CNN Revamps Headline News for the A.D.D. Crowd … Will Dan Get Gary? … Election 2000, the Movie

Wednesday, August 8

Headlines and Semi-Legends ! It must be the dog days of summer if New Yorkers are actually getting excited about the revamping of a moribund cable news network in Atlanta, but eyeballs were fastened on Monday, Aug. 6, as CNN comrades Jamie Kellner and Walter Isaacson launched their supercaffeinated Headline News for the Red Bull, A.D.D. crowd–the audience we keep hearing are “multi-taskers” leading “complicated” lives, but whom we secretly suspect are just apathetic “idiots.” The new set-up looked more like Sonic the Hedgehog than Nightline (we kept expecting hairy-legged Isaacsonite Joel Stein to bounce by on a pogo stick, and was that Alyssa Milano reporting from the eye of Tropical Storm Barry?), but some change is probably in order in Turnerville, considering that most of Headline News ‘ audience, well, died in 1989.

The best part of the rejiggered Headline News is, of course, the typewritten News for Dummies summary in the corner of the screen–perfect for catching up on Balkans uprisings when you’re wheezing on the cross-trainer at New York Sports Club or gut-deep in tater skins at Hooters. It’s about time someone distilled TV news writing down to its bare, monosyllabic essentials; at the “new” Headline News , there’s no place for Kuraltian pen-lickers carrying around James Reston’s Deadline like the Koran.

And hey, can you please take your elitist mitts off of poor Andrea Thompson, the former NYPD Blue actress turned Headline News anchor? You cranks should be happy it’s not David Hasselhoff or Carmen Electra up there. Does everyone forget that Ted Koppel got his start narrating Thomas the Tank Engine ? Ms. Thompson–who appears to have spent considerable time in hair and makeup to look like a serious, hard-bitten newsperson, not an actress who did a brief tour of the Hollywood sticks before becoming an anchor at the world’s largest news operation–acquitted herself quite nicely, except for the time we caught her staring blankly at us saying, “O.K. … we are going to … news … news …,” and at the end of the telecast, when she thanked “Detective Andy Sipowicz, for doing me a solid.” [ HN, 37, all the livelong day]

Thursday, August 9

Dude, Where’s My Chandra? It’s been at least three days since we’ve heard the slightest peep about the Most Important Story on Earth, and at least 36 hours since a Talk contributor plopped down on Larry King Live to go over the sordid details. But that hasn’t stopped the angling and elbowing in Washington, D.C. The latest salvo was from Tim Russert, who trotted onto the Today show last week and proclaimed none other than Mr. Prissy himself, Dan Rather, to be the front-runner to land an interview with embattled California Congressman Gary Condit.

“They’re very, very open about saying they would prefer a national media outlet that has covered this situation less than most,” Mr. Russert said.

Guess that rules out Barbara Walters and Katie Couric, who have presumably shipped a cubic ton of roses and fromage to Casa Condit in the hopes of securing some face time with Scary Gary. Who knew the proper strategy was to sit back and do … nothing ?

CBS Evening News executive producer Jim Murphy said the fix wasn’t in. “There is no big plan or grand scheme to make it happen for Dan,” he said. “People think there is because that’s the way they want the story to go now … it’s typical of the coverage of this story.”

In other words: You sleazehounds leave us alone to cover the picayune stuff like famine, welfare reform and missile-defense shields! Tonight on the CBS Evening News , Mr. Rather flies in from an undisclosed vacation locale to meet with Mr. Condit, only to spend the entire half-hour grilling him about grain subsidies. [WCBS, 2, 6:30 p.m.]

Friday, August 10

Showtime, also known as the cable channel without The Sopranos, Sex and the City , Real Sex or Six Feet Under –though they do have a creaky, depressed, ear-chewing palooka named Mike Tyson signed to a multimillion-dollar deal–just announced that it’s going to make a movie about the 2000 Presidential election.

Fab idea. Not since The French Connection can we think of a yarn as compelling as the ballot-poking campaign. Finally, the chance to watch a cinematic adaptation of Al Gore downing Heinekens and DoubleStuf Oreos as he watches NBC legal eagle Dan Abrams chortle to Tom Brokaw on the steps of the Florida Supreme Court. (Sample dialogue: “Karenna! Brokaw’s on!”)

