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Jul 23, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Tuesday, July 23

O’Brien to host Emmys

NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker officially crowned late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien as host of NBC’s Sept. 22 telecast of the 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif., Tuesday.

During NBC’s presentation to critics, Mr. Zucker elaborated that before approaching Mr. O’Brien about hosting the Emmys, he had gone to “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno, who had given “his blessings.”

In the strike-while-the-headlines-are-hot category, Mr. Zucker announced that NBC is going to produce an original biographical TV movie on embattled domestic maven Martha Stewart. Though it may raise the ire of CBS, which uses Ms. Stewart as a regular contributor to “The Early Show” and distributes her syndicated show, Mr. Zucker said the network’s airing of “The Martha Stewart Story” is being pushed forward for scheduling next season.

Mr. Zucker also reiterated that he was “reasonably sure” that it is going to be the last season for “Friends,” but elaborated that the show could be brought back for one more season beyond its slated May 2003 series finale. If “Friends” ends as planned, he said viewers can expect a “big send-off” similar to the all-night extravaganzas created around the departures of “Seinfeld” and “Cheers.”

Though he acknowledged that the 8:30 p.m. lead-out time slot from “Friends” has been an “area of difficulty” for NBC over the years, Mr. Zucker said he would be happy if incoming sophomore “Scrubs” scored 70 percent retention of “Friends'” adults 18 to 49 rating.

On the midseason front, Mr. Zucker reiterated that NBC will be bringing back Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ “Watching Ellie.” He said three episodes unaired last season will likely be teamed with a new nine-episode midseason order.

Despite the somewhat mixed ratings and critical reception for “Ellie,” Mr. Zucker emphasized that he has not soured on single-camera sitcoms (in light of “Scrubs'” modest ratings success last season), but still expressed a preference for “broader” reach multicamera sitcoms. To illustrate his point, Mr. Zucker noted that NBC has high hopes for “Hidden Hills,” a family-oriented single-camera sitcom starring Frank Stallone.

Mr. Zucker announced that among the other telefilms and specials on slate, NBC is doing a remake of Steven King’s “Carrie,” a retro special “Three’s Company Revisited” and the telefilm “Hunter: Return to Justice.” “War Stories,” a tale of combat journalists on a war front in Eastern Europe starring Jeff Goldblum, is going to be showcased as a two-hour back-door pilot movie.

Mr. Zucker also announced that the Peacock Network will premiere a bulk of its prime-time lineup beginning the week of Sept. 23 through Oct. 4. Among the notable season openers, “The West Wing” will return with a special two-hour episode on Sept. 25, while the Friday edition of “Dateline NBC” will get a two-hour opener Sept. 27.

Mr. Zucker also announced that Will Kirby, the winner of CBS’s “Big Brother 2” reality series, will host NBC’s Aug. 26 premiere of “Love Shack,” a homebound series where a single man and a single woman will play dating roulette with courtiers of the opposite sex (with one couple elected at the end to win their own house).

Adelstein passes Senate committee: Jonathan Adelstein’s nomination to a Democratic seat on the Federal Communications Commission was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee today. The nomination of Mr. Adelstein, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D, S.D., now moves to the full Senate for consideration and confirmation. It is unclear when the Senate will vote.

Petitti to CBS Sports: Less than a week after he was promoted from general manager of WCBS-TV, New York, to a newly created executive position with the Viacom stations group, Tony Petitti has opted to return to his sports roots as executive producer of CBS Sports. Mr. Petitti’s move necessitated the exit of Terry Ewert, who had been executive producer at CBS Sports since April 1997.

A CBS spokesman said it is unlikely that anyone else will be named to the position of senior VP of operations for the Viacom group. Mr. Petitti’s stations assignment was part of a whirlwind of changes set off when Dennis Swanson, who was a mentor to Mr. Petitti in their ABC Sports days, jumped from general manager of WNBC-TV, New York, to chief operating officer of the Viacom group.

Matthews hospitalized: MSNBC announced that “Hardball” host Chris Matthews was hospitalized late Monday by malaria but is expected to leave Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, later in the week. Columnist Mike Barnicle is filling in until Mr. Matthews returns to the show, which MSNBC said is expected to be soon.

Mr. Matthews has traveled extensively through parts of the world, including Africa and South East Asia and the Middle East, where the odds of contracting malaria are higher.

More news for WNYW: As had been long rumored, Fox-owned WNYW-TV, New York, is adding an additional 90 minutes of news per weekday starting Monday, Aug. 12.

An hour at 5 p.m. and a half-hour at 6 p.m. are “a natural progression for us,” said Jim Clayton, VP and general manager of the WNYW-WWOR-TV duopoly.

Anchoring the 5 p.m. weekday show will be longtime 10 p.m. anchor John Roland and former weekend anchor Linda Schmidt. The 10 o’clock team of Rosanna Scotto and Len Cannon will front the 6 p.m. weekday show.

The 6 p.m. weekend half hour will be anchored by the 10 o’clock weekend team of Harry Martin and Julie Banderas. There will be no 5 p.m. weekend news show.

Network age gap closing: The age gap among broadcast networks is narrowing, resulting in a “more competitive network landscape among several key demographic segments.”

That’s the conclusion of “The Median Age Report,” written by Steve Sternberg, Magna Global USA’s audience-measurement guru.

“Five years ago ABC and NBC had median ages [the point at which half the audience is older and half is younger] about 12 years younger than CBS, while Fox and UPN were about 9 years older than WB,” according to Mr. Sternberg’s report. “Today both of those gaps have been cut in half.” Of specific networks the report notes that:

ABC, which grew older as a result of its reliance on multiple “Millionaire” airings, should “lower its average median age by at least a year” with its new fall schedule.

NBC has been “aging by a few years” as a result of its one-hour dramas.

CBS, still the oldest-skewing of the Big Four, “could move enticingly closer to that 50-year [median age] mark next season.”

Fox’s “average median age should remain about where it is in the fall,” at around 36 years old.

The WB “should continue to grow older next season, but will remain the youngest broadcast network,” at around 31 years old.

UPN’s median age also is expected to remain the same this fall, at around 34 years old.

Two new pilots for Showtime: Showtime has given the green light to two ensemble drama pilots, one of which, “The Ranch,” is about the denizens of a Nevada brothel. The other, “Earthlings,” follows the lives of a group of lesbian friends living in Los Angeles. The cast includes Jennifer Beals, Mia Kirshner and Pam Grier.

“The Ranch’s” cast will include Amy Madigan, Jennifer Aspen and Jessica Collins. “The Ranch” is from Spyglass Entertainment and “Earthlings” is from Posse Productions.#