Love & Death at 60 Minutes

Wednesday, Jan. 29 Jeff Fager, you’ve just been named the next executive producer of 60 Minutes. Do you-as your predecessor, 60 Minutes founder and id Don Hewitt, famously proclaimed-intend to die at your desk?

“No!” a laughing 48-year-old Mr. Fager said on Jan. 28, one day after CBS News announced a deal in which the indomitable Mr. Hewitt, 80, will finally loosen his kung-fu grip upon his executive-producer chair in 2004 to make way for Mr. Fager. “I hope Don doesn’t, either. Because I think I am going to retire before he does.”

Indeed, just like Irene Cara sang in Fame , Mr. Hewitt may just wanna live forever. But at least now he won’t be running 60 Minutes forever. In about a year and a half, he’ll make way on West 57th Street for Mr. Fager, who developed 60 Minutes II . Then Mr. Hewitt will take on the title of executive producer for CBS News, advising on existing shows and helping develop new ones-and, as he described it, serving as the newsroom’s “glorified pain in the ass.”

Did Mr. Hewitt still want to die at his desk?

“I still expect to do that,” he said. “But I think that may be 20 years from now. I’ll be 100 when that happens.”

Would he want to stay at CBS News when he hits 100?

“Yes!” Mr. Hewitt said emphatically.

Well, who knows? In 20 years, everyone in television may be working for Hannity & Colmes , or at least Hannity. At least Mr. Hewitt got a deal-after a fairly ugly public struggle-so he could keep on working and not sit at home and look at that big scary clock.

“You know, I am frequently here before 7 in the morning,” Mr. Hewitt said. “This is kind of like my home. I live in this office.”

Mr. Hewitt said that before CBS executives came to him with this recent deal, he did consider shipping off to another news organization, though he never came close to doing so.

“I thought about it a lot,” he said. “All I thought was that I was not going to retire, and there was no reason for me to retire.”

So Mr. Hewitt keeps on ticking. And he pronounced himself totally game for trying to improve 60 Minutes ‘ aging audience. He cited a recent piece on pop singer Sheryl Crow-herself a spring chicken at 40-as the kind of piece that would help cultivate a younger crowd.

“She’s perfect for this audience, because she is a pop artist who also sang with Pavarotti,” Mr. Hewitt said. “I have got to find a way to put a foot in each generation. That’s what I am going to think about now a lot: How do you bring in a new demographic and not lose the old one?”

Mr. Hewitt said that 60 Minutes was not alone in this youth-revival effort. “Take a look at The New York Times ,” he said. “I don’t even recognize half the things on page 1. I don’t know how they got there. Obviously someone’s got demographics in mind.”

As for Mr. Fager, he announced that as soon as he assumes control of the Sunday 60 Minutes , he’s replacing Mike Wallace with Carson Daly, chucking Andy Rooney for commentary from Kelly Osbourne, and changing that old silver stopwatch to a pink Nike digital. Not.

Calling 60 Minutes the “gold standard,” Mr. Fager said he intends to maintain the franchise in much the same spirit as Mr. Hewitt leaves it.

“What will never change about 60 Minutes is the backbone of the broadcast, which is great reporting, stories that are done by real professionals, and stories that are thorough and thoughtful,” Mr. Fager said. “Everything you expect when you see the stopwatch.”

Mr. Fager also heaped praise upon 60 Minutes ‘ aging correspondents, likening them to an “all-star team of starting pitchers.”

“It’s an amazing group of professionals,” Mr. Fager said of Mr. Wallace, Mr. Rooney, Leslie Stahl, Morley Safer, Steve Kroft and Ed Bradley.

And Mr. Hewitt will be there to protect his gang, too. Mr. Hewitt also expressed an interest in teaching a class on television writing.

“I’d like to teach writing for the ear as opposed to writing for the eye,” Mr. Hewitt said. “It used to be better. I think TV is too full of clichés-‘in-depth,’ ‘hard news,’ ‘team coverage.’ Did you ever hear anything worse than that? ‘Tonight there will be team coverage .’ Nobody knows how to write. If I ever went to teach, the course would be called ‘Cliché 101.'”

O.K., O.K. Tonight, no man is an island, so give Mr. Hewitt and Mr. Fager 110 percent, and watch more exciting in-depth team coverage on 60 Minutes II. [WCBS, 2, 9 p.m.]

Thursday, Jan. 30

Nielsen, schmielsen. You know, the only thing that could possibly settle the in-the-press verbal jousting between Fox News and CNN would be a good old-fashioned mudpile tug of war, or a scavenger hunt, or a foot-pedaled plastic-boat race, just like they have on MTV’s Road Rules. So we went to an expert: Fox News correspondent Kit Hoover-herself an alumnus of Road Rules I (she was that cute brunette who palled around with the spiky-haired blond dude)-and asked her who she’d pick for her Fox News Road Rules team.

“I’d definitely want Bill O’Reilly,” Ms. Hoover said. “He could talk his way out of anything. I’d throw in Laurie Dhue-you always need a looker. You always need somebody in the front of the pack. She could probably score some free drinks along the way for me. I’d want Geraldo for any sort of investigative stuff. And maybe Shepard Smith-you need another male hottie in there just to keep things interesting.”

Could they beat CNN in Road Rules ? Or at least MSNBC?

“We’d kick everybody’s butt!” Ms. Hoover said. “We got all the best-looking women over here, myself probably excluded.”

