Wednesday, June 28
After NYTV reported last week on the Late Show with David Letterman ‘s unofficial ban on groups of lawyers in the audience, a number of folks phoned in to tell their own tales of the audience-engineering that goes on inside the Ed Sullivan Theater.
The most common complaint: Late Show likes men a lot more than women.
Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Sarah Jessica Parker and those leggy hostesses in their sequined minidresses aside, the Ed Sullivan Theater remains a man’s man’s man’s world, sources said.
“Their mission is to get as many men as possible into that show,” said one former CBS staff member, who worked at the Late Show from 1995 until 1999. “There would be phone calls made … ‘Do you have any guy friends who would want to get into the show today?’ I would call my friends who worked downtown and ask them if they could be up here by 4:30 p.m. That would happen all the time.”
In addition to recruiting their own male friends, ex- Late Show staff members said they were encouraged to allot tickets to large groups of men. Frat boys were good; so were groups from the military. Women, of course, got in, but not in comparable numbers. “I don’t know if they thought men laughed louder or women just don’t get the humor,” said the former staff member. “But they didn’t want women.”
“There was definitely a caste system,” said another former staff member.
In fact, two former staff members said they were regularly instructed to tabulate the number of male audience members with hand-held clickers. “We would have to stand at the door and count the men–like, inconspicuously,” one said. “We’d wear blazers and you couldn’t really see the clickers in our hands. And then one of Dave’s assistants would come around to counter our count.”
“You always felt guilty,” said the other, who said she still has her clicker. “Like they were totally double-checking you.”
But it’s not just women who have a tough time at Late Show . Ho, no! Ugly people may have it worse.
“Unattractive people are seated in certain areas,” said one source. Said another: “They wanted good-looking people. If there was a Ken and Barbie couple coming in, they would be like, ‘ Ooooh, take them to the front!’ But another source said that the front seats are held for high-energy types “psyched to be there.” “It’s not a looks thing,” the source said.
Late Show spokesperson Steven Rubenstein acknowledged that the live audience “does tend to be mildly more male than female.” But he said that when large groups of people are booked for the audience, those groups are typically half male and half female. And in terms of giving out Late Show tickets, what matters most isn’t a potential audience member’s sex, but his or her enthusiasm, Mr. Rubenstein said: “In general, what they look for are people who are fans of the show and people who know the program.”
Tonight on Late Show , Martha Stewart, who, it should be noted, is a woman. [WCBS, 2, 11:30 p.m.]
Thursday, June 29
( Irked that his company missed the boat on both game shows and voyeur TV, NBC president Robert Wright reportedly barked at his staff to deliver him some feisty reality madness, pronto. ABC is also busily cooking up some reality TV of its own.
But no matter how desperate the networks are to match the popularity of CBS’s Survivor , not every reality-based show makes it to air. UPN actually had a reality-based series on location, ready to go–and decided to pull the plug on it. Called The Big House , the show featured a pack of real live “cast members” living in a hyper-monitored house playing strange games and trying to win a (duh!) big house.
UPN spokesman Paul McGuire said that after shooting a pilot, network execs decided it wasn’t worthy of a fall or mid-season slot. “There was some talk [about it] recently, but I believe it’s on the shelf,” he said. “It’s not going to air and there are no plans to go further with it.”
Boy, The Big House must have been really lame.
“You don’t want to do it [reality TV] just for the sake of doing it,” Mr. McGuire said. “As we saw from the game shows–what was that great Fred Allen line, ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of television?’–the TV road is littered with a bunch of game shows that failed.”
Tonight on the UPN, the real man’s reality TV: WWF Smackdown ! [UPN, 9, 8 p.m.]
Friday, June 30
Speaking of reality-TV failures, did you see last week’s big pick-the-final-members episode of ABC’s Making the Band ? It’s kind of sad and funny: These guys really think the show, which ABC took off the air in the spring and has now dragged back for a summer death march, is going to turn them into a famous band. Har! [WABC, 7, 9 p.m.]
Saturday, July 1
So Marv Albert’s doing Wimbledon! What will they think of next–Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football ?
Mr. Albert said TNT contacted him during the N.B.A. playoffs and asked him if he’d be interested in skipping across the Atlantic to cover the historic tennis tournament, held at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
“My wife and I always wanted to go to Wimbledon,” said Mr. Albert, a casual tennis player himself. “We were going to be going this year. I did not expect to be doing it.”
Mr. Albert will work Wimbledon along with Mary Carillo, Subaru spokeswoman Martina Navratilova and the carrot-topped Jim Courier, the former top-10 player who recently retired. And though he’s bound to get excited now and again, don’t expect Mr. Albert to unleash his trademark Marv-ism.
“You’re not going to hear ‘Yessss! It’s an ace!'” Mr. Albert said.
Too bad. But maybe you will see Anna Kournikova in short shorts!
Today, Marv gets to sleep in because TNT’s partner in coverage, NBC, will broadcast early-round matches from the 2000 Wimbledon Championships . [WNBC, 4, 12 p.m.]
Sunday, July 2
Tonight’s Judds special on Lifetime, Naomi and Wynonna: Love Can Build a Bridge , is four hours long. Four hours? Apparently, this love bridge is being built in real time. [LIF, 12, 6 p.m.]
Monday, July 3
Re: Dennis Miller. Mr. Rant had the media hacks in stitches last week during the conference call announcing his Monday Night Football gig. After MNF big guy Don Ohlmeyer lavishly praised the wise-ass comedian for his football prep work, Mr. Miller quipped, “Actually, Don is hallucinating that, because I had Sebastian Janikowski [the Oakland Raiders kicker, recently busted for alleged GHB possession] slip something into his Fresca.” Mr. Miller also cracked that, during his MNF audition, he had to do a play-by-play of the Zapruder film.
