In the Loop
When E! CEO Mindy Herman got the boot, plenty lined up to fill her Jimmy Choos.
Front-runners include Paramount Domestic Television Senior Vice President and National Sales Manager Scott Koondel and Fine Living President Ken Solomon, say insiders. Both have cable chops and Hollywood connections.
Koondel oversees all of Paramount's theatrical cable sales, off-network, and first-run. Solomon is the former president of Universal Television and also co-head of DreamWorks Television. He's currently president of Scripps Networks' high-end lifestyle network Fine Living. Comcast had no comment on its executive search.
Other power players whose names have been floated include Bill Hilary, former GM of Comedy Central; David Grant, former chief of Fox Television Studios; and former USA Network GM Michele Ganeless, pushed out by the NBC Universal merger.
Whoever wins will need to repair E!'s reputation—inside and out—and jump-start some serious reality programming.
Meanwhile, E! programming chief Mark Sonnenberg was attending to another E! exit. Celebrity gossip maven Joan Rivers jumped to TV Guide Channel, lured by a reputed $8 million deal, taking her sidekick daughter Melissa with her.
As for their successors, E! was mum on candidates last week. Sonnenberg wants a well-known personality to do double duty: host red-carpet award shows and additional programs.
Tom Bergeron, host of ABC's America's Funniest Home Videos
and King World's Hollywood Squares, is dead-set on a morning talk show. Once a candidate for Good Morning America, The Early Show,
and Living It Up! With Ali & Jack, he wants to revive a version of FX's Breakfast Time, which he hosted from 1994 to '96.
It would feature Bergeron as a man on the street, engaging regular people and celebrities in funny activities. He and Bill Getty, executive producer of ABC's The View, are shopping the show as a syndicated vehicle, but they wouldn't kick a cable deal out of bed.
Comedy Central is quietly taping a new talk-show parody, although some of Crossballs' "guests" don't think it's funny. The show is a takeoff on CNN's Crossfire
and MSNBC's Hardball. The concept is to lure unwitting advocates from both sides of a topic—such as gun control, abortion or obesity—into a Los Angeles studio.
Guests aren't told that other participants in the debate are actually comedians that take outrageous positions on the topic. For instance, Sacramento, Calif., right-to-bear-arms advocate James Marsh was questioned by a purported psychologist on whether his need for guns was tied to "sexual issues." Still reeling, Marsh was then asked: "When was your first homoerotic experience?"
Two other guests said they were also set up but received gentler treatment. Longtime privacy advocate Lauren Weinstein says a producer "begged me" to be a guest, but he grew suspicious when show details weren't forthcoming. Weinstein sleuthed out the con by searching the Internet.
Given that fellow Viacom divisions CBS and MTV have legit news operations, the Crossballs
con "should embarrass the related news organizations," says Weinstein. Comedy Central spokesman Tony Fox responds: "We didn't lie to them; we just didn't tell them everything. The goal is not to humiliate, the goal is to create comedy."