Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears Coverage Leave Oscar on the Sidelines

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The perfect twin tabloid storms surrounding the messy fallout from Anna Nicole Smith’s death and Britney Spears public meltdown have pushed pre-Oscar hoopla coverage to the sidelines on a multitude of entertainment magazine shows.

Hollywood’s A-list celebrity publicists went apoplectic in the week preceding Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast on ABC, dealing with rejection as magazine shows routinely turned down their usual assortment of fashion and other awards-related pitches designed to build pre-Oscar buzz.

The magazines’ interest was instead focused on the breaking news surrounding the sordid Smith and, to a lesser extent, Spears sagas, as ratings during the critical February sweeps leaped by double digit percentages from week to week.

Syndicated magazines devoted most of their nightly coverage to Smith-related stories, and by late in the week even network morning programs and nightly newscasts were clamoring over the drama of where she would be buried.

“It’s a matter of math,” says the executive producer of one such magazine show, who asked not to be identified.“If your devoting 75% of your show to Nicole, it gives you less room for things like the Academy Awards.”

With the funeral and custody battle yet to be decided, producers are gleeful their numbers could continue to rise.

Speculation also remained strong Friday that Florida Judge Larry Sideline, whose televised antics, emotional breakdown and retirement declaration in the Smith case—combined with his wife’s urgings that he be given his own show— could be headed toward a permanent TV gig.

Producers say the former cab driver’s strong television persona could likely break through the glut of court shows crowding the airwaves—the genre is widely acknowledged to be approaching the saturation point—although not everyone is totally convinced.

“A few companies are interested, ours included,” says a studio executive who asked for anonymity. “I think all are nuts. (There is) no room for another court show and he's a dork, a real clown and out of control. The exact two characteristics a TV court show judge needs (to have are) control and to be taken seriously.”

Meanwhile, Hollywood is also bracing for a cable network or broadcaster looking for attention to announce a TV movie or series based on Smith, who had racked up nearly 27 million postings on Google by Friday.

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