MAY 1 – MAY 7, 2002 Jerry Nachman Roars Back With MSNBC

Wednesday, May 1

Hee-ere’s Jerry ! Jerry Nachman, the well-traveled mouth that roared through the corridors of the New York Post , WCBS and WNBC, is returning to New York (well, New Jersey, technically) to take over as vice president and editor in chief of MSNBC. And to top it off, he’s getting his own show, too.

Mr. Nachman, 55, fled town for Los Angeles five years ago, intending to decompress, slurp lemonade under palm trees, write screenplays and get a tan. He did all that, and also worked for shows like Politically Incorrect and UC Undercover.

But after a recent round of appearances on cable talk programs-“I wind up from time to time as what Jeff Greenfield likes to call a ‘sock puppet'”-Mr. Nachman began talking to executives about getting back into news. He had conversations with both MSNBC and Fox News. Fox was intriguing, but “Roger Ailes doesn’t need a lot of help,” Mr. Nachman said, referring to the first-place news channel’s chairman.

MSNBC, by comparison, is in fairly rough shape. The cable-news partnership between Microsoft and NBC currently lags a distant third behind Fox and CNN, and has recently begun overhauling its programming, adding Phil Donahue (Phil Donahue!) to its stable of personalities.

Of MSNBC’s current position, Mr. Nachman said: “It got outflanked.” He said MSNBC was caught between the “traditional news orthodoxy” of CNN and Fox’s “brash pinball machine.”

But, said Mr. Nachman, “there’s a lot of room in the middle.”

Mr. Nachman, who will report to MSNBC president Erik Sorenson, said his off-air duties at the network will be to help advise correspondents and plan coverage. “I’ve described this job as half Lou Grant and half Tom Hagen,” Mr. Nachman said, referring to fictitious Corleone family consigliere . “I think for Erik, I am his Tom Hagen.”

As for Mr. Nachman’s on-air show, it’s expected to be a news-analysis program that airs in the afternoons. There is no title or air date for the program yet.

Mr. Nachman was excited at the prospect of a dual role. “I was challenged by the idea of player-coaching,” he said, invoking the names of Pete Rose and Lou Boudreau. “That’s sexy.”

Mr. Nachman, of course, remains well-known in Manhattan, especially after his high-profile and sometimes turbulent tenures at the helm of the Post, WCBS and WNBC. He also served as a radio and television correspondent and knows his way to Elaine’s.

Now he’s back after happily baking in the Hollywood sun for half a decade. Sure, he’d been working-Jerry Bruckheimer is developing one of his ideas into a movie and TV show-but soon he’ll be neck-deep in the New York news business. Is he nervous?

“I’m not the least bit cocky about this one,” Mr. Nachman said. “This is a very heavy lift.”

Mr. Nachman called his move to MSNBC “emblematic of another characteristic of mine.” And that characteristic was?

Said Mr. Nachman, devilishly: “I don’t get to run any of the ones that work.”

This is going to be interesting. Tonight on MSNBC, Brian Williams opines that “maybe that Early Show idea isn’t so crackpot, after all.” [MSNBC, 43, 8 p.m.]

Thursday, May 2

Mirror, mirror, who’s the face of CNN? Not me! yelps Aaron Brown.

The host of CNN’s NewsNight scoffed at an April 29 Drudge Report item that reported Mr. Brown had sent a memo to executives griping about having to carry loads of breaking coverage of Robert Blake’s arrest on his show. In the alleged memo, Mr. Brown was reported to have referred to himself as “the face of CNN.”

“This is complete nonsense,” Mr. Brown told NYTV. “There is no memo, angry or otherwise. There is not even a substantive disagreement. I think we are pretty much in agreement on how NewsNight is going to do the Blake story.”

Mr. Brown acknowledged that the Blake story was “mid-range interesting” to him, but said that breaking news was essential to CNN, and understood why the actor’s bust needed to be part of his telecast. He just doesn’t want to become All Blake, All the Time.

