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BC Beat

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With Marisa Guthrie and Rob Edelstein

Watch Spike Feresten's new DTV spot at www.bcbeat.com.

Sniper at the Inauguration? It's Just a Movie

As Americans watched Barack Obama deliver his inaugural speech last Tuesday, amid memories of our fallen leaders MLK, JFK and Abraham Lincoln, the prospect of some wingnut taking a shot at our first African-American president was likely on many viewers' minds.

After all, Inauguration Day coverage dwelled often on Obama's tank-like limo and his bullet-resistant undergarment.

So viewers watching the coverage on CNN may have felt their hearts skip a beat when they saw an ad for new thriller The International—which includes a scene of a man being shot as he delivers a speech from behind a podium.

The unfortunate coincidence didn't escape CNN.

"Due to the brief but potentially conflicting visual included in the spot, a decision was made to pull two additional airings of the 30-second trailer," said the network in a statement.

When we caught the trailer again, during the season premiere of Lost on ABC, the assassination scene was gone.

Asked if the studio had edited the spot out of sensitivity or in response to criticism, a spokesman for Sony's Columbia Pictures, which releases The International on Feb. 13, said only that there are multiple versions of the trailer in rotation.

Indeed, CNN planned to air them last weekend, including those with the scene in question.

Square Deal?

Isn't it nice when one's commitment to social issues can be expressed through fashion? Apparently that's the hope of Nickelodeon, which is banking on its aquatic icon SpongeBob SquarePants to encourage kids and parents to conserve water.

Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products (NCVP) is partnering with Humanity, a cause-driven clothing line, to produce a series of five "Limited-Edition Eco-Chic, Luxury Fashion T-Shirts" featuring SpongeBob and timed to the series' 10th anniversary.

The porous yellow character will be on shirts made from 100% organic cotton, encrusted with crystals and featuring schools of fish, jellyfish, turtles and other marine life. Inside the shirt is a detailed account of Nickelodeon's Big Green Help campaign. And 30% of Humanity sales go to green charitable organizations.

"This line of products will appeal not only to die-hard SpongeBob fans, but to trendsetters and eco-connoisseurs alike," says Hal Snik, NVCP's senior VP of domestic licensing.

But at $98 a pop, the shirts may have trouble getting even ardent "eco-connoisseurs" to give up the green. As the famously stingy Mr. Krabs might say, "That's a lotta money, boy!"

DTV Do-Over

Last fall, Fox's Talkshow With Spike Feresten hit online pay dirt with a spoof of a PSA about the coming DTV transition. The clip, which featured nonagenarian actress Mae Laborde attempting to install a digital-to-analog converter box in hopes that it will "make Jack Benny come back," remains Hulu's most popular video of all time.

So when Executive Producer Mike Gibbons learned that the Feb. 17 analog shutoff may be postponed, he decided to put Laborde, a frequent Feresten bit player, through the paces once again.

Still tangled in the wires of her converter box ("I haven't had TV for three weeks!"), Laborde attempts to follow the voiceover instructions for uninstalling the box and ends up at a garbage dump looking for the antenna she threw away.

Gibbons says the first DTV spot came after he "earnestly tried to learn what to do" about the transition. He attributes at least part of the clip's online success to the "mom-forwarded-e-mail circuit, which cannot be underestimated." And he adds that his sister-in-law, who works for another broadcast network, told him its affiliate marketing group used it to illustrate the need to reach vulnerable audiences like seniors and rural viewers.

And at 99 years old, Mae Laborde certainly fits the profile of a viewer at risk of losing her reception. Is she ready?

"Actually, that's a great question," Gibbons says. "We should make sure."

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