In the Loop


Ty, as in Tie-In

Master Carpenter Ty Pennington (above), carpenter on Discovery Channel's Trading Places, signed with ABC for another 11 episodes of Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Now, Pennington, replete with his Sears Craftsman tool belt, will appear on America's Funniest Home Videos Sunday, Feb. 15 as part of a tie-in with that show, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and Sears. He'll create a trophy for the night's top prize winner, using (what else) Sears Craftsman tools. He will also have the opportunity to plug the return of Makeover Home Edition, which debuts immediately after Videos. Sears is creating customized commercials.—S.M.

Greta's Own Chair

Greta Van Susteren's breaking point at CNN can be traced to the night she found someone sitting in her chair. So says Los Angeles Times reporter Scott Collins in his forthcoming book on the cable news wars. Crazy Like a Fox (Portfolio Books), out in April, says Van Susteren (right) was already sullen that CNN was neglecting her prime time talk show, The Point, while lavishing money on new anchors and their sets. Then one night in 2001, she went to her set to find a guest for another show sitting in her chair. She charged into the control room and snapped, "I've gotta have a chair to sit in front of the camera ... that's the bare minimum." Within weeks, she split to Fox with no raise in her $800,000 salary but a better platform and promotion.

Collins also says April Oliver, the producer of the CNN's discredited Tailwind story alleging that U.S. forces used poison gas in Vietnam, collected a $3 million payoff from the network to drop a lawsuit stemming from her dismissal.—J.M.H.

Y Indeed

Janet Jackson's breast became the butt of a seemingly endless stream of industry jokes and wordplay last week, from CNN's reference to a "bru-bra-ha-ha" to Fuse network's caustic "open letter" to MTV volunteering to donate to the IFDADANT (the "Institute for the Development of Advanced Double Adhesive Nipple Tape"). Our favorite, however, was some Monday-morning quarterbacking by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann wondering about the ceremonial coin toss: "Yesterday's was conducted by former hero quarterback Yelberton Abraham Tittle, who always went by his initials, Y.A. Tittle. A question all of us are asking tonight." It was that kind of Super Bowl.—J.E.

All in the Family

After the Super Bowl mess, FCC Chairman Michael Powell promised an investigation that will be "thorough and swift." But the incident—happening just as Congress is speeding an indecency bill into law—reminds us that Powell's actress sister, Linda Powell, appeared on HBO's Sex and the City in 2000 and screamed out the f-word, not as an adjective but to refer to the sex act. It's a good thing courts have ruled that regulating cable language and content is largely off-limits—or else the chairman might have had to fine his sister.—P.J.B.

ABCs and RBIs

Fox's This Week in Baseball seems an unlikely offering as one of the FCC's core educational kids shows, as media-consolidation opponents pointed out two weeks ago. Still, it shows up on plenty of Fox stations' quarterly reports to the FCC on fulfilling their kids-TV quota. Another argument similar to the ones about Jetsons being educational TV or catsup being a vegetable? Absolutely not, says Steve Fortunato, senior managing producer for Major League Baseball productions. Fox decided that, as a Saturday 12:30 p.m. show leading out of a traditional kids viewing period, it should have educational elements.

Per the network's request, a consultant from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education is assigned to make sure the shows deal with some educational themes and issues, which have included the physics of a curve ball and a tour of a bat-manufacturing facility. Not like your kids are that interested. In July 2003, the latest sweeps featuring the show, it averaged a 0.1/1 in kids 2-11 and a 0.2/1 in kids 2-17, according to Nielsen. In the vast majority of markets, the show gets hashmarks in the kids demos, meaning there is no measurable audience at all.—J.E.