Wednesday, Aug. 15
Katie-mania! By now, you’ve probably heard that Today show cutie-pie Katie Couric–soon to wrap on a multimillion-dollar contract–has been offered everything from her own daytime syndicated talk show to a prime-time news show to the prime ministerhood of an obscure but charming Mediterranean nation. Everybody loves Katie, from AOL Time Warner to CBS to DreamWorks, and they’re willing to pay big: In fact, by next May, when Ms. Couric’s contract expires, G.E.’s Jack Welch might be thinking that scrubbing the Hudson looked cheap by comparison.
The Katie Hot-Stove League was further stoked on Monday, Aug. 6, when Ms. Couric plopped down in Tom Brokaw’s chair–remember Tom Brokaw? He moved to Montana–for a stint on the NBC Nightly News . She looked good in there: a little more chirpy than Mr. Brokaw, a little less starchy than bridesmaid Brian Williams–all in all, an appropriately casual anchor during a hellishly hot week where everything save the Empire State Building seemed to wilt.
Was it a tryout? A tease? A kiss goodbye? A spokesperson for Today said : “We love Katie, and we’re hopeful that she’ll stay with NBC.” Ms. Couric’s agent, Alan Berger of Artists Management Group, didn’t respond to a request for comment on his prize client’s future.
But as for Katie Nation, go down and talk to the diehard Couric-aholics who gather each weekday morning in the plaza at Rockefeller Center–NYTV did it in the wee-wee dawn of Tuesday, Aug. 14–’cause they’ve made up their minds. There, the disposable-camera toters with the hand-painted signs and the chubby-cheeked babies waiting to be Roker-ized will bowl you over with a unison cry of “Don’t Leave Today , Katie!–no matter what we read about that crazy fat-check DreamWorks offer in the Aug. 10 Los Angeles Times !”
“She’s wonderful . I think she should stay here . They need her,” said Kathy Jo Wenger, visiting from Lititz, Pa. “She adds a lot to the show.”
“She’s nice to look at and she does good interviews,” said Raymond Miles, a barrel-chested fellow in a Hawaiian shirt. “She asks the right questions and gets the good answers.”
“They should hire her back at any cost,” said Brian King, freshly arrived from San Francisco. “If Alex Rodriguez can make $250 million playing baseball, well, by God, she can make whatever.”
“She’s the cutest, ” said Cheri Cateyano, Mr. King’s friend.
“I’m in love with her,” Mr. King added.
“She’s bouncy-legged!” said Ms. Cateyano.
“Bouncy, light!!” Ms. Cateyano cried. “Not ditzy.”
Overhead on the outdoor sound system, Ms. Couric could be heard gabbing with superlawyer Johnnie Cochran about a man attacked by a shark while vacationing in the Bahamas. Across the Rockefeller Center lot, a scrum of kids in tie-dyed shirts from the Playmakers Youth Theater, a performance group from a Cleveland Jewish community center, gripped onto the steel barricades and prayed for air time.
“Katie will be successful at anything she does,” said Sherry Gross, one of the theater group’s leaders, who was clutching her 18-month-old infant daughter, Alexis. “She’s fabulous … she’s really down to earth, very personable. She makes you feel like you know her!”
“If she left the Today show, we would feel it personally,” said Sheryl Kass, one of the student performers. “I can’t imagine her being a hard newscaster or anything. This [ Today ] is a good forum for her to get her opinions through.”
“She ought to stay,” said Jim Finn, 15, here from Belton, Texas, with his sisters, Julia and Anna, and friend Charles Cowen. “She’s really good at this. She can talk real well. She can be upbeat, she can be downbeat …. “
Mostly everyone down at Rockefeller Center thought a syndicated Katie show was a crummy idea. “There’s too many of them already, with Rosie and Oprah and everybody,” said Julia Finn. “I don’t have time to watch anyone else.”
Said Sherry Gross: “I think she’d do well, but I think those shows tend to get a different reputation.”
It was getting close to the moment when Ms. Couric and Matt Lauer would make their first voyage outside to press the fanatic flesh. Mr. Finn looked a bit flush-cheeked, like a guy on the eve of his junior prom.
Did he think Katie Couric was hot? “Yeah!” said Mr. Finn. “Hot and single– and she’s got a job .”
That sounds like showbiz-husband material to us! This morning, as Jim Finn and his cowboy pals wind their way down dusty roads to Texas, you catch the bouncy-legged, bouncy-light Ms. Couric earn her millions on Today . [WNBC, 4, 7 a.m.]
Thursday, Aug. 16
What is it with Today show hosts and Today show ex-hosts getting suddenly sexy this week? As Jack Welch and Jeffrey Immelt mull breaking the toaster bank for Katie Superstar, the rumor surfaced this week that none other than Deborah Norville–whose memorably cruel gong-ing by NBC led to the launch of the Couric Era–was under consideration for an on-air job at newly-Isaacsonized CNN.
