Wednesday, Oct. 27
Chris Kattan was nowhere to be seen during the Oct. 23 episode of Saturday Night Live . That made sense, since the show was hosted by Norm Macdonald.
Apparently, Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Kattan hate each other.
In November 1997, Mr. Macdonald talked about his feelings toward Mr. Kattan in an interview with Rolling Stone : “I don’t know, but to me he seems gay,” said Mr. Macdonald. “He claims he’s not, but I’ve never seen, like, a guy who’s not gay seem so gay. I don’t find him funny. What can I say? Never made me laugh.”
In the same article, Mr. Kattan responded: “Norm gives me a hard time … If Norm says I’m gay, then put in that I say he’s an asshole.”
While the in-print bickering made for good copy, people who were around Saturday Night Live when both Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Kattan were cast members said it carried over into the show. “They had a very acrimonious relationship,” said a source connected to SNL . “Norm would rip [Mr. Kattan] to his face. Norm’s a weird guy. If he doesn’t like someone, he’ll say it to his face.”
In turn, Mr. Kattan was known to badger Mr. Macdonald even just minutes before airtime. So is their mutual dislike for each other responsible for Mr. Kattan’s absence during the Oct. 23 show? An SNL publicist said it just so happened that Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Kattan were set to appear in a sketch that was killed after dress rehearsal, which is not uncommon.
Sources inside SNL said that’s true, but didn’t count out strained relations as a reason for it. Indeed, during the SNL sketch meeting earlier that week, Mr. Kattan and Mr. Macdonald were sniping at each other across the table, according to a source close to the show. But a source who was in the room said that what was going on between the two men wasn’t quite sniping.
“I would say it’s good-natured ribbing,” said the source. “But they have very different styles, and what happens a lot is that when someone has a different style from the host, it’s hard for them to get in the show. They did start working on something together when it became clear Chris didn’t have anything going.” Still, another SNL source said Mr. Kattan was not surprised he didn’t make the cut. “After the show he was like, ‘I knew this was going to be a tough week,’” said the source. Neither Mr. Kattan nor Mr. Macdonald responded to requests for comment.
Mr. Kattan has seemed to find his groove on the show since Mr. Macdonald was exiled by former NBC West Coast boss Don Ohlmeyer a year and a half ago. He used to play the monkey man who licked people and a head-bobbing Roxbury Guy, both of which only went so far. Lately he has been getting big laughs as one-half (with Cheri Oteri) of the kinky married couple and as Mango, the exotic dancer who is infinitely attractive to both men and women. Even Garth Brooks has taken part in a Mango sketch, pledging his love to the ambisexual, leopard-print-wearing maniac. If SNL ‘s producers had a little more guts, they would have forced Mr. Macdonald to do penance for his remarks by doing a love scene with the man he thinks of as gay. I mean, right? Tonight on the SNL repeat, Dana Carvey and Edie Brickell. [Comedy Central, 45, 6 P.M.]
On Thursday, Oct. 14, Geraldine Laybourne went before her staff at Oxygen Media Inc. to give them a little pep talk. The gist of the meeting was that the embryonic Internet-cable women’s network-which is scheduled to launch on TV Feb. 2-is in great shape and that the money is still pouring in.
But soon enough, on Thursday, Oct. 21, a key afternoon program block, called “ka-ching,” was essentially canceled. Instead of accounting for 90 minutes of daytime programming, “ka-ching” segments will be folded into a two-hour prime-time program block called “Pure Oxygen.” The reason given: there just isn’t enough money to pay for everything the network had been planning.
The news sent a chill through the Oxygen staff. First of all, “ka-ching” has been billed as one of Oxygen’s premier afternoon programming blocks with a user-friendly bent. It was to offer up features on the stock market, careers, small business and personal finance for women who are intimidated by financial matters and aren’t served by shows like CNBC’s Business Center .
“Everybody was pretty surprised, and it makes me wonder, ‘How is Oxygen different from other companies?’” said one member of Oxygen’s staff, enamored of the company’s supposedly feminine-feminist way of doing business. “But I’m still a believer, I’m still buying into the whole thing. I mean, is there a good way to do something like that?” A spokesman for Oxygen said these things happen with a startup and refused to go into the internal politics of the company. [CNBC, 15 , 6:30 P.M.]
