Got to love those summer interns. Good for making copies, good for grabbing coffee and, from time to time, good for publicly embarrassing iconic New York television personalities!
Let’s take Damon Plotnick. This smooth-talking 20-year-old from Long Island is an intern at Good Day New York , the Fox 5/WNYW morning news program helmed by erstwhile white-haired anchor Jim Ryan. Like a lot of TV interns, Mr. Plotnick is an ambitious up-and-comer trying to make a good impression in a cutthroat biz.
But that plan went a little bit awry a couple of weeks back, when Mr. Plotnick offered his family’s East Setauket spread for a June 27 Good Day segment on summer pool partying. Fox 5 dispatched a camera crew and reporter Lonnie Lardner out to the Plotnick abode to chat about pools, barbecues and summer fun while Mr. Ryan chilled out back in the studio.
It went O.K. for a while. Mr. Plotnick, a tad overdressed for the occasion in a black suit and a matching mock turtleneck, introduced his parents and a gaggle of friends splashing around in the family pool. Mr. Ryan and geeky weatherman Dave Price kidded him about his outfit, but the giggly Ms. Lardner defended the intern. “Is he adorable or what ?” she asked at one point. “We love him.”
But the morning took an abrupt turn for the worse later, when Ms. Lardner grabbed young Mr. Plotnick and asked him a single, fateful question: ” What’s it like working for Jim Ryan ?”
In a TV moment that has no doubt been rewound and replayed a thousand times at the Fox 5 studios, Mr. Plotnick squinted, cocked his head to the left and shot back into the camera:
“Oh, it’s an experience, I can tell you that much. I mean, I keep telling him that I’m not 21 and I cannot buy alcohol , but you know–he doesn’t listen!”
Mr. Ryan, whose face occupied the left side of a split screen, looked as if he wanted to spontaneously beam himself to East Setauket in order to open a big can of whup-ass on Mr. Plotnick. In the background, Mr. Price could be heard saying, “Looks like Doogie Howser just lost his job.”
“Busted!” Ms. Lardner shouted, inexplicably.
Sensing his on-air faux pas, Mr. Plotnick muttered a meek, “Sorry, Jim”–but faster than you could say “producer’s decision,” the camera was taken off the intern and turned onto the grill for a harmless segment about summer barbecuing. Mr. Plotnick did appear on camera a few minutes later, when he stripped down to his shorts (black, of course) to jump into the pool before the camera cut back to the studio.
Mr. Ryan, a former Daily News and WNBC reporter who’s been at Good Day New York since its 1988 debut, handled the incident with impressive dignity and restraint.
“I have already seen too much of that kid,” he said on air moments later. “I don’t care if we’re using his pool.”
But just as Commodus first spared Maximus in Gladiator, Mr. Ryan apparently saved young Damon from a beheading. When NYTV checked in with Mr. Plotnick and asked him if he’d gotten a hard time for his pool-party high jinks, the youthful intern had a rare shy moment: “Yeah, yeah, well, actually–you know–I’d rather not talk about it right now.” NYTV asked him to call back, but he never did. Mr. Ryan did not return a phone call.
Good Day New York executive producer Gail Yancosek said she did have a little chat with Mr. Plotnick, but added that the matter was quickly dropped. “He’s here, he’s working, didn’t miss a day, didn’t get reassigned, didn’t lose money, didn’t lose his internship,” Ms. Yancosek said.
“Live TV is full of a hell of a lot worse moments than that, let me tell you, in our history,” Ms. Yancosek continued. “Yeah, he was a young kid, and he said it and thought it was funny, and I said, ‘It really wasn’t–next time, use better judgment.’ That was the end of it, actually.”
Today, watch Good Day New York . One final question: What happens when Mr. Plotnick does turn 21? [FOX, 5, 5:30 a.m.]
Thursday, July 13
Mikey’s back! The blue-eyed, chubby-cheeked Life cereal kid returned to the airwaves this week as Quaker Oats relaunched the original 1972 commercial classic. Mikey himself–John Gilchrist, now 32 years old–was at the Museum of Television and Radio in midtown the other day for a big, fussy celebration for the TV ad, in which the 3-year-old Mr. Gilchrist famously wolfs down a serving of the oatsy breakfast.
Mr. Gilchrist, still with the aquamarine eyes and the apple cheeks, now lives in Westchester County and has a wife and two-year-old son of his own. He sells advertising for radio station WKTU, and swore that, yup, he still chows down the Life–but contrary to rumor, he never got a lifetime supply. “I actually have to go out and buy it myself,” he said.
Mr. Gilchrist carefully navigated around the question of whether or not his participation in the Life junket might be a violation of the ongoing commercial actors strike led by the Screen Actors Guild. “I knew someone would probably ask me this,” he said. “We are not breaking the strike, we are using an old commercial from 1972 and we re-upped the contract in January.” [A call to SAG’s West Coast office confirmed that, in fact, such action wouldn’t technically violate the strike, which began May 1.]
Lastly, the Pop Rocks rumor. Mr. Gilchrist shook his head about the long-standing urban legend–20 years old or so–that he croaked of cardiac arrest after consuming a lethal mix of Pop Rocks candy and Coca-Cola. But when asked if he ever tried Pop Rocks, Mr. Gilchrist hedged, sounding a bit Clintonian: “I never … I mean, I’d be lying if I said I–I mean, I probably tried it, I don’t recall ever putting it in my mouth, but I remember those things popping in your mouth.”
C’mon, Mikey! We know you tried Rocks, and you probably liked it.
