The Trump Bump Feels Good This Time
It’s not just Donald Trump versus Martha Stewart. It turns out The Apprentice front man has yet another enemy in the TV business.
Veteran producer Chuck Lorre has a beef with Trump and last week used his CBS comedy Two and Half Men to rip the helmet-headed one for something that happened years ago. Specifically, Lorre’s slap came in a “vanity card,” a 200- to 300-word text rant that Lorre slips into the credits after every episode of his sitcom. It’s devised so only those who record the show can read it—and then only if they notice it. On March 6, Lorre used the card to gleefully point out Men crushed The Apprentice in the Nielsens the first time the shows went head-to-head the week before.
But this was no mere victory. For Lorre, it was payback for an incident 15 years earlier, when the two men literally bumped into each other. Lorre says Trump just frowned at him and dismissively waved him off. Lorre hated how low the billionaire made him feel.
“After all these years, the memory that lingers, the image that haunts is of his smug pout and condescending hand gesture that somehow caused me to feel utterly insignificant,” Lorre wrote on his on-screen screed.
“I was reminded of all this when I looked at the ratings of Two and a Half Men versus the ratings of The Apprentice. Hey, Donald, I just bumped into you again!” Men snagged 17 million viewers; Trump, 9.8 million.
Lorre has been posting vanity cards—they’re all compiled at at ChuckLorrre.com—since his Dharma and Greg days. His first ever, in 1997, seems to sum up his Trump sentiment: “I believe what doesn’t kill us makes us bitter.”
Henson’s Furry Tales
There’a buzz (and not just from preschoolers) about veteran TV Guide Editor Michael Davis’ planned book Street Gang. A dozen of New York’s top publishers are eager to get their hands this week on the story of how Sesame Street emerged as the iconic program that shaped the minds of countless kiddies around the globe.
Davis lovingly details the special karma of Sesame Workshop, jarringly juxtaposed with the the bare-knuckled business dealings for the big-bucks licensing of Henson’s puppet brigade, including Oscar the Grouch, Ernie and Bert, and Big Bird.
“It turned into a business book with a big, beautiful beating heart,” Davis says.
After Henson’s death (which Davis believes was affected by his stressful copyright dealings with Disney), Sesame Street creator Joan Ganz Cooney and then- Disney CEO Michael Eisner faced off for the rights to the characters. Eisner was the first to blink.
There’s a passel of side stories, including a glimpse of Jim Henson’s, shall we say, eccentricities; a look inside wrap parties that featured something called “The Nookie Monster”; and the tale of a soiree in which a certain Muppet got to see cast member Maria naked.
We’re wondering why the phrase “Tickle me, Elmo” keeps popping into our head.
It’s Better Than “Stuff Happens”
To most people, “Live and Learn” is a phrase tinged with regret of life’s mistakes tempered by a promise not to repeat them, and often muttered after a long sigh. Insiders also say “Live and Learn” next month will become the centerpiece catchphrase to a rebranding of Discovery Communications’ once-thriving TLC.
Until about two years ago, TLC was living large, feeding off Trading Spaces. Then came the nosedive. Ratings plunged 35%-40%, giving a cruel twist of truth to its current slogan, “Life Unscripted.” Things got better. Last month, TLC’s total audience fell just 1% from the same period a year ago. But in its core 25-54 demo, Nielsen data shows TLC’s audience off 6%.
The new TLC marketing push will accompany the April 10 debut of two series, Honey, We’re Killing The Kids, focusing on slovenly families transforming their eating and exercise habits; and Shalom in the Home, featuring family counselor/author Rabbi Shmuley Boteach helping families get to the root of “destructive” dynamics.
“Live and Learn” evolved out of focus groups with TLC viewers. TLC’s General Manager David Abraham and other execs were stunned that the network’s longtime viewers still remember TLC for what it was: The Learning Channel, a moniker Discovery brass strenuously avoids using on-air.
A spokeswoman wouldn’t discuss rebranding. “Our lives are still unscripted,” she says. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She’ll learn.