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Jan 28, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Donaldson headed to MSNBC?

ABC News veteran Sam Donaldson is rumored to be considering taking a spot in MSNBC’s frequently changing prime-time lineup. Mr. Donaldson did not return a call seeking comment and an MSNBC spokeswoman refused to comment on the rumor.

Mr. Donaldson has been granted permission to consider TV gigs outside ABC News, which replaced him and Cokie Roberts with George Stephanopoulos as moderator of “This Week” last fall.

However, said a source, ABC News intends to hold Mr. Donaldson to several remaining years on his contract with ABC News Radio. The source said ABC had freed him to think about non-ABC TV gigs “out of an abundance of respect for him” and a reluctance to stand in the way of an assignment that might get him back on TV, where he had been a fixture since 1967.

Internet gossip Matt Drudge posted an item today that suggested Phil Donahue would leave the MSNBC lineup and his 8 p.m. slot would be filled by Pat Buchanan and Bill Press, the political opposites who have anchored the 2 p.m.-to-4 p.m. weekdays slot.

Under the Drudge scenario, Sam Donaldson would go at 9 p.m., while MSNBC’s lone signature show, “Hardball With Chris Matthews,” would move from 9 p.m. to 7 p.m. That would leave the 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. hour assigned to former wrestler and ex-Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who is expected to join the struggling MSNBC lineup this winter.

NBC News President Neal Shapiro, who oversees MSNBC, worked with Mr. Donaldson at ABC News and still likes him and finds him an “intriguing” personality, according to a source, who said, “If Sam wanted to talk, we’d be delighted,” but who also said, “We are always talking to people.”Arquette’s ‘Searching’ acquired by Showtime: Actress Rosanna Arquette’s film directorial debut, “Searching For Debra Winger,” has been acquired by Showtime Networks as a Showtime Original Picture. The documentary, which explores actresses’ struggles to balance motherhood and career as well as cope with Hollywood’s fascination with youth and image, will be telecast later this year.

Actresses interviewed for the film include Sharon Stone, Meg Ryan, Holly Hunter, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Frances McDormand, Theresa Russell, Ally Sheedy, Teri Garr, Whoopi Goldberg, Melanie Griffith, Salma Hayek, Gwyneth Paltrow and Patricia Arquette.Debra Winger, star of “Terms of Endearment,” “An Officer and a Gentleman” and “Shadowlands,” retired at age 40 at the height of her career to spend more time with her family. Ms. Arquette appeared in the films “After Hours” and “Desperately Seeking Susan.”

Ritter signed to host ‘TV Land Awards’: John Ritter (“8 Simple Rules,” “Three’s Company”) will host “The TV Land Awards: A Celebration of Classic TV,” premiering March 9.

The network’s first-ever awards show, presented by Chevy Trucks and in part by Revlon, will be simulcast by Nick at Nite. Other major sponsors of the event include Orbitz, McDonald’s and Walgreens.VH1 readies new series, reality specials: VH1, MTV’s older-demo sibling, has given the green light to several reality specials and two new series in its continuing search for Nielsen favor.

“Behind The Movies,” set for a February debut, is a new series in the mold of the network’s “Behind the Music.” Films scheduled to be profiled include “Chicago,” “Back to the Future,” “Fame,” “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Risky Business.”

“Destination Diva: The Search for a Superstar”(working title), set for an April 14 premiere, is a talent competition that will take finalists to “Diva Boot Camp,” where they will learn the nuances of performance and on-stage appearance and style. “Shania: What It’s Like” is a one-hour special, set for Feb. 12, with Shania Twain acting as her own documentarian.

“Dashboard Dreams,” a one-hour special set for Feb. 17, will focus on the car as an inspiration for rock ‘n’ roll songs. “Karaoke Dreams,” a one-hour special, set for March 2, follows six karaoke performers. “Fountain of Youth,” a one-hour special set for March, focuses on baby boomers and their eternal search for youth. “Top 50 Hip-Hop Artists,” a two-hour special set for March, addresses the question, “Who is the greatest hip-hop act ever? “Hip-Hop Babylon,” a two-hour special set for the third quarter, examines the evolution of the popular and influential musical genre. “Top 100 Pop Culture Icons”consists of five one-hour episodes, “Top 50 Teen Idols”is a two-hour special and “25 Greatest Fads”will be a one-hour special; all three are set for the second quarter.

Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations: With 12, NBC nabbed more Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations than any other TV network. HBO followed with 10, CBS had eight, Fox picked up four, TNT had three and FX, The WB and USA each scored one. NBC’s “The West Wing” and HBO’s “The Sopranos” each picked up four nominations-the most for any series. CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond,” NBC’s Friends and NBC’s “Will & Grace” each had three nominations. A list of major TV categories follows:

Outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series24 (Fox)CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS)Six Feet Under (CBS)The Sopranos (HBO)The West Wing (NBC)

Outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy seriesEverybody Loves Raymond (CBS)Frasier (NBC)Friends (NBC)Sex and the City (HBO)Will & Grace (NBC)

Outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama seriesMichael Chiklis, The Shield (FX)James Gandolfini, The Sopranos (HBO)Martin Sheen, The West Wing (NBC)Kiefer Sutherland, 24 (Fox)Treat Williams, Everwood (WB)

Outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama seriesLorraine Bracco, The Sopranos (HBO)Amy Brenneman, Judging Amy (CBS)Edie Falco, The Sopranos (HBO)Allison Janney, The West Wing (NBC) Lily Tomlin, The West Wing (NBC)

Outstanding performance by a male actor in a comedy seriesSean Hayes, Will & Grace (NBC) Matt Le Blanc, Friends (NBC)Bernie Mac, The Bernie Mac Show (Fox)Ray Romano, Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS)Tony Shalhoub, Monk (USA)

Outstanding performance by a female actor in a comedy seriesJennifer Aniston, Friends (NBC)Kim Cattrall, Sex and the City (HBO)Patricia Heaton, Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS)Jane Kaczmarek, Malcolm in the Middle (Fox)Megan Mullally, Will & Grace (NBC)

Kay promoted at rebranded TNN: Kevin Kay has been promoted to executive VP, programming and production, TNN, which recently rebranded to focus exclusively on male viewers.

Mr. Kay will expand his production and original series development responsibilities to include program acquisition, current series programming, research and production. Reporting in to Mr. Kay are Jim Burns, senior VP, current series; Barbara Zaneri, senior VP, program planning and acquisitions; Peilin Chou, VP, production and development; and Scott Fishman, VP and general manager. Mr. Kay will report to Albie Hecht, head of the network.

Colin Quinn talk show a go on Comedy Central: Comedy Central has given a 21-week order to “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn.” The late-night talk show is set to air Monday through Thursday at 11:30 p.m., after “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” beginning March 10.

Each episode of “Tough Crowd” is topic-driven and features the former “Saturday Night Live” cast member and his friends tackling political, social and pop culture issues.

Baker upped to VP news ops for Tribune: Cissy Baker has been promoted from Washington bureau chief for Tribune Broadcasting to VP of news operations for the group, 18 of whose stations have news operations. Ms. Baker, who joined Tribune Broadcasting as bureau chief in time to help launch its D.C. Media Center in 1994, has “been at the forefront of our efforts to maximize cooperation among our newspaper and television news operations,” said Tribune Broadcasting President Pat Mullen.

Before joining the group, Ms. Baker was managing editor of CNN, worked for NBC and Fox News and made an unsuccessful run for Congress from Tennessee, the state for which her father, Howard Baker Jr. was a U.S. senator for 18 years.

In another personnel move, Tribune promoted Rick Felty from director/creative services to VP/creative services, overseeing the promotion of on-air produ
ct at all 24 Tribune stations.

Kessler upped to HBO sales & marketing pres: Eric Kessler, the HBO executive who oversaw the promotional campaigns for “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City” and “Six Feet Under,” among others, has been promoted to president, sales & marketing, from executive VP, marketing at the premium cable network.

Mr. Kessler also oversaw the HBO and agency teams that that came up with the network’s signature tagline, “It’s Not TV, It’s HBO.”

In his new position, Mr. Kessler will oversee affiliate sales and operations, adding those areas to his current responsibilities for marketing HBO and Cinemax. Mr. Kessler has been with the network since 1986. He will continue to report to HBO COO Bill Nelson.

Lowe close to NBC deal: Rob Lowe is close to a deal with NBC to produce and star in a pilot for a drama series, according to Daily Variety.Mr. Lowe would play an attorney in the series, titled “Lyon’s Den,” an ensemble legal drama set in a law firm under consideration for next fall. Daily Variety reported the deal in the works would provide for Mr. Lowe to receive six figures per episode or a sizable penalty if NBC does not pick up the series.

‘Fever’ headed for ABC Family: ABC Family Network has ordered 13 episodes of “Dance Fever,” a revival of the 1979-to-1987 dance series in which contestant couples competed for prizes.The new version of the show will be an hour long and could debut as early as June, according to Daily Variety.As with the original, the revived show will feature a host and celebrity judges, who are yet to be chosen.#