"We're not broadcast-bashing," says Turner ad-sales chief David Levy. Don't you believe it. At the upfront, ad agencies got a twist on the usual video pitch, Turner's rewritten version of R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It." Lyrics reference CBS research chief David Poltrack, an ardent cable foe—until CBS merged with Viacom:
"8 o'clock, broken hour
Thursday night is losing power
Movies suck, shows are lame
None of them are going to win
Nielsen numbers out of whack
People asking Poltrack
Prices up, escalating
Soon you're paying record rates"
CBS' response to Turner's swipe at songwriting? "I'd give it a hash mark," says a CBS exec, "like most of cable's ratings." —J.M.H.
(Full Story, See TV Buyer, pg. 26)
Do the Bart-Man
Can Bart Simpson go on the road? The producers of The Simpsons
have been quietly approached by interested parties about live public performances.
Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), and friends have done table readings of scripts in the past, at places like the Aspen Comedy Festival. But these are rare.
The idea is in early stages, but there has been talk about venues, including New York City's 6,200-seat Radio City Music Hall, which could generate $500,000 in nightly box office. —J.M.H.
Trial by Boredom
Lawyers say you win a trial by picking the right jury. Rule No. 1: Keep them awake. Potential jurors hearing the case against Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas (left) were grilled on a 25-page questionnaire they had filled out earlier. (Did they know the defendants? Did they have ties to a laundry list of banks, investment firms, etc.?) Even the defendants registered indifference. John Rigas closed his eyes and tilted his head back. His son, CFO Tim Rigas, maintained the same sleepy posture. And ex-COO Michael Rigas appeared to be dozing, propping his head up on one hand. Say goodnight, Gracie.—J.M.H.
Poor Mel Karmazin. The Viacom COO can't put the Super Bowl halftime disaster behind him. He was raked over the coals about the crotch-grabbing and breast exposure at a House indecency hearing. Last week, Sen. John McCain ragged him about it during a talk at New York's Museum of Radio and Television. McCain quipped to an audience that included Karmazin that further hearings were unlikely, since "Mel wore out his knee pads" testifying. Though McCain claims he's "uncomfortable" drawing up indecency standards from his Senate perch, he's convinced America wasn't ready for the tawdry halftime display. At least not in big events like the Super Bowl.