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The Insider

Aug 12, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Adelphia woes hit another stage
While the show will undoubtedly go on at the National Cable Television Center and Museum’s theatre, nobody knows who will pay the remaining $500,000 due to the Center for the curtain to be raised. Five years ago the Rigas family, now of bankruptcy and SEC fraud fame, pledged $2 million over a five- to seven-year period as part of the Center’s original capital campaign. That pledge was for the 200-seat Rigas Theatre, named for John and Doris Rigas. Mr. Rigas is the co-founder and former chief executive of Adelphia Communications. The Center, in Denver, has received $1.5 million of the pledge, said a spokesperson. The Center claims to be unfazed about possible defaults on future theatre payments. “When and if a payment is missed, we will figure out what to do then. Until they don’t pay, we don’t do anything,” said the spokesperson. The theater has been built but is not yet operational.
A morning star rising off camera at CNN
One week into his gig as senior executive producer of “American Morning With Paula Zahn,” Wil Surratt has left a trail of great first impressions at CNN. In addition to or perhaps even more important than his smarts and people skills, what’s earning him the early raves is Mr. Surratt’s self-confidence, which makes him a match for the very confident Ms. Zahn and “A.M.’s” resident on-air grump, Jack Cafferty-and all with VP of Network Programming Bob Brienza looking over his shoulder.
Meanwhile, the arrival of Mr. Surratt from WPIX-TV, where he was the founding executive producer of the local morning show that quickly gave the Tribune-owned station traction in a crowded race, may mean The Insider has to hold her breath a little longer on the question of who will win the role of second fiddle in the evolving ensemble-“Everybody wanted to give the new executive producer the chance to make that decision,” said one source familiar with the deliberations.
Oh well, at least holding her breath gives The Insider something to do during these dog days on the beat.
Of fate and options at CNBC
Yes, CNBC’s ratings have been in bear territory since watching the stock market grow became anything but fun for the average couch potato. But those who used ratings erosions to explain the announcement last week that top CNBC business news executive Bruno Cohen was suddenly taking a “sabbatical” from which no one expects him to return are not listening to The Insider’s sources. They insist that Mr. Cohen, who cut his teeth during nearly a decade as a lieutenant of former CNBC overlord Bill Bolster at WNBC-TV, New York, and then at CNBC, would have been departed months ago but for the effect Sept. 11 had on many business plans-CNBC President Pamela Thomas-Graham’s included. She took over the once high-flying network in July 2001 and wanted to bring in her own people. As long as a year ago, sources said, Mr. Cohen was headed for an exit door with his name on it. Although NBC Chairman Bob Wright is said to give Mr. Cohen points for loyalty, nobody really expects him to resurface on the NBC side in “another senior management position,” as Ms. Thomas-Graham put it in last week’s carefully worded announcement to her staff.
No heat for `Firehouse’
On the other hand, ratings are the sole reason “Firehouse” was put on blocks at NBC before the final two original installments aired. The decision was made last Wednesday because the limited-run series produced by NBC’s “Dateline” team was, despite positive reviews, wilting on Friday nights. The first three episodes of “Firehouse” averaged some 5.6 million viewers, a significant drop from the 7.5 million a standard “Dateline” draws on Friday. The problem: “Firehouse’s” apparent lack of femme appeal on a night that couldn’t get to first base with audiences until “Providence” made it a haven for women.
A spokeswoman told The Insider that NBC News remains proud of “Firehouse”-“They put a ton of work into it”-and will hang onto the two unaired episodes until they can be scheduled on a more propitious night than a summer Friday.
Movin’ on up
The Insider was sidelined with a summer bug the middle of last week, so she missed the head-to-head congratulatory parties for two of her favorite people who are making career moves out of network news PR. Former ABC News Director of Media Relations Todd Polkes as of today is a New York-based producer for “Larry King Live.” Alex Constantinople, who represented Mr. King at CNN before she joined NBC nine years ago, where her most recent assignment was VP of communications for NBC News, is off to parent company General Electric Co. There her title is general manager of corporate and marketing communications.
Brunch, with celebs on the side
Last but certainly not least, The Insider has a hot tip for New York visitors who want to have a little bit of food with their free-range celebrity sightings. Try the Cupping Room in SoHo. During a very reasonably priced Sunday brunch Aug. 4 The Insider was but one table away from a camera-carrying Meg Ryan and her well-behaved children and then was passed by Jennifer Aniston and hubby Brad Pitt as they were shown to a table along the back wall.