Late Show Bans Lawyers in Theater-Says Attorneys Make Bad Audiences

Has David Letterman killed all the lawyers?

Like Knicks seats and tables at Le Cirque, tickets to the Late Show with David Letterman have been a choice perk for select New York City law firms for a number of years. Firms secured blocks of seats from the Letterman staff and divvied them up among summer associates and assorted friends, and the happy suits trooped down to the frigid Ed Sullivan Theater, loosened their ties and yukked it up.

Apparently, the lawyers didn’t yuk it up enough. Sources at a handful of New York law firms told NYTV that the Late Show has unofficially ceased its practice of handing out blocks of tickets to law firms. Their suspicion?

Them lawyers are just too damn dull.

CBS and Letterman’s production company Worldwide Pants deny that there’s an official Late Show lawyer lockout, but a source at the Manhattan firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler said that when the firm asked for tickets for a third consecutive summer, a member of audience coordinator David Kay’s staff said that herds of lawyers were no longer welcome. According to the source, the Worldwide Pants staff member told him that show officials had concluded that lawyers are “boring” and “not great in a crowd.”

“You’re just not the kind of crowd we’re looking for,” the Letterman staff member said, according to the source.

Sources at other firms say they, too, have recently felt a cold shoulder from the Late Show . NYTV spoke to representatives of five firms which had received groups of tickets in the past, and only one managed to get seats for this summer. And that firm, Proskauer Rose, only got the coveted tickets after answering Letterman trivia and promising to laugh heartily. “[The show] said we needed to be avid David Letterman fans,” said Ivy Kepner, associate programs coordinator for Proskauer Rose. “They called back to quiz us on the show. I, of course, watch all the time.”

And lawyers aren’t the only ones feeling left out in the cold at the Ed Sullivan Theater. Women, too, appear to be getting the squeeze from time to time. When a member of an all-male a cappella group at the Yale University inquired about Late Show tickets for his ensemble, a show staffer called to make certain that the group was, in fact, all-male. “They’re really tight-ass about gender,” said a group member, who asked to remain nameless. “When we reserved the tickets, [the show] stressed to me that they are for 20 guys .”

In fact, when the ensemble asked about bringing along some female companions, a Late Show staffer nixed that idea, the source said.

“I e-mailed [the show] a list of names of the audience members and the 20th name was of a girl,” the group member said. “They called me back and told me the girl couldn’t come.”

Others confirmed the Late Show ‘s quirk. “They’re very worried about the men-to-women balance,” said the source from Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler. “Last year they told us we had too many women.”

For those who are lucky enough to make it into the Late Show , precautions are taken to make sure they are good little audience members. “Last year they started using a marketing group,” said the Patterson source. “They told us how to laugh, and how to scream.”

A CBS publicist said there is no directive whatsoever to root anyone out of the Late Show audience. Publicist Kim Izzo said that, because Mr. Letterman missed more than a month of shows recovering from heart surgery, the Late Show hasn’t been able to accommodate some groups that had received tickets in the past. “Because Dave was out for five weeks, we’ve had thousands of people we have had to reschedule,” Ms. Izzo said.

But maybe the boring lawyers really were the problem. Though all the fuss about Mr. Letterman’s heart certainly helped, the Late Show’s ratings have jumped 16 per cent this season.

Tonight on the lawyer-free Late Show, Dana Carvey and No Doubt. [WCBS, 2, 11:35 p.m.]

Thursday, June 22

Media watchdog and former 20/20 producer Danny Schechter is in a huff about the Emmy Awards. A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Schechter, now helming the media criticism site mediachannel.org, found himself holed up in a New York hotel room with five other journalist types judging the Emmy Awards’ news and documentary category. He was horrified not only by the crappiness of many of the Emmy nominees, but also by the judging process itself.

Mr. Schechter’s main beef was that there were far too many Emmy nominees–some 62 segments, he said, making it nearly impossible for the judges to view them all. As a result, Mr. Schechter said, officials from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which runs the Emmy process, told the judges that they didn’t have to watch the nominees in their entirety.

“They said because of the proliferation [of segments], it’s okay if you look at 25 percent [of each],” Mr. Schechter said. “A little at the beginning, a little in the middle, a little in the end. As a producer of segments like this, I’m wondering if my own segments were judged in this way.”

The judges were asked to grade the segments on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 being Emmy-worthy and 5 being a piece of junk. The Emmys will be awarded according to Mr. Schechter, they watched a lot of junk. Mr. Schechter said the judges fast-forwarded through a number of segments and still didn’t finish looking at all the nominees. He said the category is overloaded, since segments now come from network newsmagazine shows like 60 Minutes and Dateline NBC , as well as from cable outlets like CNN and syndicated fare like Inside Edition . “By the time the afternoon was coming on, we were just whizzing through these things, you know–’I’ve seen enough, next!’–that kind of thing,” Mr. Schechter said.

In a written statement, NATAS director of news and documentary Jim Plante said that because of logistical problems, including the late arrival of equipment at the hotel, Mr. Schechter’s panel was delayed by an hour and a half. He apologized for the delay, and said that the panel has been given more time to complete its judging of the category.

“As for Mr. Schechter’s other comments, we’re always interested in our judges’ opinions and they will be duly noted,” Mr. Plante said in his statement.