Thursday, Oct. 28
Bob Costas likes to think of himself as more than just a play-by-play man. To realize that, all you have to do is think back to his old stint on NBC’s Later , where he interviewed everyone from Jimmy Breslin to Charlie Watts. So he’s finishing up a deal with HBO to produce a new sports interview show à la Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel . Reached at his office just before the start of the World Series, Mr. Costas said he couldn’t really talk about his HBO discussions.
NYTV had other matters to discuss with him anyway: like, how does he feel about having to interrupt the flow of the tense postseason games to do hucksterish voice-over promos for various NBC products like Third Watch and The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns ?
“I accept what the realities of television are,” he said. “I think the pressure to promote or the need to promote is everywhere. It’s a dogfight. There’s obviously more cable outlets and other networks springing up, and the audience is divided into fractions as never before, and everyone is trying as best they can.” What a pro!
Mr. Costas is scheduled to take the air for Game 5 of the World Series tonight. If the Yankees have swept the series by then, you can watch Friends (who are friends off camera as well!). [WNBC, 4, 8 P.M.]
Friday, Oct. 29
The new television season is more than a month old. The Big Four networks-CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox-have lost another 6 percent of their share of the prime-time audience compared to the same period last year. In all, they now draw about 54 million households nightly.
So the ad firms that buy network advertising time for their corporate clients are going over the Nielsen ratings for the new fall shows to see where they’re getting a smaller bang for their buck than expected. J. Walter Thompson’s head researcher, David Marans, completed his analysis Oct. 22 and shared his views with NYTV. “All right, here’s what’s not working,” Mr. Marans began. “Certainly Wasteland . Kevin Williamson [creator of Dawson's Creek ] went to work at ABC in an effort to be a little WB-oriented-hated it! That’s what the American public is saying. On NBC, the numbers may look good on the surface for Stark Raving Mad , but the public is indifferent and turning away during that half-hour. On Fox, what’s not working is Get Real , Action , Ryan Caulfield: Year One , Harsh Realm . Fox is trying a lot of edgy stuff, and the heavy viewers who really control TV are saying, ‘No, thank you.’ The stuff may be too different for them.”
A couple of days after that interview, Harsh Realm and Ryan Caulfield: Year One were canceled. On the plus side in television land, dramas seem to be doing O.K.: CBS is hitting big with Judging Amy (15.6 million households) and Family Law (13.6 million). NBC is holding pretty steady with West Wing (12.4 million) and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (13.7 million)-though its Cold Feet is flagging a bit (5.1 million). ABC is holding its own, though barely, with Once and Again (10.3 million).
Tonight on Cold Feet , things get weird because of one of a female cast member’s past loves. [WNBC, 4, 10 P.M.]
Saturday, Oct. 30
You have to give Howard Stern credit for going on the air on Monday, Oct. 25, and explaining his separation from his wife, Alison, right after the news hit the papers. But a day later, when Mr. Stern had a young woman prancing around his studio in a bikini, things felt different.
In the past you could have said that his lecherous ways were shtick because he was faithfully married. There was a barrier between him and the women in his studio, which made the situation inherently dramatic and interesting. With each new woman who was willing to strip for him, the audience could listen (or watch, on E!) as the host tried desperately to resist temptation. Now, what’s the problem? Mr. Stern could actually take these women home guilt-free. That’s pretty creepy. Then again, no one has a better sense for his audience than Mr. Stern, so it will be interesting to see how he redeems himself. Catch the old Howard tonight on The Howard Stern Radio Show with guests Tom Arnold and David Wells. [WCBS, 2, 11:30 P.M.]
Sunday, Oct. 31
It’s Halloween. Watch Buried Alive . A dead guy comes to back to life for revenge on the wife who killed him. [WWOR, 9, 8 P.M.]
Monday, Nov. 1
BNN, which produces documentary segments for all sorts of cable channels out of a loft on Park Avenue, held a forum on the future of television in the Internet age at Columbia University on Oct. 21, and network television was declared dead. Maybe that’s why the best thing on TV tonight are Taxi reruns-four hours of them-on Nickelodeon. [Nickelodeon, 6, 9 P.M.]