Tonight, look for Mikey’s ad during commercial breaks of Unsolved Mysteries on Lifetime. [LIFE, 12, 8 p.m.]
Friday, July 14
Daytime court shows are like a certain body part–everyone’s got one, and most of ’em stink! (Not yours, Judge Judy!) Now Fox comes clomping into the courtroom with Power of Attorney, where the hook is that the stars are the lawyers, not the judge. Objections? Talk to Fox!
Wide-bodied Long Island attorney Dominic Barbara (a perennial guest on The Howard Stern Show, the quotable counselor has represented Joey Buttafuocco and Jessica Hahn, among other upstanding citizens) was recently plucked to be one of P.O.A. ‘s regular counselors, a group that also includes O.J. prosecutor Christopher Darden and Jack Kevorkian lawyer Geoffrey Fieger. Mr. Barbara said he’d been trying to sell his own courtroom show to the networks for some time, to no avail. Then Fox called, Mr. Barbara auditioned and he won ’em over, he said.
“The line they loved –I got to tell you this –I’m examining the last witness and I say to him, ‘Was there a written lease?’ and the witness says, ‘No,’ and I say, ‘ Is that your final answer ?’ And when I said that, they went crazy.” Mr. Barbara laughed heartily.
No stranger to television cameras, Mr. Barbara doesn’t expect to get jitters doing his TV turn, and said he plans to donate his checks to a child abuse prevention program.
“At one point, the judge was arguing with me and– you’ll like this quote –he said, ‘Mr. Barbara, if you continue to argue, I may ask you to leave the courtroom, and I said to myself, ‘Where is he sending me? It’s a cardboard wall!'”
Also lending P.O.A. some New York flavor is attorney Benedict Morelli, who represents ex-Morgan Stanley banker- Playguy centerfold Christian Curry, among others. “I’m going to try and have a good time with it,” Mr. Morelli said.
And the judge is Andrew Napolitano–from Jersey.
Today, watch the granddaddy of all court shows, The People’s Court . [WNBC, 4, 3 p.m.]
Saturday, July 15
You saw this coming: reality-TV–the backlash! On July 5, CBS launched Big Brother to less-than-stellar ratings and a chorus of Zzzz’s.
Now comes survivorsucks.com, a Web site dedicated to ridiculing the desert-island TV phenomenon. The site features pull-no-punches commentary on Survivor episodes and sometimes-cruel deconstructions of the program’s 16 cast members. It even has Survivor haiku! An example:
He built the shelter
Lit the fire, found the water
Thanks, BB! Bye-bye!
Survivorsucks.com is the handiwork of a Dallas Web designer named Paul Sims, who assembles the site in his spare time. The site has successfully picked the last three people to get booted.
“People send us information all the time,” he said. “‘This person goes next,’ ‘here’s the order that everyone is getting kicked off,’ stuff like that. But 90 percent of that stuff is bullshit–it’s very, very difficult to verify information like that online.”
Mr. Sims said he has recently started corresponding with several actual Survivor cast members. He declined to say which ones. “You know, it’s kind of sad, but now I feel bad about harshing on them, to be honest with you,” he said.
But that twinge of regret didn’t stop Mr. Sims from launching another parody site–bigbrotherblows.com! Tonight, you can watch the actual BigBro in all its creepy, dull glory. [WCBS, 2, 8 p.m.]
Sunday, July 16
On the TBS Superstation tonight, Rocky III . Stallone. T. Pity the fool. [TBS, 8, 10 p.m.]
Monday, July 17
“The show is about extreme glamour and about being incredibly rich and incredibly beautiful–and there is no better city for that than New York.” So said Richard Register, co-creator of Spy Groove , the new animated secret-agent spoof on MTV.
Mr. Register said he and longtime collaborator Michael Gans developed Spy Groove over drinks at a popular East Village watering hole, Drinkland. Drinkland, in fact, “definitely influenced the Maxi Bar,” the home base of Spy Groove ‘s cartoon stars, Agent No. 1 and Agent No. 2.
“The agents are so New York,” said Mr. Gans. “We took the glam-world of the city and made the agents part of it.”
Tonight, try to detect the Manhattan influences in Spy Groove. [MTV, 20, 10:30 p.m.]
Tuesday, July 18
Loud-shirted Manhattan public access personality Stephen Holt phoned up NYTV to talk about a series of shows he taped in Reykjavik, Iceland. Mr. Holt’s program, The Stephen Holt Show (13 years and running!), deals mostly with gay community issues and entertainment, and he reports that Iceland is officially a hot New York gay vacation destination. Think Fire Island, east –way, way east.
“There are three gay guest houses [in Iceland],” Mr. Holt said. “In a country of 280,000 people, that’s like three gay guest houses being suddenly built on Staten Island.”
And come weekends, those Icelanders like to get their swerve on! “Friday and Saturday, the whole country goes berserk,” Mr. Holt said. “Everybody comes there to party and drink and go bananas in the town square … it reminded me of Gay Pride Day crossed with Puerto Rican Day.”
Mr. Holt, whose show runs at 3:30 on Fridays on Time Warner cable channel 34, is a real interviewing pro. At one point, he gets all Barbara Walters with an Icelandic actress, Hanna Maria Karlsdottir, and in the middle of their chat, Hanna Maria comes out of the closet as a lesbian! Somebody get this guy to sit down with Ricky Martin!
Tonight on the sinking cartoon Family Guy , special guest Luke Perry is “outed.” [FOX, 5, 9 p.m.]