Even if the judging process wasn’t pristine, Mr. Schechter sounded even more depressed about the overall quality of the segments. “A lot these things are not really investigative reporting,” he said. While some segments were good, the sameness of the material was disturbing, and Mr. Schechter opined that there were a number of so-called newsmagazine investigative pieces that simply lifted the work of other news organizations or independent watchdog groups. “These people do the whole investigation for you, basically,” he said.

As for the Emmys, Mr. Schechter wondered if the big business of awards shows was getting to be more important than the process. “Has the awards business gotten out of control?” he asked.

Tonight on ESPN, the beyond-reproach World’s Strongest Man Competition . Try to watch more than 25 percent of it! [ESPN, 28, 8 p.m.]

Friday, June 23

Tonight’s Walt Disney World’s Summer Jam Concert features Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias and Smash Mouth. Hope the guy working the DAT player is getting paid overtime for this gig. [WABC, 7, 8 p.m.]

Saturday, June 25

CBS admits it screwed up when it ran the mob drama Falcone for eight consecutive nights earlier this spring. To make up for this mistake, it is now running Falcone at 10 p.m. on Saturday nights, a time slot akin to entering the Witness Relocation program. [WCBS, 2, 10 p.m.]

Sunday, June 25

Will Bobby Flay slay? Or will Bobby Flay get filleted?

You’ll have to tune in to tonight’s premiere of Iron Chef NY Battle to find out. Mr. Flay, the energetic Mesa Grill chef and Food Network personality, was hand-picked to represent the Manhattan cuisine world on the English-dubbed and cultishly popular Japanese cooking show, in which renowned chefs compete against each other to be crowned with the title of Iron Chef. In a competition taped earlier this year before a noisy audience at Webster Hall, Mr. Flay competed against fabled Iron Chef warrior Morimoto.

Does Mr. Flay win? We’re not supposed to say, since the Food Network is mounting a Crying Game -style campaign for the campy show, begging TV writers not to reveal the final result. We’re not even supposed to tell you the secret ingredient! (All Iron Chef competitions feature a secret ingredient that becomes the basis for a series of dishes judged by a panel of experts.)

We can tell you this, however: This is a particularly violent installment of Iron Chef ! During the Iron Chef NY Battle , Mr. Flay cuts his finger really badly, and he even gets electrocuted!

“It is the wildest thing I have ever done,” Mr. Flay said. “It [ Iron Chef ] is basically like the World Wrestling Federation meets the Food Network.”

You can’t really tell on the tape, but Mr. Flay said he severely cut his finger five minutes into the competition when he reached to grab the blade of his food processor. Yeeooow! The gash was so bad he had to wrap his bloody injured hand in a towel and try to make do with his other paw.

Twenty minutes later, as a pool of water collected at his feet, Mr. Flay got zapped with a jolting surge of electricity when he grabbed a ladle and placed his hand on a stainless steel countertop. “At first I thought that I had cut like a tendon in my finger or something, because electricity went right through my cut hand,” Mr. Flay said. “I said, ‘What the fuck is that?’ and then I realized I was getting shocked. It was really killing me.”

Indeed, Iron Chef NY Battle is a brutal competition. The contestants get only two assistants, and must compete against the clock in preparing their dishes. The chefs must also deal with a raucous crowd, cameras, noise and daffy host Gordon Elliott.

Next to the bouncy Mr. Flay, the somber Morimoto was kind of a hard-ass. When Mr. Flay jumped up on his cutting table at the end of the competition, Morimoto grumbled that Mr. Flay was disrespecting the sacred art of cooking, or something like that. Asked about Morimoto, Mr. Flay replied: “Whatever. You know what I mean? I guess he wasn’t happy with the fact that we kind of stole his thunder at the end. It was showtime, let’s face it. I get to cook seriously every night of my life, so when the camera goes on, why not entertain?”

Food Network executive Eileen Opatut said that Iron Chef is the network’s second-highest-rated show, right after Emeril Lagasse Live . “I knew one of two things,” she said. “I knew either it would be enormously successful, or it would be a tremendous failure.”

And as if tonight’s Iron Chef spectacle couldn’t get any weirder, Iron First Lady of the City Donna Hanover is one of the judges. Rudy must have been dining with Judi that night. [FOOD, 50, 9 p.m.]

Monday, June 26

One of the oddest TV ad campaigns in recent memory is the one for drugstore.com, an online pharmaceutical company affiliated with Amazon.com. The ads featured a gabby red-haired woman dispensing motherly health advice to friends and family from the comfort of an enormous porcelain bubble bath.

Turns out that the actress who starred in the ads, Nia Vardalos, got more than a paycheck for her bathtub star turn. A source familiar with the commercial production said that Ms. Vardalos also developed a yucky rash after spending all that time in the tub for the cameras. Sounds like she could have used a few pharmacy products herself!

Ms. Vardalos’ representative, Rick Siegel, confirmed that his client did indeed come down with a rash after the taping, but he said that the production company in charge of the shoot took care of all of her medical expenses immediately, and that there are no hard feelings whatsoever. “I certainly don’t want anyone to think that we have anything that we feel bad about in regards to this, because the truth of it is we were very grateful for her to be part of it, and they have been nothing but terrific, beforehand, during it and after,” Mr. Siegel said. Splish, splash!

Tonight on the Discovery Channel, The Deadliest Job in the World. Commercial acting? No, salmon fishing! [DSC, 18, 8 p.m.]

Tuesday, June 26

On Comedy Central tonight, the overlooked Bergman classic, Booty Call . [COM, 45, 8 p.m.]