Rumor untrue! said reps for CNN and Ms. Norville’s syndicated newsie, Inside Edition . Ms. Norville is going to step in for CNN legal yakker and buddy Greta Van Susteren on Aug. 22 and 23, but it’s not a trial run for a full-time job. “Deborah is filling in for Greta while Greta is on vacation, as she has done on CNN before on Larry King Live ,” said a CNN rep, citing Ms. Norville’s May 25, 2000, LKL appearance hosting a show on “women’s sexuality.” (Shame Mr. King missed that one.)
A rep for Inside Edition said that Ms. Norville was away in Europe, but emphasized: “Deborah will remain with Inside Edition . She is under contract.”
Well, too bad. Ms. Norville might fit nicely into CNN’s new, hyperstylized News-for-Multitaskers arrangement–we think we contracted epilepsy from watching the Mon., Aug. 6, debut of Headline News –especially since she’s a bona fide, Renaissance multitasker herself.
What–you didn’t know? The fortysomething Ms. Norville located her inner Bootylicious a couple months back, when she went into a Manhattan studio with superproducer Junior Vasquez and recorded “Movin’ On,” a peppy disco anthem. Sample lyric: ” Everytime I think I’ve made some ground / People try to put me down / But I know my time will come around / If I keep on moving on.”
The song was made for an Inside Edition segment about the secrets of pop-music production, but Mr. Vasquez–who’s worked with the likes of Madonna, Mariah Carey and John Mellencamp–insisted that “Movin’ On” is a keeper.
“If she didn’t put her name on this, she’d be the equivalent of anyone else out there as a pop singer,” Mr. Vasquez said the other day.
In fact, Mr. Vasquez said that he’s snuck snippets of the ditty into D.J. performances at local clubs, and that he’d actually like to remake “Movin’ On” as 12-inch single.
So look out! Next time you’re busting a move at Light or Lotus and think you’re hot-footing to the ear-rattling geniuses of Brooklyn or London, you might actually be hump-grinding to Debbie Norville!
“It’s a fast tune,” Mr. Vasquez said. “It’s not, like, down-tempo or anything–it might compare to Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston … Deborah Gibson, Madonna.”
Yes, he did say “Deborah Gibson.” What about a hip-hop Deborah Norville –dropping rhymes, shaking it syndication-style?
“I don’t think she could get in there and do something with Ol’ Dirty Bastard,” said Mr. Vasquez. “But I think she could do sort of an R&B, Mary J. Blige sort of thing.”
Take that, Katie Couric! Let’s put down two wheels of steel and see who’s the primo hip-hop priestess in TV news … our money’s on Deborah Norville and Paula (“Foxy Brown”) Zahn, host of the suspiciously MTV-sounding The Edge with Paula Zahn . [FNC, 46, 10 p.m.]
Friday, Aug. 17
Emmy-winning TV writer-producer-director Brian Brown–late of NBC Sports, now of HBO’s On the Record with Bob Costas –is set to publish one of those juicy little novels that people read and wonder what real-life nutcases the author is basing his fictional nutcases on. It’s called TV –that’s what they pay the marketing department the big bucks for, a catchy title –and tells the story of the demise of a brilliant but corrupted television producer named Caesar Fortunado. He invents instant replay, he does drugs; he wins Emmys, he files thousands of dollars in fraudulent expense reports; he designs a brilliant special from the Vatican; he plows his life savings into a crooked gambling debt. You know, the usual.
TV harks back to the golden age of television sports, before the corporate penny-pinchers took over–back when people actually got stirred for the Olympics, Monday Night Football was still a big, buzzy deal and guys like ABC titan Roone Arledge freely roamed the earth (not that Caesar Fortunado’s based on Mr. Arledge–or any one person, Mr. Brown insisted).
But real-life Caesar types did exist. “Keep in mind that there once was a Camelot,” Mr. Brown said. “There was a time when there were men who did this job and they were paid a million dollars. Their expense accounts could be fictional and they were forgiven. Their entire life on the road was paid for, they stayed at the best hotels, ate at the best restaurants … it was a period of prolonged adolescence, coke and sex and partying …. “
It was a devilish deal, Mr. Brown said–a soulless life, but carte blanche. “You would work on these events, you would travel around the world, you would explore the frontiers of television … and in return, we’ll allow you to live like a Shah.”
Jeez! Where do we sign up? Most of today’s sports television executives are lucky to get Showtime in the hotel room. Tonight on Showtime, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins . (And promptly stops, about 11 minutes into it.) [SHO, 48, 5:45 p.m.]
Saturday, Aug. 18
Bring back the XFL! On NBC tonight, Double Team , starring Dennis Rodman. [WNBC, 4, 9 p.m.]
Sunday, Aug. 19
Hey, what were all those screaming kids doing outside the CBS studios on West 57th Street on Aug. 14? Waiting for ‘N Sync, who were sneaked into the building for a tip-top-secret special interview special? Or were they stalking Morley Safer, the Justin Timberlake of 60 Minutes ? [WCBS, 2, 7 p.m.]
Monday, Aug. 20
Tonight, you and Morley Safer share a box of Powerpuff Girls Pop-Tarts and huddle over the Teen Choice Awards on Fox. [WNYW, 5, 8 p.m.]
Tuesday, Aug. 21
You know, sometimes these show titles just speak for themselves. On NBC tonight, Downer Channel . [WNBC, 4, 8:30 p.m.]