If George W. Bush wraps up this Presidential deal soon–as most people expected him to do earlier this week–that will be good news for the Fox News Channel. Because unlike Al Gore, Mr. Bush will sit down for an interview with Fox.
Fox staffers were irate last week after the Vice President, in a marathon stretch of television appearances on Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 29 and 30, purposely blew off the Rupert Murdoch-owned news channel. Trying to bolster support for his re-count challenges, Mr. Gore appeared for a string of interviews on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN, but passed on Fox’s offer to appear on its airwaves.
Mr. Gore’s decision wasn’t business; it was personal. Mr. Gore’s campaign staff has been miffed at Fox News for what they consider to be a bias against the V.P. “I think Fox’s coverage during the campaign has been decidedly one-sided,” Mr. Gore’s campaign spokesman, Mark Fabiani, told The Observer .
Mr. Fabiani said the Vice President and Senator Joseph Lieberman did sit occasionally with Fox News correspondents during the campaign season. But once the election was over and Mr. Gore shifted from campaign to re-count mode, appearing on Fox was judged an unnecessary chore, he said.
“You can get your message out without covering every single broadcast outlet, and given the fact that Fox’s coverage has been decidedly negative, if you are going to economize, they’re the place you economize,” Mr. Fabiani said.
So the Vice President left Fox News out in the cold. Mr. Gore’s decision prompted Fox News’ Washington bureau chief, Kim Hume, to issue a strongly worded letter to Mr. Gore’s campaign. “We have been told that it’s obvious why we are being excluded,” read one passage of Ms. Hume’s letter. “It’s not obvious to us. Our coverage of Vice President Gore has been even-handed.
“We find it unfortunate that you choose to exclude the news division of one of the four major broadcasting networks,” Ms. Hume’s letter continued. “We protest this decision and respectfully request equal and fair treatment.”
Even though Mr. Gore’s decision was politically calculated, it did put Fox News in a frustrating, somewhat embarrassing situation. The 4-year-old network has made significant gains in the ratings recently, to the point that it regularly nips at the heels of CNN. But not getting Mr. Gore on any day when the desperate Vice President appeared on nearly every channel except the Food Network was a potential blow to Fox’s efforts to achieve status as a straightforward, legitimate news outfit, particularly since the network has been plagued by accusations of conservative bias.
Ms. Hume didn’t see it that way. “Our reporters do fair and balanced reports,” said Ms. Hume, who is married to Fox chief Washington correspondent Brit Hume. “[Mr. Gore] has the opportunity to come on and basically give one side of the story. If they decline to do that, that’s their problem.”
Most newsmakers have no problem with appearing on all the major networks, Ms. Hume added. “If they are trying to reach their constituents, they try to reach their constituents. They are not worried about having it only played in a certain light. If the Gore campaign wants to manipulate the media … that’s their business. We don’t like to be manipulated.”
Alright, then. Tonight on the Fox News Channel, The O’Reilly Factor , hosted by that best-seller-writing madman Bill O’Reilly. Mr. O’Reilly has long held that Mr. Gore is too chicken to sit on his show. [FNC, 46, 8 p.m.]
Thursday, Dec. 7
When NBC opened its very own comedy studio in Soho earlier this year, local comedians were giddy. At last, they figured, every Manhattan joker with a halfway-decent Christopher Walken impersonation was going to get a fat network development deal with Drew Carey-type money.
Alas, the NBC space, called PSNBC and located at Spring Street and Sixth Avenue at the Here Arts Center, hasn’t been a gigantic launch pad thus far. Though PSNBC has allowed the network brass to sample the local fare (and the network did recently sign up one local comedian, Carmen Pelàez, for a deal), it hasn’t been a yellow brick road to television stardom.
“You are led to believe it’s a pipeline, but in all actuality, it’s not,” groused one comedian about PSNBC. That may change, however: NBC has decided to jettison its post-Conan Friday Night variety program (yeah, yeah, boo-hoo) and replace it with a late-night stand-up comedy program. Though the NBC show will be taped in Los Angeles at the Knitting Factory on Hollywood Boulevard, network executives are hoping to tap some of the PSNBC talent. “Certainly we’ll be using some of the people from PSNBC that we feel might cross over,” said Marc Hirschfeld, NBC’s executive vice president of casting.
Even though it’s going to air deep in the night at 1:35 a.m., the NBC show represents the first major network stand-up venture in several years. Television stand-up was pretty much left for dead in the latter half of the 1990’s, as cable networks in particular saturated the airwaves with lame comics waxing ad nauseam about airplane food and the differences between New York and L.A.
Mr. Hirschfeld said the NBC show will deviate from that tiresome mike-and-a-punch-line format, spotlighting the creative, sometimes arch alternative comics who have popped up with increasing frequency in recent years at places like the Luna Lounge in New York and Largo in Los Angeles. Mr. Hirschfeld described the kind of comedy the show is seeking as “free-form, a little less joke-telling and a little more storytelling.”
Tonight on NBC, Friends , which could use a little less joke-telling and a little more storytelling, too. [WNBC, 4, 8 p.m.]
Friday, Dec. 8
Tonight, ABC debuts something called Dot Comedy , which is easily the worst title for a new show this year. This is your classic example of an idea that actually sounded good in the network development room, back when Amazon was trading at $100 a share and people still read Red Herring . Now ABC leaves this clunker to die in its Friday-night wasteland. [WABC, 7, 8:30 p.m.]