The goateed libertarian pledged to not tone his act down for the Disney boys. “The only thing I could really screw up right now is to completely betray whatever sort of persona I have carved out for myself over the years, where I’m some sort of automaton or Stepford husband out there,” Mr. Miller said.
The guy to feel sorry for: Dan Fouts. Squeezed into the booth between the jumbo mouths of Mr. Miller and play-by-play guy Al Michaels, the former Chargers quarterback-turned-color analyst will feel like he’s back in the middle of a Joe Klecko-Mark Gastineau sack sandwich.
Hey, Dennis! Tonight on ESPN, WNBA Basketball . [ESPN, 28, 8 p.m.]
Tuesday, July 4
Channel 13’s got the Tall Ships, but NBC knows that nothing caps an Independence Day celebration better than an uplifting episode of Dateline NBC . Tonight, a report on the chilling murder of a mother killed in front of her two young sons. Pass the hot dogs! [WNBC, 4, 10 p.m.]
Wednesday, July 5
So how do CBS morning castaways Paula Zahn and Harry Smith feel about the fact that their much-ballyhooed successors, Bryant Gumbel and Jane Clayson, are tanking? You may find out soon enough. Ms. Zahn plans to bring Mr. Smith on in a couple of weeks as a guest on her Fox News Channel show, The Edge with Paula Zahn . It will be the first time the pair have appeared on the air together since they got sacked. Sure, the main idea is to talk about Mr. Smith’s new gig with A&E, but c’mon–no one’s gonna be interested in that! Bring on the Bryant bashing! “I think in her classy style, Paula will [bring the Early Show up],” says a Fox source. “But she is a lady. And Harry is a gentleman.” Guess that rules out the “CBS Blows” T-shirts.
Tonight on CBS, the premiere of Big Brother . [WCBS, 2, 9 p.m.]
Thursday, July 6
NYTV sat down the other day and watched the pilot episode of The Street , Darren Star’s new Wall Street dramedy for Fox. Technically, we’re not supposed to review it, but let’s just say that The Street , envisioned as the male version of Sex and the City , is more about bed-hopping than stock-dumping. We also hear that, though The Street ‘s pilot was filmed in Jersey City, the producers now intend to move the production across the river to Chelsea. Filming in Jersey presented some peculiar problems, apparently. For example, the windows in the office building used for the brokerage firm had spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, but they had to be blacked out–after all, the show is supposed to take place in Manhattan.
Tonight on Fox, The Frighteners with Michael J. Fox and John Astin. [FOX, 5, 8 p.m.]
Friday, July 7
Tonight on Making the Band , publicists and stylists re-create the band’s image. “What image?” you ask. [WABC, 7, 9:30 p.m.]
Saturday, July 8
Remember when MTV crashed the political scene? It was 1992, the season of Clinton, and the music network made a weird kind of history when the chunky Arkansas governor appeared on the cable outlet and told the world he preferred briefs over boxers. MTV even held its own inaugural ball, and the brand new President even showed up.
Well, those were the days. Like the rest of the media, MTV is struggling to make something resembling entertainment out of the 2000 presidential contest, which to date has been about as interesting as a block of John Tesh videos. MTV dispatched a four-person “street team” in a Winnebago (don’t they always? ) to talk to 18-to-24-year-old first-time voters about the election, but the kids seem bored to tears, said executive producer Betsy Forhan. There are also no plans for an MTV inaugural ball. “There’s a lack of something, charisma,” Ms. Forhan said. “[The candidates] are not inspiring.”
NYTV has a solution: Eminem for President!
Tonight on MTV, Road Rules: Maximum Velocity Tour . Guess that makes Campaign 2000 the Minimum Velocity Tour. [MTV, 20, 8 p.m.]
Sunday, July 9
The Postman , starring Kevin Costner. What, you have better suggestions? [TBS, 8, 8 p.m.]
Monday, July 10
Former WCBS news director Bill Carey dragged his laptop and his sunburned nose to a midtown Kinko’s conference room the other day to plug his newest project: Zatso.com, a personalized online local news service.
The San Francisco-based company has partnered with 35 local news channels, as well as national outlets like the Weather Channel, Bloomberg and C-Span, Mr. Carey said. The idea is that people will go online (and one day, just turn on their TV’s), click their preferences and assemble their own newscasts from Zatso’s voluminous local news stock. Say you’re an arsonist: You can build a newscast that begins with local fires, then weather, then health, then national fires, then sports, then international fires and so on.
Here’s another bonus: story blocking. If you’re sick of hearing about a particular news event, you can program your Zatso Webcast to steer it away from you. Imagine: Elián Gonzáles! “Elián is a very popular thing to block,” said Mr. Carey, who is Zatso’s East Coast vice president.
And you know what? Zatso P.R. guy Joshua Weinberg said the company has done some user surveys, and no one’s rushing to eliminate blood ‘n’ guts from their personal newscasts. “Not a whole lot of people are de-selecting crime,” Mr. Carey said.
Tonight, watch the under-reconstruction WCBS Channel 2 News , orchestrated by Mr. Carey’s successor, Joel Cheatwood, who sure knows his way around blood ‘n’ guts! [WCBS, 2, 11 p.m.]
Tuesday, July 11
Nightline . It’s so far in the future, we don’t know what guests are going to be on tonight, but we’ll assume Ted Koppel isn’t going to take any jive from them. [WABC, 7, 11:30 p.m.]
–with Ted Diskant