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In the Loop - Broadcasting & Cable

In the Loop

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Executive Lockdown

MTV Networks insiders say Judy McGrath has the edge in the contest to succeed Tom Freston as the chairman of MTV Networks. But Freston is facing a potential domino effect from other senior MTVN executives, who are jockeying for position, turf, and more money. Freston—the new co-COO of MTVN parent Viacom—had hoped to name his successor last week but delayed an announcement because he couldn't close deals with his top people.

The big winner is expected to be McGrath, group president in charge of MTV, VH1, and Comedy Central. The MTV veteran is touted for her ability to create brands and hip programming. But if she ascends, Freston will have to placate others. High on that list is Brian Graden, the programming whiz who reshaped MTV with a string of hits. MTV execs say Graden wants a stake in Comedy Central—and more money.

Freston would also need to mollify Herb Scannell, a respected MTVN group president who runs Nickelodeon, Nick-at-Nite, and Spike TV. Traditionally, Scannell and McGrath have moved in lockstep. It's not clear what his consolation prize would be.

Insiders believe that Van Toffler, president of MTV, MTV2, and VH1, would step into McGrath's shoes. But it's unclear whether he would keep Comedy Central, which just brought back its ex-president and MTV programming vet Doug Herzog. If McGrath does move up, Herzog—the former USA Network president—will prod Freston to separate Comedy Central from MTV, which McGrath would continue to oversee.

War and Peace

It's a good thing members of the Bloods and Crips saw Redemption: The Stanley "Tookie" Williams Story
while making peace in Newark, N.J. The film stars Jamie Foxx as Williams, a Crips co-founder who underwent a dramatic transformation while on San Quentin prison's death row.

The gangster-turned-activist has written nine children's books, earning two Nobel Prize nominations.

"They were definitely inspired by it," says David Muhammad, a Newark city official. The gang members found The Tookie Protocol for Peace, a procedure for ending gang violence, on Williams's Web site. It served as a blueprint for a recent truce.

Some critics were skeptical of Redemption, saying it glossed over Williams's conviction for the murder of four people.

"If we don't feel the brutality of Williams's crimes, then we don't feel the full power of his moral conversion," wrote The Boston Globe's Matthew Gilbert.

Redemption
doesn't back away from Williams's complexities, counters Peter Liguori, FX's president and CEO. "We don't feed our audience the answer," he says.

Since the peace accord, FX is setting up screenings in at-risk areas and sending the movie to churches and outreach groups.

Air One for The Gipper

As Washington buried a president, Turner Classic Movies celebrated an actor—with a 24-hour Ronald Reagan film fest June 10. The 15 movies included the late president's favorites, King's Row
and Desperate Journey, but his most famous role, George Gipp in Knute Rockne, All-American, which was extensively excerpted on TV last week, was MIA.

Why the omission, since TNT owns rights to Rockne? Seems TCM sublicensed it to HBO until Sept. 30.

The Gipper will be back on TCM in October, when Reagan is slated to be "Star of the Month."

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