Dust Off the Tiara: Miss America Deal Nears
After more than five months in dating limbo since being dropped by ABC, the Miss America pageant appears to have a serious suitor. “We're getting very close,” says John Ferriter, senior VP and head of network alternative programming at the William Morris Agency, which began repping the pageant after organizers had a falling out with the Creative Artists Agency over the winter. Ferriter expects to announce the buyer this week. “I think the show is going to be back on the air and back in a big way.”
According to Ferriter, both broadcast and cable outlets have expressed interest in the contest. It is being pitched as a new kind of pageant, reconstituted by producers within the agency (reality and live-event specialists) as a multiple-part reality series. Under the working title The Search for Miss America, the series would follow contestants through state contests (letting viewers get to know them on their home turf), create a rooting interest in the hopefuls, and culminate with the two-hour beauty pageant.
Who will buy the show? Definitely not Fox Television, which has opted out of the running, says Ferriter, and not Donald Trump. He might own the Miss USA, Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA pageants, and was widely rumored to be interested, but Trump, Ferriter says, “has not put an offer on the table.”
Television executives regularly dream about killing the competition, especially the other guys' hit shows. But CBS took the idea to a new level with the movie Spring Break Shark Attack, when women who looked an awful lot like the women of Wisteria Lane on ABC's Desperate Housewives became chum in CBS's shark-infested waters. The first shot of the TV movie, which aired on March 20, showed four attractive, middle-aged women out in the ocean, relaxing on a raft and drinking martinis. That got our attention right away: The movie was supposed to be a shameless jigglefest of frightened coeds, aimed at guys who'd seen the hype on CBS's March Madness basketball coverage earlier in the day. What were those moms doing here?
Then it became clear. “Alice would have loved this,” one of them lamented. (Hmmm, Desperate Housewives is narrated from the grave by suicide victim Mary Alice Young). Then there was the line, “Let Matt take care of the triplets for a change” (one DH couple has twins). After a hungry shark turned the women into a floating buffet, we saw this newspaper headline: “Desperate search for missing housewives continues…”
Executive producer Frank von Zerneck says he'd like to take credit for the scene, but it originated with screenwriter James La Rosa. “It was fun and a tip of the hat,” von Zerneck says. The Spring Break programming stunt helped CBS win the ratings war for the night, though at a 7.1 rating/11 share vs. 8.6/13, the movie couldn't pull even a rerun of Desperate Housewives underwater while the two overlapped.
Last week, an e-mail promoting the Puppy Channel rained down on nearly every member of the B&C staff and, we suspect, on many, many others in the media. The e-mail's sketchy wording—the “big dogs” that attend the NCTA convention this week “may have indicated the channel's time might have arrived”—reminded us that we've been hearing for nearly a decade about the imminent launch of this channel devoted to the pairing of lovable pups and nice music. Dogs may be man's best friend, but journalists can be a puppy's faithful companion. A sampling:
2004:“…The Puppy Channel, which will begin next year”—The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)
2003:“Cable channels in the works include…the Puppy Channel”—Miami Herald
2002:“The National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. notes such new aspirants as…the Puppy Channel”—Los Angeles Times
2000:“The Puppy Channel is just puppies, puppies, puppies”—Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock, Ark.), apparently under the impression that the channel actually exists
1999:“Daniel A. FitzSimons of Cleveland is one entrepreneur with a channel vision…His idea: puppies, all day long.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
1998:“…the Puppy Channel will be up and running in a few months.” —Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
1997: “On this channel, any puppy can have its day”—headline, USA Today
1996:“The Puppy Channel still lacks an essential ingredient. It doesn't have a cable system that has committed to carrying its canine content.”—Crain's Cleveland Business
It might be time for the Puppy Channel story idea to be spayed or neutered so it can't reproduce again.