BC Beat


With P.J. Bednarski and John Eggerton

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McPherson and Kimmel's Late-Night Shtick

With many speculating that Tonight Show host Jay Leno could jump to ABC when he leaves NBC next year (thus calling into question the fate of ABC's current late-night guy, Jimmy Kimmel), the network's entertainment president Steve McPherson decided to address the matter directly at the Television Critics Association press tour last week—sort of.

McPherson had barely begun his presentation when "Tom Weinerman from the Saratoga Star-Herald Tribune" began peppering him with questions about "rumors that ABC is actively courting Jay Leno for 11:30."

If it wasn't immediately clear that "Weinerman" was really Kimmel in a baseball cap, surely everyone got the joke when he asked if Ted Koppel, the long-gone former host of Nightline, would be fired. Or when he pressed McPherson on the legality of simply talking to Leno.

"Couldn't you go to jail for that?" he asked. "Are you at all afraid that if you do replace Jimmy Kimmel, he might do something crazy to you or your car?"

The bit allowed McPherson simultaneously to take a shot at NBC ("I can't believe they're letting this guy go at the top of his game"), leave the door open for Leno ("if that happens, I guess we'll look at it at the time") and show genuine support for Kimmel ("and Jimmy will be involved in those discussions").

Well played.

WLTV's Bet

When the Sands Casino and Resort opens in Bethlehem, Pa., next year, it's a sure bet that it'll be the only gambling den with a PBS station as an attraction.

WLTV, currently located at 123 Sesame Street (really) on the campus of Lehigh University, is in the process of raising $53 million to build a new 50,000-square-foot facility within the 126-acre Sands development complex.

We knew these were lean times for public television, but has it really come to this?

No, it's purely a matter of real estate, says WLTV President and General Manager Patricia Simon. "We consider ourselves to be the cultural part of the project," she jokes. (What, Celine Dion isn't culture?)

Any chance a percentage of the house could go to the station, thus sparing WLTV viewers the agony of pledge week?

Nope, says Simon. But her staffers say they'll be glad to play the slots, "and if they win, they'll buy us a new tower."

Bad Neighbor

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood at Sci Fi…except for the birth of Satan's spawn and those wood-chipper murders.

In recent weeks, the NBC Universal-owned cable network has been invoking the kindly spirit of Fred Rogers with a promo for the July 29 season premiere of Eureka that features the cast in a Busby Berkeley-esque song-and-dance number set to the opening theme from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

Unfortunately the promo turned up in the wrong neighborhood a couple of weeks back when it ran during the season premiere of Sci Fi's candid-camera prank show Scare Tactics.

It went something like this: Unsuspecting woman is made to believe she is watching the birth of the Devil's child. "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!" Unsuspecting man is made to believe he has witnessed the aftermath of a murder when he sees body parts and gore spewing out the shoot of a wood chipper.

Family Communications, which produced and distributes Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, permitted the theme to be used in the promo. But the company has no control over when the promos run, says Director of Production Sam Newberry, who called the positioning in Scare Tactics "unfortunate."

A Sci Fi spokesman says the placement was simply intended to use the premiere as a platform to plug the next big debut and "didn't raise any flags," before or after it ran. But he adds that the promo wasn't running in last week's edition of Scare Tactics.

Can you say "good decision?" We knew you could.