The Insider

Sep 9, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Higher note for Alan Bell
The ever-quotable Alan Bell was in quotable-as-ever form several days into his new assignment as top dog, El Supremo, Big Kahuna, Big Cheese and Main Man at Freedom Communications.
As The Insider’s audience knows, in late August Mr. Bell, who had been head of Freedom’s television division, was named president and CEO of the TV, newspaper and interactive media company privately held by a family divided. The Boston-born Mr. Bell, whose executive experience included general managerships of big-city stations for Westinghouse and Cox and leadership of the Lorimar Broadcast Group, joined Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom in 1989.
Mr. Bell’s resume and repartee have made many a reporter smarter and made many a reporter’s stories more informed and less dry. The Insider has never had a conversation with Mr. Bell that didn’t occasionally sound like a prime-time laugh track.
Until Mr. Bell appoints his successor-whom The Insider hopes will have a Bell-like sense of the absurd-he is doing double duty as head of the TV division and Freedom itself.
“I’m reporting to myself, which is obnoxious, because I’m a terrible boss,” Mr. Bell said.
All the right notes for `Sopranos’
The Insider wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true: HBO outdid itself with the screening and party honoring the lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ong-awaited fourth season of “The Sopranos.” It was a mob scene (pun intended, of course) with the people connected (see previous parenthesized aside) to the cast (Michael Imperioli absent due to moviemaking, Edie Falco absent due to her Broadway star turn in “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune”); the crew; the creative team (David Chase’s speech was short and sweet); and HBO and its stable of series (the cast of “The Wire,” to which The Insider is completely, utterly and ridiculously addicted, was clearly among friends and fans).
Moreover, so many members of the TV press from up and down the coast were present that it qualified as TCA East. When Washington Post and EM sage Tom Shales makes the press-peeps scene, it’s an event.
Anyhoo, the first two “Sopranos” episodes got 4,000 thumbs up from the audience, which packed Radio City Music Hall and then made its way through multiple checkpoints to the fabled Rockefeller Center skating rink for the bash that was still going strong and getting louder when The Insider left at 11 p.m.-hey, she outlasted AOL Time Warner Chairman Steve Case and Puff P Diddy Daddy and his protective entourage.
By the time The Insider left, she knew which TV show is `Idol’-ized by which Time magazine mover and shaker-upper; which out-standing “Daily Show” contributor is getting serious enough about his TV career to have his contracts lawyered; which “Live”-ly morning show host had enough trouble finding the seats assigned to him and his wife that it was bound to be a host chat segment the following morning; which moves Andre Royo, who plays “The Wire’s” Bubs, was bustin’; how big Robert (“Arli$$”) Wuhl’s cigar and shirt sleeves were; which cable-connected gossip columnist was wondering how happy Mike Binder is to have “The Mind of the Married Man” leading out of “Sopranos”; and which stomach-churning scene in Episode 2 will never ever be forgotten.
The Insider could tell you all these things-and more-but then she’d have to kill you. And she needs all the subscribers she can get.
Fox News’ next stage
The Insider is glad she no longer works at 1211 Sixth Avenue, the Rockefeller Center building that is headquarters to several of News Corp.’s businesses, including Fox News Channel, which has been kicking up lots of dust and making lots of noise as it guts the 47th Street space that was occupied for two decades by Dish of Salt to carve out additional studio space.
The Insider hears that the studio now taking shape behind tall, paint-blackened windows is meant to be up and running in March. A major challenge: the removal of a column that is part of the 45-story building. It seems that Fox News, whose existing street-level studios are intimate, is making room for an in-studio audience. The acoustics in the soaring space are said to be wonderful. Does Bill O’Reilly sing?
Jake Tapper’s next chapter
Multimedia man Jake Tapper’s sojourn as host and reporter of VH1 News specials on R. Kelly, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Michael Jackson is up after six months. The snappy writer (Salon.com, GQ, Rolling Stone and The New York Times Magazine), telegenic talking head (he was one of the 30-somethings cast on CNN’s short-lived “Take 5”) and NPR commentator wouldn’t mind landing another TV gig that fits with his love of “harder-edged journalism.”
Having worked in both worlds, Mr. Tapper said he knows the “snobbery” print folk often display toward TV and believes in the power of the printed word, but, “The truth is you can tell a story in a more compelling way on TV.”
Still to air on VH1 are Tapper reports on the government war on raves and club drugs and on celebrity obsession, stalkers and security in Hollywood. Check your local listings.