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Flash!

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With Jim Benson, John Eggerton and Michael Malone

Fox 21 May Get Into the MyNetworkTV Mix

Now that News Corp. is looking to revive its dismally rated all-telenovela netlet, MyNetworkTV (MNT), with an injection of low-cost reality and game shows (B&C, Dec. 15), the company may let Fox 21 get in on the act.

A production arm of 20th Century Fox Television, Fox 21 is the low-cost scripted and reality shop behind The WB's Beauty and the Geek. It was left out of the MNT mix when News Corp. made syndication wing Twentieth Television the exclusive supplier of MNT programming. (Twentieth already owned several telenovela-inspired script formats it had been prepping for the syndication market.)

But Fox 21 has resurfaced in the weeks since News Corp. decided to resurrect its abandoned contingency plan to develop low-cost alternatives to MNT's stripped telenovelas.

Those with knowledge of talks at MNT say that Fox 21, along with Twentieth and independent producers, could form the backbone of a new MNT programming stable.

Bringing in Fox 21 allows MNT to stick to its low-cost, in-house program model—a must if it wants to preserve the generous ad-time split (nine minutes of local, five minutes of national) that initially attracted affiliates. If major outside network and first-run suppliers were to contribute, they would likely demand higher license fees or 52-week commitments to help recoup their program investments. And that's something the struggling netlet can't afford.

Wing Man

Back when he was senior VP of corporate communications for NBC Universal (NBCU), Kevin Sullivan's favorite show was NBC's The West Wing. Now that he works for the real deal, Sullivan's been looking back on the playbook of his former NBCU colleague, Sports & Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol.

Sullivan, who left NBCU in April 2005 to be assistant secretary of state for communications and outreach, was named White House Communications Director in July. He told B&C in an e-mail exchange last month that he "learned a great deal about leadership" from NBCU Chairman Bob Wright and others.

But he credits Ebersol with teaching him to "approach communications with a producer's mindset—meaning lead with the good stuff, tell your story and be concise."

But just what does being Bush's top PR man entail? While the press secretary (another former TV guy, ex-Fox News host Tony Snow) focuses on "the news of the day and the White House press corps," Sullivan's team "takes a strategic, longer-term view and develops plans around the various policy initiatives and issues."

That means having to get up in time to be at the White House before 7 a.m. "I used to be a night owl," Sullivan says. "Now many nights I go to bed before my kids. Of course, I appreciate my DVR more than ever."

And no, he doesn't bounce a ball against his office wall like his fictional West Wing counterpart Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff). Says Sullivan: "The real West Wing is quieter than the TV version."

Faux N.Y.

Are Without a Trace and CSI: NY the TV equivalents of those knockoff Rolexes for sale on Canal Street in Manhattan? New York City Commissioner Katherine Oliver seems to think so.

As head of the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, Oliver has used tax credits and expedited permits to persuade TV and film producers to shoot in the Big Apple. In an interview with B&C last month, she called out the two CBS series for continuing to pass themselves off as gritty Gotham dramas while shooting in Los Angeles.

"It's frustrating to see shows set in New York that are not made in New York," Oliver says. "Something like CSI: NY spends maybe five days a year here. You can see that it's a fake New York."

The Brooklyn-born Oliver adds that true Noo Yawk shows, like NBC's Law & Order franchise, have an energy that you just can't reproduce on a backlot in Burbank.

Producers from Trace and CSI: NY did not return calls for comment. Should they decide to spend a little more time in New York, however, we know a guy who can get them a great deal on a Rolex.

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