BC Beat


With Jim Benson

Letterman's Bleeped-Out Biden Chat

It’s not like the cable industry has some problem with White House hopeful Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.). But an incident last week in New York may have had some people wondering. On the July 31 edition of the Late Show With David Letterman, a poignant exchange between Biden and Letterman was obliterated by that whiny, shrill test of the Emergency Alert Systems. One viewer said the interruption was so precise—and annoying—she wondered if it was deliberate.

No way. As it turns out, BC Beat first thought WCBS was behind the alert-system snafu because those things are usually associated with stations. As it turns out, by a FCC rule effected in 1992, all cable systems in an area are required to run a test of system once a month. The signal is automatically sent to cable systems in the New York area by WABC(AM) and interrupts every channel on all of them,

“Usually, it happens at 2 a.m. or 2 p.m. but not always, and we never know what day it will happen,” explains Suzanne Giuliani, director of public relations for Time Warner Cable in New York. “We really don’t have any control over it.” (Conspiracy theorists, take note: This Giuliani is not related to the former mayor who’s a Republican presidential candidate).

Letterman was talking to Biden about a horrible time in his life: when his wife and infant daughter were killed in a car crash just before he was to be sworn into the Senate. Letterman found the pain of that event remarkable and asked a follow-up question, but viewers in New York never heard the answer. That’s when the alert started, with a crawl on the bottom of the screen telling viewers it was a test of the system.

Remarkably, no one in New York City complained. Not one person in the city that never sleeps. And if the show’s publicist was watching at home, she wouldn’t have known either. She has DirecTV—and DBS systems don’t run the alerts.

Pass The Mike

Gonzo gossip blogger Perez Hilton already has half of Hollywood screaming for his head. Now it looks like he may have the hip-hop industry screaming, “Hell, no!”

According to a source at MTV, Hilton (as Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr. is pseudonymously known) will appear as a celebrity contestant on the music channel’s forthcoming Rappin’ With the Stars. The show pairs celebs with professional hip-hop emcees in a rap competition à la ABC hit Dancing With the Stars. A panel of hip-hop cognescenti will judge the results. We hear singer and E! reality star Aaron Carter is also set to drop some rhymes and actress Nicole Eggert (Baywatch) is a maybe. MTV could not confirm their participation. (The show will premiere later this year, but no date has been set.)

Lavandeira is also set to star in his own reality series on MTV sibling VH1, tentatively titled What Perez Sez. For now we look forward to hearing what Perez rhymes with gossip.

NBC Renews Summer Hits

Not surprisingly, given television viewers’ insatiable love affair with earnest amateur performers, NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios Co-Chairman Ben Silverman has given the green light to summer series America’s Got Talent, hosted by the reborn Jerry Springer (who replaced Regis Philbin). At the same time, Silverman has also signed up for more editions of Last Comic Standing.

For Talent, that means a third go-round. Last Comic Standing will be creating its sixth installment for the network. That’s nothing to laugh at (which of course is the main problem of the comics who are no longer standing).

Talent, airing 8 p.m. Tuesdays, has averaged a 3.6 rating/11 share in adults 18-49, with a 12.1 million viewers overall. That makes the series the top-watched summer show this year. The series has improved the 8-9:30 Tuesday slot by 21% in adults 18-49 versus last summer.

Comic hasn’t been quite that cosmic but it hit a six-month time-period high for NBC from 9-10 Wednesday, with an average 2.8/8 in the 18-49 demo and 6.7 million viewers overall.