Katie in Your Face: CBS Taunts NBC

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Katie in Your Face: CBS Taunts NBC

Even if you live under a rock, you’re probably aware that Katie Couric will be the new anchor of the CBS Evening News beginning Sept. 5. Now CBS is making sure that everyone under 30 Rock knows it, too.

Beginning Sept. 1, CBS will herald Couric’s arrival by plastering the face of the former Today co-host in the New York subway station below her old NBC stomping ground, Rockefeller Center.

“It will remind the employees when they go home,” says George Schweitzer, longtime president of the CBS Marketing Group.

The poster barrage, which will also hit CBS’ display properties in Grand Central and Penn stations, is part of a massive multimillion-dollar promotional effort that includes an on-air “retain and recruit” campaign and extensive advertisements on outside paid media and CBS-owned properties.

As part of its outside media push, CBS will be the inaugural sponsor of The New York Times’ new online TV section, which launches Sept. 4 with new listings and program descriptions.

The recruitment portion of the campaign is aimed at bringing loyal Couric viewers to the CBS newscast, but fans of A.M. Katie may not recognize the notably subdued P.M. version.

In spots currently running on CBS, Couric’s signature smile registers at a considerably lower wattage. Is this part of a CBS campaign to de-perkify Katie?

“There was no direction given in that regard,” Schweitzer says. “She is a professional, and she knows what to do.”

Rice Twice

As the country prepares to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Penny Johnson Jerald is finding herself in a familiar role.

Next month, Johnson Jerald, a longtime TV actor who first won notices as Larry’s long-suffering assistant, Beverly, on HBO’s Larry Sanders Show, will relive that terrible day in a TV movie—for the second time.

In ABC’s The Path to 9/11, which airs in two parts on Sept. 10 and 11, Johnson Jerald will again portray then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, a role she originated in the 2003 Showtime film D.C. 9/11: Time of Crisis.

Indeed, the “war on terror” has loomed conspicuously large in Johnson Jerald’s career in the five years since the attacks.

Less than two months after 9/11, she began a recurring role as the plotting ex-wife of David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), the senator who becomes president on the definitive post-9/11 series, 24.

Johnson Jerald was unavailable to comment on the extent to which her career path has intertwined with that of Rice, now secretary of state.

But if there’s a third go-round, we hope it’s a one-woman show called “Madame Secretary: How I Brought Peace to the Middle East.”

FX on Notice

With the new season of FX’s Nip/Tuck premiering on Sept. 5, the Parents Television Council (PTC) is sharpening its scalpel.

Last week, the TV-decency watchdog reiterated its declaration of victory against FX, claiming to have persuaded major advertisers, including Bridgestone Firestone and T-Mobile, to pull their spots from the cable network’s Rescue Me. (With the season finale set to run Aug. 29, however—and total viewers up 8% over last year—the victory may be more symbolic than financial.)

Now the PTC has set its sights on the twisted medical drama that will assume Rescue Me’s 10 p.m. slot. “FX continues to use that time slot to break every barrier you could possibly imagine,” says PTC executive director Tim Winter, deploring the network’s “penchant for extreme sexuality and violence, and a lot of profanity.”

The PTC has reached out to every advertiser who has ever been on the show, he says, providing transcripts and carefully selected video excerpts (presumably those include the sex-with-a- transsexual and sex-with-life-size-porn-star-doll episodes).

For its part, FX maintains that it goes “above and beyond the industry standard” in advising viewers of the mature content in its original series. “From a programming standpoint,” an FX spokesman says, “we’re being very responsible.”

But Winter, who warns that the PTC “has a few cards up its sleeve” in terms of saving the souls of Nip viewers, says things have gotten personal with the cable network: “FX gives us the middle finger every chance they get.”

With Jim Benson and Michael Malone

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