“I don’t wear the High Priest of Journalism hat,” Mr. Brown said. “That’s not what I do. I think I see news broadly. I see this story as having a place in it. It’s just not something I want to be owned by. I don’t know why that is controversial to anyone.”

Mr. Brown, the former anchor of ABC’s late night, quirky-as-heck World News Now , has tried to cut a different path in cable news, developing a fast-paced show that intersperses Dragnet- straight field reporting with an array of studio guests. Mr. Brown is hardly the braying donkey one usually finds hosting a cable news program, though occasionally he’ll step outside the anchor suit and spout off.

But as far as Mr. Blake’s coverage was concerned, Mr. Brown insisted he had the backing of his bosses, and didn’t throw a diva fit-memo, e-mail or otherwise.

“No one at the network has said anything to me, not one word to suggest that there was discomfort with my view of how we should cover the story,” Mr. Brown said.

Whatever the case, Mr. Blake’s arrest on April 18 did rake in some impressive ratings for CNN. Mr. Brown said that NewsNight received its highest rating since American Airlines 587 crashed in Far Rockaway on Nov. 12.

That’s because washed-up actors accused of murder sell, baby ! Reached for comment, Matt Drudge said he stood by his story.

Tonight on NewsNight, Mr. Brown kicks off the telecast by saying, “Before we go to Jenin, we have some breaking news from Angelina Jolie …. ” [CNN, 10, 10 p.m.]

Friday, May 3

“Hey, this omelet, Martha, reminds me of the time Kofi Annan and I came home after a long meeting and … “

The news magazine Extra -they’re a little skeezier than ET, a little zippier than Access Hollywood -reported this week that CBS is considering Bill Clinton to take over for Bryant Gumbel as the co-host of the Early Show .

CBS scurried to knock down the story-you know, best not to create any fun buzz about this job search-telling reporters there is no plan to hire the ex-President as a host.

But at least one Early Show executive was intrigued by the idea of hiring Mr. Clinton. Of course, he’s the lame duck now-out-of-the-loop executive-executive producer Steve Friedman, who’s out the door at the end of the month with his compadre Bryant.

Mr. Friedman knows a thing or two about foisting washed-up politicos on morning audiences. Not too long ago, he dragged a stiff Bob Dole over to 59th and Fifth to co-host the show when Mr. Gumbel was on vacation.

Why not have Mr. Clinton come and fill-in, too? Mr. Friedman asked. No big commitment-just show up for a couple of mornings, chew the fat.

“I have often said that I would be interested to see Clinton come in here at a substitute time,” Mr. Friedman said.

This summer wouldn’t be such a bad idea, Mr. Friedman added. As CBS continues its search for a permanent co-host, Mr. Clinton could roll down from Chappaqua.

“If you are looking at a list of people over the summer waiting for your team to come on in the fall, why would you not be asking guys like him?” Mr. Friedman asked. “They’re glib-they’re available.”

This morning on the Early Show, Jane Clayson reads from Leaves of Grass. [WCBS, 2, 7 a.m.]

Saturday, May 4

Hey, we thought it was every person’s dream to have their single life exhaustively chronicled in a reality TV series! But nooo -WABC news correspondent and occasional Manhattan scenester Gigi Stone is said to be irked about her portrayal in To Live and Date in New York , the Metro Channel’s alarming docu-portrait of on-the-make single women in the city.

Apparently, Ms. Stone, who just joined WABC from NY1, was under the impression that the British documentary crew tailing her around last year was making a respectful film for the U.K. about the jobs and lives of professional women in New York. So she is said to have freaked when TLADINY started airing nonstop around here recently, and she was mostly shown in a bar sipping wine and chatting up some strapping laddie.

Was she duped? Was she slash edited? Wait-was that a fake Gigi ? Ms. Stone isn’t talking. To be honest, NYTV thinks Ms. Stone came off pretty well, especially compared to the belly-baring troglodytes who compose most of TLADINY’s subjects.