Saturday, Dec. 9
The actor Kevin Dillon was riding a three-game winning streak at the foosball table the other night at Hog Pit, the hip barbecue dive in the meatpacking district. Mr. Dillon and a group of buddies that included his brother Paul poured into the joint after attending a charity event earlier that evening; before that, some of them had been playing golf.
After wrapping up his game, Mr. Dillon sat down. An attractive female bartender came over and began hitting on him. “We’re going to make some babies,” the young blonde said. “I don’t know anything about him being an actor, I just … I think we’re going to get married and have some babies.”
Mr. Dillon, who has brown, curly hair and the same sharp cheekbones as his brother, Matt, laughed hard. “We better get down to it pretty soon,” he said.
After the bartender left, Mr. Dillon was asked if that kind of thing happened to him a lot. “I don’t want to sound like an arrogant guy, but it kind of happens every night, really,” he said. “But not as bad. Of course, Matt has it in a more extreme way. And Tom Cruise, he can’t even move.”
Mr. Dillon is currently starring in the CBS show That’s Life , a lighthearted drama about the trials and travails of a thirtysomething woman and her working-class Italian family in New Jersey. The show stars Paul Sorvino, Ellen Burstyn, Debi Mazar and an actress named Heather Paige Kent. That’s Life has struggled in the ratings, but Mr. Dillon, who has had his ups and downs in show business, sounded grateful for the steady job. “It’s good to be working as a regular on a series, work all the time, knowing where my next check’s coming from, rather than doing a movie where you’re unemployed for … I don’t know,” he said.
Mr. Dillon was asked what was the most trouble he’s ever been in. “I was in a lot of trouble as a kid,” he said. “I got caught with a stolen plate on my motorcycle once. It wasn’t mine–I didn’t steal it–but it was stolen nonetheless. I found it and tied it onto my bike. I had a little release string that I was going to pull to get rid of the plate, but I never got a chance to pull it … the cops were on me.”
“Look at my right hand,” Mr. Dillon said, motioning with his fist. “I’ve broken every knuckle in my right hand. I grew up with five brothers and I’m Irish and I drink. I’ve been in my share of fights. Plastic surgery on my left eye. I used to hang out on North Avenue in New Rochelle and we used to get into big, seven-on-seven type brawls. It was pretty good. It’s kind of like movie stuff.”
Any moments where you really kicked ass?
“I kicked a lot of ass,” Mr. Dillon said. “None that I’m proud of. I still can’t sleep at night over some of the people that I’ve hurt, and I’ve been hurt really badly, too. I hope the other person’s feeling the same way about me.”
Watch the pugilistic Kevin Dillon tonight on CBS’ That’s Life . [WCBS 2, 8 p.m.]
Sunday, Dec. 10
New York-based supermodel Roshumba phoned up to talk about her upcoming VH1 special, Ibiza: Music Paradise , which airs on Thursday, Dec. 14, at 10 p.m. Ibiza is that sunny rock off the Spanish coast that attracts thousands of hedonistic, angular-cheekboned pretty people (and a lot of gawking producers from goofy syndicated travel shows) because of its 24-hour parties featuring boatloads of drugs, booze, foam machines and D.J.’s with Messiah complexes. In the words of VH1 itself, Ibiza is “Mardi Gras on acid, Ecstasy and triple espresso shots.”
In other words, hell on earth , right? Naw, Roshumba said, Ibiza was pretty cool, with fewer creeps roving around than your average night at Spa. “It was incredible,” she said.
Roshumba had a theory as to why Ibiza is such a phenomenon. “One of the biggest reasons why Ibiza may be so big, especially in Europe, is that right now the world is not that happy of a place,” she said. “Everybody has got this crazy stuff going on–people with cancer, or whatever. And when you go there, you forget about all that. You go and you dance, you eat, you have sex, you take drugs, you play on the beach, you do whatever.”
So did Roshumba and her crew expense a little Ecstasy on Sumner Redstone’s Viacom tab? “Honestly, I have to say I was tempted to take the Ecstasy just so I could be on the same vibe as the people, but I was too chicken,” the cover girl confessed. “I was like, ‘Aaaaah, I might have to go to rehab–I can’t do it.'”
Roshumba said that some of the locals were kind of bummed that VH1 landed on the island. “We got a lot of–I wouldn’t say rejections, but cautionary warnings from a lot of the native people and the original people who started the scene,” she said. “They were like, ‘We don’t want to ruin it, we don’t want to cause problems, we don’t want the officials of the island to think that we’re partying and having these hedonistic experiences and not obeying their authority. So please, please, please, don’t show this, don’t show that, don’t show that ….'”
Yeah, well, so much for that: “We’re showing it all,” Roshumba said.
Aw, what are those ‘fraidy-cat locals scared of, anyway? Don’t they know that D.J. foam parties are a centuries-old indigenous Ibizan tradition? Tonight on VH1, Behind the Music sips on Ice-T. [VH1, 19, 8 p.m.]
Monday, Dec. 11
On tonight’s episode of Ally McBeal , Robert Downey Jr.’s character, Larry, mystifies colleagues by strolling into the office with a “friend” dressed in a Wonder Woman costume. [FOX, 5, 9 p.m.]
Tuesday, Dec. 12
On Showtime tonight, Election . This fine film, about the ugly double-crossing that takes place during a student-council election, used to seem sort of unbelievable. Not anymore. [SHO, 48, 8 p.m.]