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The Insider

Sep 30, 2002  •  Post A Comment

ABC News developing original unit
There’s a new unit quietly taking shape at ABC News with the working title of Lincoln Square Productions and under the supervision of long-form news executive Phyllis McGrady.
It would neither replace nor diminish ABC News Productions, the unit that churns out mostly documentary programming, some of it original but most of it repurposed ABC News material. Nor would it cramp the style of the unit inside “Nightline” that finds an off-network afterlife for the sort of programming associated with Ted Koppel’s team.
Instead, Lincoln Square is being conceived as a unit that would be driven by original ideas-whether pitched by insiders, outsiders or free-lancers with whom ABC News has a relationship-that could be executed with input from, if not actual production by, ABC Newsies. The project would then be pitched to outlets interested in topical, reality-based programming.
“We know how to shoot those and make sure they have interesting information,” said Ms. McGrady, who noted that she has frequently been pitched ideas that are right up the ABC News alley. “Most of the time I’ll say I really don’t see how I can get that hour on ABC and I’ll pass on it,” she said. “And yet there are times that I’ll think, `That could be a really interesting project.”’
Ms. McGrady stressed-during a conversation that predated last week’s revelations that a spinoff and merger of ABC News and CNN is under serious consideration-that this is all in very preliminary stages. But she added, “I think there are people who are somewhat interested in it.”
Seize the day vs. NBseize the day
Everybody knows that any given Emmycast will feature more presenters from the host network than it does from other networks. But the lopsidedness on display during NBC’s Emmy Awards show Sept. 22 was the subject of much heated discussion last week in networkland. The final list of presenters included some 19 stars-plus Emmy host Conan O’Brien, of course-from NBC but only one from ABC (Emmy nominee and “Alias” star Jennifer Garner), six from CBS (including big winner Ray Romano and “Without a Trace’s” Anthony LaPaglia, who won a guest-star Emmy for his role on NBC’s “Frasier”), six from Fox (including “Andy Richter Controls the Universe’s” Andy Richter’s “scuffling” in the aisle with his former “Late Night” top banana Mr. O’Brien and Cloris Leachman, who won a supporting Emmy for her role as Frankie Muniz’ grandmother on “Malcolm in the Middle”), and a smattering of stars associated with other TV outlets. (And don’t even mention The WB and UPN, because the Emmycast’s announcer didn’t, either.)
In 2001, when CBS carried the Emmys that were drabbed down and twice delayed in the aftermath of 9/11, CBS could claim 11 of the presenters compared with six from NBC, four from ABC and four from Fox.
Several days after the Emmycast, folks at every network except NBC were still hotter under the collar about what they saw as an abuse of host power than they had been on the beastly hot Emmy night. That night the cameras turned on the red carpet showed stars schvitzing and Peacock logos looming. The critics also noted that the appearance of Dennis Farina and Jean Smart didn’t seem to provide much of a boost to their new sitcom, “In-Laws,” which debuted two nights later on NBC.
The consensus outside NBC: Tacky, tacky, tacky and not in keeping with the Emmy spirit of celebrating TV as a whole. When The Insider inquired into the formula at NBC, the only thing that was suggested (out loud, anyway) was that The Insider consider counting the cast of “Friends,” which produced Emmys for the show as best comedy and Jennifer Aniston as best comedy actress, as one presenter instead of the six who appeared en masse on stage.
This is going to be one mean TV season. The Insider can hardly wait.
CNBC’s world Bolstered
Bill Bolster, the chairman and CEO of CNBC International, is, contrary to the popular wisdom that presumed he’d leave at the end of his current contract, instead staying on. NBC Chairman Bob Wright is said to be “thrilled” that Mr. Bolster, who oversaw CNBC in its hey-hey-hey days of the bull-market ’90s, is remaining in charge of CNBC’s international operations. His new contract is said to entail no change of duties.
The case of the missing mustache
CBS’s “48 Hours/Investigates,” which has a new anchor (“60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl), a new grittier focus (next Friday “48” will play for us never-before-seen tapes of Patsy and John Ramsey’s being interviewed by authorities about the death of their daughter Jon-Benet) and new graphics that smack of “CSI.”
On the morning of last week’s press breakfast in honor of all the above, “48” correspondent Harold Dow did something he hasn’t done in two decades. He shaved off his mustache. On a whim, he said. Shades of Matt Lauer, who got himself a buzz cut just in time to outdate the new photos that had been taken for a big-bucks promotional campaign for “Today” that launched during the summer.
As for Mr. Dow, The Insider hears that no new photo needs to be taken for “48’s” opening graphics because the correspondent already is growing back the `stache.