TCA Smackdown: Kathy Griffin vs. Chris Rock

They weren't competing in the same room, but Kathy Griffin and Chris Rock are neck and neck in the battle for the title as biggest laugh-getter at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour. With the three-week gathering ending Friday, NBC, ABC and Fox talent will be hard-pressed this week to top Griffin (who was promoting Bravo's Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List) and Rock (UPN's Everybody Hates Chris). A few excerpts of their remarks:

Rock, on casting a child actor to play him in Everybody's lead role: “I was at Michael Jackson's house, and this kid runs out.”

Griffin, after noting that her lawyer warned her against disparaging Scientology because the group is so litigious: “You know they think they're aliens, right? ... Apparently, Tom Cruise thinks he's from Mars. And I believe him.”

Rock, on stunt casting: “They don't really do that on the white shows. When they did it on Mad About You, with Carl Reiner, he had a real part. He wasn't there just to be famous. When they do it on the black shows, they're like, 'We've got a famous guy and he's going to be famous tonight!'”

Griffin: “Doesn't it seem like the number-one favorite topic with celebrities is the burden of their own celebrity? That's why I'm not friends with famous people. All they want to do is talk about how horrible it is to be famous. It's f—ing great.”

Rock, on reports Fox passed on his show because they were convinced he would not be a part of it after the pilot: “My name's not Chappelle. What have I walked out on?”

Griffin, on her fascination with Angelina Jolie's appearance: “Nobody can look like that, right? With the boobs, the stick legs. But I do think her lips, while beautiful, do sort of look like an inflamed anus.”

Bergeron's Next Dance

Maybe, at long last, Tom Bergeron's talk-show moment has arrived. The amiable, quick-witted Bergeron always seemed ripe for a hosting role, but somehow past plans to put him in charge of a chat-fest never gelled. His co-hosting role in ABC's surprise hit Dancing With the Stars, though, may enable Bergeron to waltz into a new job. The guy who took one look at a winded John O'Hurley and told Dancing viewers the actor's “heart is running faster than a concierge from Russell Crowe” is himself sprinting to capitalize on his prime time success. Industry sources say Bergeron and Amy Yasbeck, former Wings star and widow of John Ritter, are being pitched for a daily, live-to-tape talk show touted as the next Live With Regis and Kelly.

Of course, one problem with the “next Regis and Kelly” pitch is that it might go head to head with the real Regis. But Bergeron, host of America's Funniest Home Videos on ABC since 2001, is familiar with the pitfalls of syndication: He hosted King World's cancelled Hollywood Squares from 1998 to 2004.

That job helped get Bergeron pigeonholed in Hollywood as a game-show host—even though he had won critical raves in 1996 as co-host (with Laurie Hibberd, who is now married to Regis and Kelly executive producer Michael Gelman) of the quirky but ruinously expensive FX morning show Fox After Breakfast. He was once touted for ABC's Good Morning America, but that buzz died down. Now the positive vibe from Dancing With the Stars has revived industry interest.

Bergeron and his agent, ICM's Babette Perry, declined to comment, but one producer we spoke with—who passed on earlier Bergeron talk-show projects—is interested in this one and expects it will find a home by the end of the year.

Reality Check

In our continuing effort to keep B&C readers apprised of what's sluicing down the reality-TV pipeline in their direction, we offer this casting call update, courtesy of RealityTVLinks.com:

TLC presents Haunted Possessions … a two-hour special about the mysterious and compelling subject of possessed possessions, including haunted artwork, furniture and collectibles. Think of it as Haunted Antiques Roadshow.

The show will take place on The Queen Mary, one of the most haunted places on record. We are looking for expert paranormal investigators and psychics who will analyze objects brought in by real people who feel these objects are somehow cursed, possessed or haunted. These gifted experts will also try to connect with any spirits that are haunting their owners.