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Flash!

6/16/2006 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Cooper Tunes Into Rather's “Frequency”

If anyone doubts that CNN's Anderson Cooper is the hippest news anchor ever, his “Celebrity Playlist” will set them straight.

Currently available for download at iTunes ($14.85, please), the 15-track mix will dazzle you with its wit and eclecticism as it skips from Nina Simone and The Clash to Yo La Tengo and Charlie Parker.

But Track 5 may stop you cold: “What's the Frequency, Kenneth?”

The title of the REM song refers, of course, to a bizarre incident involving former CBS anchor Dan Rather. While walking along New York's Park Ave. one fall evening in 1986, Rather was attacked by two men who punched and kicked him while repeatedly shouting, “Kenneth, what is the frequency?”

Lest there be any doubt that Cooper gets the reference, his liner-note quip accompanying the selection says, “Might be tempting fate to pick a song inspired by the mugging of a news anchor.”

We suspect Cooper was just being cheeky when he picked the song. But the choice is bitterly ironic, given Rather's current downtrodden state. Not only was he unceremoniously dumped by CBS last week, but this fall, Cooper will begin contributing to 60 Minutes, where Rather was consigned after his early departure from the CBS Evening News (and which, the network now says, is just too crowded for old Dan).

Cooper was unavailable for comment, but we commend his sense of taste in one respect. At least, the young anchor who shot to fame for his coverage of storm-ravaged New Orleans declined to pick that perennial favorite from the German rock band Scorpions: “Rock You Like a Hurricane.”

Sage Advice

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane slayed 'em at Harvard earlier this month. At the school's “Class Day,” MacFarlane let his characters speak for him, with a 20-minute speech delivered in the voices of Family patriarch Peter Griffin, his evil- genius infant son, Stewie; and horndog neighbor Glenn Quagmire. The performance touched on such valedictory topics as urinating in shampoo bottles, roommate suicide and catching STDs (twice), with ample f-bombs to boot.

Under a steady rain, Peter Griffin saluted the students' smarts, putting them in an intellectual pantheon with “Doogie Howser, Malcolm in the Middle, and Donatello of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” Stewie offered 10 life tips, including advice for those looking to create a TV series about people who crash-land on an island. “Don't just make it up as you go along,” he said, “because if you do, it's going to start sucking very quickly.”

Quagmire offered some sweet talk for the ladies. “I've banged chicks in every Ivy League school except Harvard,” he said. “You are by far the toughest to get into.”

Class Day, which occurs the day before commencement, typically features a humorous speaker (Ali G's Sacha Baron Cohen and Will Ferrell spoke in recent years). Harvard declined to give a reaction to the presentation, and a Fox spokesperson said MacFarlane was suffering from tonsillitis and couldn't come to the phone.

Serves Stewie right for playing outside in the rain.

Fluff Factor

We found ourselves pondering that elusive quality known in the news business as “gravitas” when we came across Comedy Central's Emmy campaign ad for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.

“We had fake news years before CBS hired Katie Couric,” it read.

It's only the latest indignity to be hurled at “America's sweetheart.” Ever since the notion of Today host Couric as the new anchor of the CBS Evening News became a reality, media critics have been questioning whether the “perky pre-dawn princess” has the sand for the job.

“Do we really want someone who chirps and skips?” asked the Seattle Times. A “morning sweetie” to “swoon and giggle” her way through the day's events?

Funny. We didn't see this sort of hand-wringing over the ascension of Couric's fellow morning maven, Good Morning America's Charlie Gibson, to the evening anchor job at ABC. And we looked.

“ABC's Charles Gibson has no trouble switching from morning fluff to evening sobriety” was the typical take—as was the use of his big-boy name.

No need to spell out what's going on here, but we feel compelled to note that Gibson's briefly interrupted stint on GMA totals nearly 20 years—longer than Couric's 15 on Today. His recent interview with actress Jennifer Garner didn't exactly radiate gravitas.

And his Dorito casserole is to die for.

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