Wednesday, Dec. 5
Hey, who was that sleepy-looking guy in the designer glasses trying to feign interest in a costume museum exhibit while standing next to Katie Couric on Monday, Dec. 3? None other than NBC’s baseball and basketball refugee Bob Costas, in town this week to co-host Today as a sub-in for Matt Lauer.
Don’t blame Mr. Costas for seeming a little groggy that morning in Rockefeller Center. His flight from his home in St. Louis the previous day was repeatedly delayed, and when he finally rolled into Manhattan that evening, he had to wait for his lost luggage. Bags found, he sacked out at 2:30 a.m.
“I did the show this morning on like two hours’ sleep,” Mr. Costas said late the next afternoon. “So I’m like a freakin’ zombie!”
Well, at least the zombie got to hook up with an old pal, straight-laced St. Louis car dealer Dave Sinclair, who was (coincidentally) on Today that morning to discuss a free plane-ticket promotion he was doing to help stimulate the post–Sept. 11 economy. “I had no idea he was going to be on the show,” Mr. Costas said. “I bought a 1974 Ford Pinto from him for $3,090.”
Mr. Costas hadn’t hosted Today in more than a few years. Had he ever been tempted to become a full-time host during any point in his NBC career?
“With complete respect for what the franchise is, I’ve always lived in St. Louis and commuted to New York, and I’m constitutionally incapable of waking up at 4:30 in the morning on a consistent basis,” he said. “I never considered myself a potential host. And I think they wound up with the guy they should have wound up with anyway in Matt. I think he’s done a really good job.”
After his Today stint, Mr. Costas continues with NBC’s preparations for the Winter Olympics, in Salt Lake City in February. He also sounded intrigued by NBC’s planned late-night program for MTV’s Carson Daly, which will run at 1:30 a.m. weeknights, the same time as Mr. Costas’ old Later show. Known for its eclectic, lengthy, one-on-one interviews, Later was a sleeper hit for both Mr. Costas and his immediate successor, Greg Kinnear, but ultimately descended into the dumper.
With Mr. Daly, NBC’s taking the time period seriously again. “He’s a genuine presence; he’s a star,” Mr. Costas said of Mr. Daly. He theorized that the Total Request er might do well with younger audiences staying up late, remembering his own Later audience as “nursing mothers who were up at 1:30 in the morning, cab drivers, entertainers, ball players, unemployed misfits.”
Hey, that’s this column’s audience, Mister! Tonight, catch Mr. Costas stealing some Zzzzz’s on the couch as Ms. Couric puts on a tall black hat and blabs on about Hermione and Ron Weasley. [WNBC, 4, 7 a.m.]
Thursday, Dec. 6
We’re all feeling bad for Regis, right? Sure, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire got on your nerves. You hadn’t watched it for months, and when you heard they brought in some catwalk ectomorphs for a round to boost ratings, it was too depressing to bear. But when ABC entertainment co-chairman Lloyd Braun sandbagged the elfin warrior the other day by telling reporters he wasn’t sure if the show was going to survive, it looked like a hot blade in the back. Hadn’t ABC been shoving money in Regis’ face and thanking him for saving their tooshies not too long ago? And now they were thinking of axing him because the network is in the dumps? Aren’t these the same people who gave John Stamos a show?
Don’t worry, Reege, at least one loyalist has cooked up a campaign to save you from Brett Butler–land. Curt Alliaume, a mildly obsessive fan from Chicago via Brooklyn, has mounted an Internet campaign to preserve at least one weekly episode of WWTBAM for next year. (And he wants Mr. Philbin to host it. None of this David Spade or Jon Stewart replacement crap.)
Mr. Alliaume thinks that WWTBAM ran into trouble because it overdid the celebrity editions and mucked around with the contestant-selection process, kiboshing the old phone-in and random-lottery system. While the show’s contestant pool may now be more diverse than the collection of pudgy Games magazine subscribers it once was, its ratings have plunged. “The erosion that’s happened this year is much steeper than anything they could have reasonably expected,” Mr. Alliaume said.
But wasn’t this just a classic TV case of killing the golden goose? After all, last year ABC trotted out four episodes a week of WWTBAM , which is more than anyone could be expected to tolerate. Wasn’t this just hideous overexposure? “Pretty much,” Mr. Alliaume said.
Tonight, Mr. Philbin wears a special silver tie to beam evil messages toward the Lloyd Braun household. [WABC, 7, 9 P.M.]
Friday, Dec. 7
Anyone who caught the Dec. 1 Big 12 joust between the Colorado Buffalos and the Texas Longhorns-and hell, this is New York City, who didn’t?-probably heard ABC sports broadcaster Brent Musberger trying to make his way through the telecast with a very, very sore throat. Mr. Musberger, who normally has the kind of voice that could hail a taxi from 40 blocks away, had a nasty cold, and by the fourth quarter he sounded like an undertaker giving directions to a funeral home.
