABC, assistant news director Kenny Plotnik will run the newsroom on an interim basis.#