The Metro Channel was diplomatic about Ms. Stone’s alleged grievance. “Of course Metro TV is disappointed to hear that any participant would be unhappy with the series now that it’s on the air,” a Metro spokesperson said. But, the spokesperson continued, “September Films, the co-producers from the series, has obtained release forms from all of the participants.”

The spokesperson added: “We think Gigi comes across great.”

Well, if the gang at WABC thought Ms. Stone’s appearance was odd, wait until they see tonight’s TLADINY episode, in which Bill Beutel strips off his shirt and dances on the bar at Hogs ‘n’ Heifers. [MET, 70, 9 p.m.]

Sunday, May 5

Speaking of reality victims, Alex Michel, the star of the startlingly successful ABC Bachelor series, wasn’t above doing a little grass-roots self-promotion to jump-start his show.

On Monday, March 19, Mr. Michel, a graduate of Harvard University and Stanford Business School who now works in San Francisco for the Boston Consulting Group, sent an e-mail to a blind list of his nearest and dearest.

“Ok, the cat’s out of the bag,” the e-mail began. “Something pretty crazy has happened to me. I am in a reality show called the Bachelor . It’s on ABC on Monday nights at 9 pm, starting March 25th. Please spread the word.”

Mr. Michel attached a press release about the show, adding that it “should be very entertaining and you’ll get to enjoy a few laughs at my expense.”

Several days after the initial e-mail, Mr. Michel wrote a note about the show to his friend Rebecca O’Brien. In this exchange, Mr. Michel admitted to Ms. O’Brien-with whom he had once had a fling-that he was doing “a little guerrilla marketing” and would “love it” if his ex-flame would e-mail a bunch of her friends “and encourage them to spread the word.”

Whether it was e-mails to exes or the Crimson alumni listserv that did it, Mr. Michel’s “pretty crazy” reality show-in which his task was to select one woman out of 25 and find a bride-became a monster hit.

Thursday, April 25, was The Bachelor ‘s big finale and Mr. Michel was at it again.

“For those of you who have been watching The Bachelor ,” wrote Mr. Michel, “I just wanted to let you know that the finale has been moved to this Thursday night.” Mr. Michel also hyped the “pre-game show” where “the 23 women not in the finale”-the lucky chicas he’d already booted-“get together to watch ‘never-before-seen clips’ and tell their side of the story.”

“Please spread the word to your Bachelor- watching friends because they won’t want to miss it. Thanks a lot.”

Man, this guy is good ! ABC should see if he can get anyone to watch Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

-Rebecca Traister

Tonight on ABC, Alias . We’re still waiting for your e-mail, Jennifer Garner. [WABC, 7, 9 p.m.]

Monday, May 6

Who loves ya, Dave? Remember during David Letterman’s big contract squawk with CBS and ABC how one of the big grievances from Mr. Letterman’s camp was the paltry promotion of his show on CBS? Remember how-before Dave decided to stay-CBS promised to ante up the Dave plugs during the network promos?

Well, we couldn’t help but notice that in a big current promo for WCBS, CBS’s local flagship station-the campaign is now running on subways in the bowels of New York City-there are CBS stars like Ray Romano, Ted Danson, that King of Queens guy, the gang from CSI, but no … hey … Dave!?!

What up with that? A WCBS rep said there was no slight of Mr. Letterman-the campaign was celebrating CBS’s prime-time stars; they’d love to plug Dave sometime in the future-and it wasn’t such a big hoot anyway, since it was only for a local station. “This is just a very small local campaign here in New York,” the rep said.

A rep for Letterman did not respond to a request for comment.

Tonight on WCBS, The King of Queens . Jerry Stiller is in the WCBS subway campaign. Jerry Stiller! [WCBS, 2, 8 p.m.]

Tuesday, May 7

“Schlemiel, schlimazel, Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” Tonight on ABC, Laverne & Shirley: Together Again . Bring Squiggy, por favor . [WABC, 7, 8 p.m.]