“I didn’t want an overtime,” Mr. Musberger admitted the other day, his voice recovered. The longtime broadcaster said he’d never actually lost his voice during a game, and didn’t worry so much this time; he kept some water, tea and nasal spray at the ready. “You think about it [losing your voice] when the game starts, and then you get lost in the game,” he said.
Tonight on ABC, America’s Funniest Home Videos , followed by Bloopers . Now that’s program development! [WABC, 7, 8 p.m.]
Saturday, Dec. 8
The other day in Bryant Park, ABC’s Good Morning America finally whipped “It” out, and boy, that is some, ah, scooter! Sure, some day the enviro-friendly velocipede could rise up and conquer the car. But right now, inventor Dean Kamen’s Segway Human Transporter (a.k.a. “It”) looks like the last thing lard-assed America needs, which is another way to avoid the six-minute walk to the supermarket.
That said, it was a nice get for GMA, it did a fat rating, and it harked back to a somewhat more innocent time for TV news, when you didn’t have to drown your progeny in a potato sack or make a Harry Potter movie to have networks clamoring to get you on their shows. Of course, there was also the suspicion that ABC had the inside track, since parent company Disney had sponsored some of Mr. Kamen’s robot-design competitions. Said an ABC News spokesperson of that claim: “It had nothing to do with the booking.” The spokesperson noted that ABC had done more on It than the competition prior to Dec. 3, and that could have tilted the scales in its favor. Mr. Kamen’s reps didn’t return calls.
It was also curious to see that ABC News chose to bow It on Good Morning America , as opposed to an evening news program, like, say, Prime Time or 20/20 . But the ABC News rep said that both Mr. Kamen and the network wanted to give the Segway a “live unveiling-just a little more dramatic than a magazine piece.” Of course, with a well-choreographed morning launch, GMA got a nice boost, and the It got a prodigious head start on the cycle that Mr. Kamen and his people clearly understand the most: the news cycle.
Tonight on ABC, another Piece of -It: a remake of The Parent Trap , starring Dennis Quaid and New York City smokers’ rights activist Natasha Richardson. [WABC, 7, 8 p.m.]
Sunday, Dec. 9
There’s a mild hoo-ha brewing over the publication of Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News , a new book by former Tiffany reporter Bernard Goldberg. In the tome, Mr. Goldberg-a white-haired gent who NYTV recalls publicly taking on Nebraska football coach and demigod Tom Osborne for his team’s off-the-field indiscretions several years ago-accuses his former employer of institutional liberal bias and of kowtowing to the whims of anchor and tree-hugger-in-charge Dan Rather. (A network catering to its anchor? Wowzers.)
What’s particularly amusing about Mr. Goldberg’s tell-all is its publisher: Regnery. You might remember Regnery from such titles as the late Barbara Olson’s best-seller The Final Days: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Last, Desperate Abuses of Power by the Clinton White House ; Bill Sammon’s At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election ; David Limbaugh’s Absolute Power: The Legacy of Corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department ; and God, Guns and Rock & Roll by Ted Nugent. Regnery was also the publisher of William F. Buckley Jr.’s seminal tome God and Man at Yale in 1951.
Ah, nothing like a glass house! A Regnery rep didn’t respond to a request for comment on Mr. Goldberg’s book. Tonight on CBS, those godless Maoists from 60 Minutes rhapsodize about Ho Chi Minh and Joan Baez. [WCBS, 2, 7 p.m.]
Monday, Dec. 10
Fred Hickman was on the horn with reporters the other day, professing his deep, deep love for New York and Yankee baseball. You might remember Mr. Hickman, who was with CNN for a billion years, as one half of the main anchor team (with Vince Cellini) for AOL Time Warner’s big-whoop CNN– Sports Illustrated sports network. CNN/SI, of course, is on life support now; Mr. Hickman resigned from the network earlier this year. Now he’ll come up north for baseball season to host a YES network pre- and post-game show (with Suzyn Waldman reporting). Said Mr. Hickman: “All I can say is that it’s just a great honor to me, and I’m looking very much forward to it.” Yeah, we bet you are!
Tonight on CNN, Larry King guides a fleet of U.S. F-14′s home by the power of his bright yellow shirt on Larry King Live. [CNN, 10, 9 p.m.]
Tuesday, Dec. 11
We’ll spare you the 10 millionth wheezy piece about those news crawls at the bottom of the screens on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, but we did want to share our nerve-rattling habit of happening upon the crawl in mid-crawl-i.e., flipping around the dial and coming upon a news channel just in time to see … KILLED THIS AFTERNOON or … MAY BE IMMINENT wind across the screen. Or worse: … URGE THE USE OF CAUTION, which, of course, means we have to sit, paranoid, on the couch for the next half hour to see the first 11 words. One imagines this might be the purpose of the dumb crawl, after all ….
Tonight on the Fox News Channel, Bill O’Reilly, upstaged for 10 minutes by new colleague Geraldo (“Wild Wild West”) Rivera, announces on The O’Reilly Factor that he, too, has started carrying a gun-to cross Sixth Avenue! [FNC, 46, 8 p.m.]