TV critics from around the nation heard network executives accuse each other of stealing ideas for reality shows, or lamenting the same. Here are some of the sound bites from the annual critics' confab in Los Angeles:
Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman dismissed accusations by rival networks that Fox has been preemptively stealing ideas for reality shows and rushing them to air. "Our competitors are generating this controversy," she said, adding that Fox is closer to NBC than it has ever been, making the Peacock nervous. "These baseless allegations of theft and extortion are outrageous and unacceptable. I will not participate in perpetuating this myth."
A day earlier, NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker charged that Fox "used to be innovators. Now they are imitators." DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg, creator and executive producer of The Contender, was steamed, too: "While imitation is the highest form of flattery, theft is the lowest form of creativity."
This November, NBC is launching The Contender, a boxing reality show produced by Katzenberg and Mark Burnett, while Fox plans to premiere the Endemol-produced Next Great Champ in that same time frame.
Stephen McPherson, ABC's new president of entertainment, told critics that producers should be concerned that Fox would co-opt their ideas. ABC is rolling out reality show, Wife Swap, this fall; Fox's version, Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy, premieres next week.
Berman said Fox has been working on a show in which parents trade families since the first quarter of this year, with the expectation that ABC would launch Wife Swap this spring or summer, which had been ABC's plan. When McPherson put off Wife Swap until the fall, Fox saw "an opportunity in the marketplace," Berman said.
Although Fox was heavily criticized by viewers because of difficulties in getting through the phone system to vote for American Idol contestants, Berman isn't changing a thing. "This is most sophisticated phone system ever put together in this country," she said at the critics press tour. "We know there have been problems, and we know where they have been corrected. But overall, this has worked incredibly well, and we have had very few problems along the way."
The WB Chairman Garth Ancier and brand-new Entertainment President David Janollari told critics the network needs more diversity on the schedule. "I'm disappointed in the fall schedule from a diversity standpoint," Ancier said. "The only way you fix it is to develop broader, more diverse shows going forward." He would also like The WB to keep its teenage and young-adult base but age up a little. And, generally, he says, "We've been a bit stale as a network."
With the surprising summer success of Jay Mohr's
, NBC has decided to put the show on its Last Comic Standingfall schedule, replacing Average Joe on Tuesday at 8 p.m. The program has been the summer's most popular reality show, averaging a 4.8 rating/13 share and 10.4 million viewers.
NBC also says The West Wing will not premiere until Oct. 20, allowing NBC to avoid scheduled presidential debates and also to save episodes. And look for the end of the Bartlett administration, though that doesn't mean the show is ending.
The History Channel received 11 News and Documentary Emmy nominations. An item in the July 12 edition miscounted.
WCAU Philadelphia says it had 2003 revenues of $131 million, second behind market-leading WPVI, owned by ABC. That's contrary to information in a story about ABC stations on page 28 of the July12 issue.