In the Loop
Set Me Up
Amish Beats Critics
Baseball can be healing. That's the premise of HBO's Nine Innings From Ground Zero, in which New Yorkers, ballplayers and politicians reflect on the value of America's pastime in the months following 9/11. Producer Joe Lavine says editing the sports pieces were therapeutic even three years later. At an advance screening (the show airs Sept. 14), Giuliani says it was appropriate, with recovery efforts ongoing, that the Yankees won the first three games "in New York, on our territory. Maybe a sense of reality returned when they lost." President Bush, who has a brief cameo, admits to feeling anxiety about throwing out the first pitch of Game 3. He says shortstop Derek Jeter advised him to pitch from the top of the mound, not from the base. "Don't bounce it," he warned, "or they'll boo you." In a rare example of Bush winning in a blue state, he threw a strike.
On-screen program guides beware. The British channel surfing show Flipside TV
has the human touch. Each weeknight, host Richard Bacon and three remote-control wielding guests—often entertainers, critics and comics—navigate live television, hunting for programming gems on individual sets. "We flip channels so you don't have to," says Executive Producer David Brook, quoting the show's slogan. When one guest finds something laudable or laughable, the program pops up on a giant plasma screen TV for all to critique. Flipside
has featured cast members from the comedy smash The Office, singer Ian Astbury of The Cult and a slew of sharp-witted young British comedians and critics.
Watching people watch TV might seem ludicrous, but the show earned a cult following during its six-month pilot run on the U.K. digital channel Nation 217. Now, it's a must-see on Channel Four and Paramount Comedy (Viacom's British version of Comedy Central). Brook, a former Channel Four exec, says he plans to announce an American version soon. He is tight-lipped on the details, but says Flipside
is ideal for American "smart" comic talent (that's "smart aleck" to Yanks) like Tom Green and Ashton Kutcher. "It'll work better in the States than anywhere else," Brook says. "It's the home of the channel surfer."
Fox has one focus for fall: reality. Post-Olympics, it serves up a steady diet. Insteading of launching a traditional fall season, it will premiere three new shows between Aug. 30 and Sept. 12: The Complex: Malibu, Renovate My Family
and the currently controversial The Next Great Champ.
And after the baseball season, Fox is sticking with more of the same, debuting a series of yet-unnamed shows targeting men in November. One exception: the network's only new scripted show—House, a drama about a grumpy medical investigator named House (Not to be confused with NBC's more obvious Medical Investigation.)
UPN entertainment president Dawn Ostroff is pleased with herself over Amish in the City. The reality show that provoked outrage before it aired has scored ratings and calmed critics. The 10-episode run has so far secured four million viewers, half of them 18-49. That's a great number for UPN, which has been in a ratings revival ever since America's Next Top Model. Republican Rep. Joe Pitts, whose Pennsylvania district includes 20,000 Amish, shut up about the show after initially blasting it as "offensive and exploitative." Says Ostroff: "Everybody got heated about it without seeing it." Amish, midway through its run, is being prepped for a second season.