In the Loop

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Bounty Hunter

Nothing catches the eye like a shouting bald man flashing cash. On
CNN's Crossfire last week, co-host James
Carville needed a visual aid to illustrate Texans for Truth's offer. The "527"
advocacy group is willing to give $50,000 to anyone who can confirm that
President Bush fulfilled his duties in the Alabama National Guard in 1972. To
make his point, Carville whipped out a $20 bill and waved it around, saying,
"All they gotta say is: 'You know what? I saw the president there.' 300,000 of
these little puppies await somebody that will come forward and actually say
they saw him there after he claims he was there." Whoa, ragin' Cajun! Check
your fuzzy math. 300,000 twenties equals $6 million, not your promised

The Texans for Truth challenge stands at $50,000, according to the group's rep. Was Carville
upping their ante? Perhaps K Street was more
lucrative than we thought. By press time, CNN could not explain Carville's
logic. Most likely, Carville was including another reward. Earlier this year,
Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau offered
to donate $10,000 to the USO in the name of anyone who could provide similar
evidence of Bush's military service.

Alive and Kicking

Six Feet Under's ratings dipped
this season, from 4.8 million to 3.7 million, but is that any reason for
The Washington Postto claim rigor mortis?
Not according to HBO Entertainment President Carolyn Strauss, who insists
total viewing is up. Why the discrepancy? In
January, Nielsen stopped rolling the ratings for HBO's seven channels into one.
Instead, it counted only viewers of HBO's main channel, which resulted in a
viewership dip for every top HBO show, includingThe
,Curb Your Enthusiasm and
Sex and the City. "Is the show performing
creatively? Are there more stories to tell?" Strauss asks. For
Six Feet Under,returning for season five,
the answer is "yes, yes, yes."

Murder in the Executive Suite

The Hallmark Channel is killing cable operators—on TV. The channel
occasionally derided as saccharine is fighting back. It's casting execs in
non-speaking roles in three murder mysteries. Its first victim: Abby Aaronson,
Adelphia Communications vice president of programming. She plays a mother
murdered by her daughter in one of the Mystery
movies airing in January.

When Hallmark's head of affiliate sales Janice Arouh first pitched the
idea, Aaronson balked. But her kids insisted, so Aaronson, whose only acting
experience was limited to summer camp, relented. Now Hallmark wants to offer
roles to other cable execs in upcoming Mystery
films, as well as in McBride, starring John Larroquette, and
Jane Doe, featuring Lea Thompson. "Once in a
while, we get branded as too serious, too sentimental," says programming chief
Dave Kenin. "We thought it would be fun to put the cable community in."

Note to execs: Keep your day jobs.

Don't Leapfrog Facts

ABC is hot on the Rathergate story, breaking ground by unearthing a
document examiner who warned a CBS producer of the Bush records' questionable
status. But nobody's gloating. In a memo sent last week, ABC News President
David Westin issued a directive for covering the allegedly forged memos touted
on 60 Minutes. "We need to stick as close to
the facts and what we know about them as possible," he wrote, noting ABC could
be in the hot seat next time. How best to sum up CBS's dilemma? Westin chose to
paraphrase Churchill: "When boys are throwing rocks at a frog, it may seem like
good fun to the boys, but to the frog, it's serious business." While ABC may
not be able to turn a frog into a fact, it is willing to vindicate a
competitor. "If CBS News is wrong, we owe it to everyone to make the point; if
they're right, we owe it to everyone to make that point as well."