The Insider

Dec 16, 2002  •  Post A Comment

And how was your week, dear readers? There’s the slightest possibility it was busier than The Insider’s but there’s no way in you-know-where that it was even remotely as eclectic. It started with the funeral for visionary Roone Arledge. It ended with CBS’s packed-as-always holiday party. In between, there was NBC’s holiday press party, off the record as always so Chairman Bob Wright can tell jokes at the expense of his own folk and press folk without fear of retribution; there were the coffees and breakfasts with station group members in town for UBS Warburg and Credit Suisse First Boston Media Week conferences; and there also was a Thai holiday dinner at which The Insider ate too well, sipped too much and stayed too late.
And on Tuesday, there was a screening and party in honor of “Oz,” which returns to HBO for its final season on Jan. 5. The Insider went out of affection for creator-producer Tom Fontana, out of appreciation for the series and, of course, to show her unwavering support of male frontal nudity on screen. (For which The Insider was rewarded Tuesday with a freeze-framed gander at Lee Tergesen in the altogether-on a biiiiig movie house screen. Dear Diary … Dear, oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear, dear Diary …)
Hard as it might be to believe, the most vivid and lasting image would prove to be Chuck Zito (“Oz” muscleman Chucky Pancamo) in a fur-lined and fur-loaded shearling coat that was part Davy Crockett, part Versace. And what does one wear under such a pelt? A tie-dyed, barely there tank top, it turns out.
Anyway, the screening was packed with faces familiar not just from “Oz” but from “The Wire,” “The Sopranos” and beyond. Svelter-than-ever former NBC censor Roz Weinman was there. And The Insider learned the following day that she had been watching producer Dick Wolf get the news via cellphone that ABC was going to put his “Dragnet” at 10 p.m. Sundays.
Mr. Fontana was givin’ nuttin’ away to The Insider about the upcoming “Oz” season other than to mention “redemption” and tease: “Every sentence must come to an end.” Period. (And that’s the only pun thus far that is meant to be intended.)
In his remarks to the crowd, Mr. Fontana acknowledged the presence of Mr. Wolf. “Oz” will have racked up 56 episodes over six seasons. Mr. Wolf “does 56 episodes of `Law & Order’ a week,” said Mr. Fontana, who then, with gleeful deadpan, delivered a crowd-pleaser of a joke that involved “L&O” star Sam Waterston and one of the ways “Oz” inmates tend to pass the time.
Ribald elaboration available on request.
`60 Minutes’ and 80 candles
The push-and-pull between “60 Minutes” creator Don Hewitt, who has no desire to step down as executive producer of the granddaddy of network newsmagazines, and CBS News, which wants to plan the shift of some responsibilities for “60 Minutes” to “60 Minutes II” executive producer Jeff Fager, did not go unmentioned at last week’s celebration of Mr. Hewitt’s 80th birthday.
But The Insider hears that the toasters’ references were humorously and very nicely done. Correspondent Steve Kroft even compared the Energizer bunny of news producers to Oliver Wendell Holmes, the longest-tenured Supreme Court justice.
When his turn came, Mr. Hewitt spoke first of his loyalty to CBS and closed with the hope that he and his longtime compadres would still be working together when he celebrates his 90th birthday.
New voices on `Sunday Morning’
While The Insider was being a good little student of Sunday newsmaker shows, she noticed “CBS Sunday Morning” has been loosening up. In an essay Dec. 8, actress-comedienne-radio personality Nancy Giles urged women to cast off their “hoochie”-style high heels and get comfortably flat-footed. The Insider thinks she ought to change Sunday morning habits.
“Sunday Morning” executive producer Rand Morrison said he plans to increase the frequency of essays contributed by non-CBS Newsies to a couple a month. “I think they give the broadcast a different feel that breaks us out from other programs,” said the producer, who nonetheless knows that to make an essay work on TV is easier said than done. “It’s great on paper but it doesn’t necessarily translate to TV,” he said.
He describes what he’s looking for as “somebody’s take on the universe.” To date, the somebodies have ranged from Joan Rivers and Calvin Trillin to VH1’s Bill Flanagan and, yesterday, Douglass Rushkoff, an author, documentarian, NPR commentator and self-described “certified stage fight choreographer.”
Ms. Giles, who shares a radio microphone weekly with CBS News correspondent Erin Moriarty on Infinity’s “Giles & Moriarty,” and who turned her experiences into a one-woman show titled “Black Comedy: The Wacky Side of Racism,” may make a return appearance to“Sunday Morning” as early as January.
Her stand against high heels-“All I’m asking for is one lousy scene … in any episode of `Sex and the City’ where we could see any of those zany gals limp out of their shoes and soak their pinched feet.”’-“immediately got e-mails from people in support of high heels,” Mr. Morrison said.
By the way, when Ms. Giles taped her piece, “she was wearing comfortable, sensible shoes,” Mr. Morrison said. “She is a woman of her word.”