Tuesday, Nov. 2
Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, the executive producers of Once and Again , kept as low a profile as the smarter perps on NYPD Blue , as producer Steven Bochco took to the airwaves to complain about ABC’s idea of keeping their show in the usual NYPD Blue time slot (an idea that eventually fell by the wayside). But Mr. Zwick, who co-created Thirtysomething , was privately grumbling about Mr. Bochco’s charges that ABC was favoring Once and Again because its corporate parent, the Walt Disney Company, has an ownership claim on the show. “Their appreciation of the show is based on its merits and on its performance,” Mr. Zwick said. “I mean, indeed, they are part owners of the show. But this is by no means a wholly owned ABC show. So that conspiratorial angle, um, ah, although it may have some influence in decisions, it’s by no means overriding.”
But Mr. Zwick said there are no hard feelings between himself and Mr. Bochco.
“We’re all grown-ups,” Mr. Zwick said. “We’ve all been on both ends of these situations, more than once. We know how the world works, and Steven does, too.”
Tonight on Once and Again , starring Sela Ward and Billy Campbell, Eli plays in a baseball tournament and is certain to head home in an S.U.V. [WABC, 7, 10 P.M.]
Home Movie With Peter Bogdanovich
Judy Garland’s first nonmusical role as an adult was the second picture in a row directed by Vincente Minnelli, after their popular turn-of-the-century color musical Meet Me in St. Louis . It was released the same year he became her first husband, a year before their daughter Liza Minnelli was born. Co-starring one of the 1940′s most likable, charming juvenile leads, Robert Walker, as a World War II Army corporal on 48-hour leave in New York City, the now little-known black-and-white film is a truly delightful, touching love story-1945′s somewhat fable-like The Clock [Monday, Nov. 1, Turner Classic Movies, 82, 4 P.M.; also on videocassette] .
The title has several meanings, its most literal being the large circular clock in Manhattan’s legendary Grand Central Terminal, where the two lovers first meet by chance, its fateful randomness emphasized by the huge and overcrowded setting. The Grand Central clock is also where the lovers find each other again, after losing touch in another crowd, in what is probably the picture’s most moving romantic sequence. An even larger clock-reference points to the young soldier’s time on furlough being strictly limited to two short days. Yet what a lifetime passes in those brief hours-bringing irony to the title-since time is nowhere more relative than in affairs of the heart.
With a tight script by novelist Robert Nathan and Joseph Schrank, luminously shot by veteran cinematographer George Folsey, the movie features terrific performances not only from the two stars but from such brilliant character actors as lovable New York-accented James Gleason doing a philosophical milkman, and Keenan Wynn as a happy drunk. Producer-lyricist Arthur Freed-whose unit became famous for making all the best M-G-M musicals-did very few dramas, this being his first, as it was Minnelli’s. (In fact, while The Clock was Garland’s 20th feature, it was only the director’s fifth.)
But Minnelli displays immediate flair for a kind of heightened realism, with gentle, yet firm control over an episodic structure, memorable in later work like The Bad and the Beautiful and Some Came Running . As superb as Garland is in The Clock , at age 22, it’s sad realizing she did no other dramatic work until nearly a decade later in A Star Is Born , then three more mature dramatic performances and her career was over.
All of which makes The Clock even more precious, one of a kind, a moment in the country’s history as well as in the movies’, intersecting to create a powerfully nostalgic event: Judy Garland and Robert Walker as two archetypally average, innocent American kids, caught in a time of war, brought together by a love that promises not only vibrant hope but a kind of immortality. That Minnelli and Garland were probably at their happiest as a couple here also contributes to the charged magical atmosphere the picture communicates. The husband and wife worked together again on three of Garland’s next four films- Ziegfeld Follies , Till the Clouds Roll By and The Pirate -their last pairing an often-appealing Gene Kelly-Cole Porter musical, though not a success. They were divorced in 1951, but remained friendly till her lamentable death 18 years later at 47.
Tragically, also in 1951, Robert Walker died at 32; neither before nor after The Clock did he land nearly as good a role or director-until just before his death when Alfred Hitchcock cast him as the enormously personable psychopathic murderer in his suspense classic Strangers on a Train . Walker gave a striking, extraordinarily layered performance, among the best in all Hitchcock’s work. The actor had just about finished another complex portrayal in Leo McCarey’s deeply flawed My Son John when a sudden heart attack killed him. The Clock , then, is the romantic pinnacle in the careers of three of Hollywood’s most talented and valuable artists, only one of whom lived to achieve his potential.