“The things that interest me are the things that didn’t play out on the TV, behind the scenes,” said Showtime’s vice president of creative affairs, Vicki Letizia.

New Yorker bigfoot Jane Mayer, whose Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas book, Strange Justice (co-written with Jill Abramson), was turned into a Showtime flick, is serving as the project’s co-producer and heading up the research effort. Ms. Mayer just came back from Florida, where she did a bunch of interviews, Ms. Letizia said.

“Hopefully there will be some humorous things, but our goal is to represent both sides equally and fairly,” Ms. Letizia said.

As for casting, Ms. Letizia didn’t have any names (personally, we’d like Jon Lovitz as Al Gore; if not J. Lov, then k.d. lang). There’s no target date to air the film, either.

“The earliest it would be shot would be next year,” the Showtime veep said. “We shoot everything pretty much in Canada, so you got to figure, forget the winter.” It’s true: In spring, we’ve always found Saskatchewan a doppelgänger for Ft. Lauderdale ….

Tonight on Showtime, Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her , also known as Things You’ll Jump Out a Window Before Committing Two Hours To . [SHO, 48, 8 p.m.]

Saturday, August 11

The following is a haiku celebration of MTV’s 20th Anniversary Celebration, held on Aug. 1 at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

MTV party

History made and cherished

Christ, there’s Ken Ober

Jesse Camp is toast

Paulie Shore’s career gone, too

Explain Dan Cortese

No Britney, Backstreet

And Mariah flipped her lid

Oh great … Aerosmith

Hey, Carson Daly

You’re kind of doughy, giddy

Like Dick Clark’s pool boy

V.I.P. room snoozes

Janeane Garofalo’s there

Chick ever stay home?

Twenty years, great

Twenty more years sure to come

‘NSYNC? Hell no, kids.

Tonight on MTV, Adam Curry switches careers with Bob Pittman on Flipped . [MTV, 20, 9 p.m.]

Sunday, August 12

The MTV 20th Anniversary fête–which felt vaguely uncomfortable as soon as a bloated Boy George popped up, like a “music edition” of Hollywood Squares– brought to mind an amusing yarn that MTV group prez Judy McGrath recently told NYTV about her buddy Tom Freston, the MTV Networks chairman and chief executive.

“He’ll kill me for telling you this, but I’m going to do it anyways,” Ms. McGrath said. “[Tom] has written me so many smart, funny letters over the years. The man reads every obscure journal and letter ever written, he listens to every critic of MTV, he’s got very good radar ….

“I saved one note Tom sent me. There was an article in The New York Times– a review of the lambada–and he ripped it out and wrote me this blistering note saying, ‘ How could we have missed this? How come you are not all over this ?'”

Ms. McGrath chuckled. “Listen, I have called a million things wrong in my life, and missed many things I have wished we have gotten,” she said. “But I saved [that note]. It was just too good .'”

Tonight on MTV, Celebrity Deathmatch . [MTV, 20, 8 p.m.]

Monday, August 13

137 Jeez, we’d hate to be Ziggy’s agent right now and have to listen to that bald card-hawker ask where his cable network was. Today on the Hallmark Channel, My Three Sons . [HALL, 137, 3 p.m.]

Tuesday, August 14

New York screenwriter Gina Wendkos–the woman who gave the thousand monkeys sitting at a thousand typewriters some badly deserved time off when she cranked out the script to Coyote Ugly –is feeling pretty good about her latest effort, The Princess Diaries. “I have had so many bad reviews in my short life that to get good ones is such a thrill,” Ms. Wendkos said by telephone the other day.

Ms. Wendkos, you may recall, is also developing a series for Showtime about real-live call girls working on the Upper East Side.

“Believe it or not, they want it nastier,” Ms. Wendkos said. “I didn’t think I could write it nastier …. They thought I glammed it up too much.”

Let’s see: nasty on the Upper East Side. Maybe the girls can get a foot-long at Gray’s Papaya before splurging at Strawberry.

Tonight on Showtime, Mission: Impossible 2 . [SHO, 48, 8 p.m.]