Ms. Hoover was actually on the horn to talk about her upcoming segment on already-overexposed Joe Millionaire hunk Evan Marriott, which is running tonight on the Fox broadcasting network’s newsmagazine, The Pulse .

So what did Ms. Hoover discover about Mr. Marriott? Can he actually hide tennis balls in his thick brown eyebrows?

“I think he was hiding some Lifesavers in that underwear ad!” Ms. Hoover said, referring to Mr. Marriott’s pre-television stint as a provocative undies model.

Ms. Hoover said her segment explores every single rumor about Mr. Marriott, from whether or not he’s gay to speculation that he may have worked as a male escort and could actually be a real-life millionaire. She said Mr. Marriott’s parents, whom she interviewed for her segment, live in a house in Virginia Beach that is “definitely upper-upper-middle class.”

Hmmm. We wondered, since Fox produces The Pulse and Joe Millionaire , whether or not Ms. Hoover would have delivered the goods if she’d found out that Mr. Marriott, you know, threw cats off the top of a water tower, or watched Donahue , or something.

“I wouldn’t have hesitated at all,” Ms. Hoover said.

That’s the ticket! As for Mr. Marriott himself, what did she think of him? “Say what you will about him-all these rumors out there that he’s not the quickest bear in the forest, or whatever-I found him to be very genuine,” Ms. Hoover said. “He’s kind of what you see is what you get.”

Translation: Don’t expect Joe Millionaire at the book club, ladies! Ms. Hoover, who said she still gets noticed on the street as a Road Rules girl, also reveals that Mr. Marriott really wanted to be a professional wrestler. And his wrestling name?

“Duke Suede!” Ms. Hoover said.

Interesting. Fox News Sunday anchor Tony Snow sings cabaret songs every Thursday night at the Washington Wyndham using the exact same name .

Tonight, go push corporate synergy along by catching Ms. Hoover’s Pulse report. She could use the help: She’s up against CSI and Will & Grace . [WNYW, 5, 9 p.m.]

Friday, Jan. 31

Speaking of pro wrestlers, will someone in Secaucus please step into the ring and say when MSNBC savior du jour Jesse Ventura is going to arrive? A deal between the G.E. cable-news network and Mr. Ventura has been expected for weeks, but nothing formal has been announced.

In the meantime, we were wondering: As he was leaving office in Minnesota-people there elected him governor, you know-Mr. Ventura speculated that he’d consider wrestling again if World Wrestling Entertainment honcho Vince McMahon offered him enough dough. How would MSNBC-and by extension, NBC News-feel about one of their own smashing heads in the ring?

Spokespeople at MSNBC and NBC News could not say if the employee manual prohibited staff from professionally wrestling. As for Mr. Ventura, the ex-governor’s former gubernatorial spokesman and semi-official out-of-office spokesman, John Wodele, said that Big Jesse’s comments about returning to the ring were “tongue in cheek.” However, Mr. Wodele said that if the price is right, Mr. Ventura would probably give it consideration. (Which is kind of what Mr. Ventura said in the first place, when his tongue was alleged to be in his cheek.)

Was there any serious talk at the W.W.E. about luring Jesse back to wresting? A World Wrestling Entertainment spokesperson said that while there were no current negotiations with Mr. Ventura, the organization “would always welcome the opportunity to work with him.”

Please appreciate that we wrote that entire item without making a cheap metaphor to on-air verbal wrestling. Tonight on MSNBC, Chris Matthews bench-presses 12,000 copies of Mr. Ventura’s book, Do I Stand Alone ? Without breaking a sweat! Hardball . [MSNBC, 43, 9 p.m.]

Saturday, Feb. 1

And if Jesse Ventura does wind up at MSNBC, and does get permission to wrestle, maybe he’ll enlist Sam Donaldson as his tag-team partner. On Jan. 28, after a sexy breaking bulletin on the Drudge Report , the TV world was whirled up at the possibility that ol’ Leather Lungs was going to come to MSNBC to take on Larry King Live and Hannity & Colmes at 9 p.m.

MNSBC and ABC News officials moved quickly to stifle-or at least, try and take a little steam out of-the Sam-leaves-ABC story. But it looks pretty dang real. By evening, the word was that ABC had given Mr. Donaldson clearance to explore other options, and while there was no set deal with anyone, the thought across the river was that Ronald Reagan’s tormentor would, in fact, eventually sign on with MSNBC. Would Mr. Donaldson’s hiring lead to the jettisoning of Phil Donahue? Perhaps, but apparently it wouldn’t lead to the ending of Mr. Donaldson’s ABC News radio show, Live in America , for which he’s signed up for a number of years.

Who knew: Sam Donaldson fever! Tonight on ABC, What Lies Beneath . [WABC, 7, 8 p.m.]

Sunday, Feb. 2

Anyone still riveted to N.F.L. football can watch Oakland Raider quarterback Rich Gannon lead the A.F.C. against the N.F.C. in the NFL Pro Bowl . Hey, did you hear Rich Gannon bought his wife a new sweater for her birthday? Yeah, but she returned it for an interception! [WABC, 7, 5:30 p.m.]

Monday, Feb. 3

Tonight on Fox’s Joe Millionaire , an exasperated Evan says he wants to impress the ladies by counting “all the way to a millionaire.” [WNYW, 5, 9 p.m.]

Tuesday, Feb. 4

Tonight on NBC, Frasier . NBC president Jeff Zucker recently announced that before he agrees to a fat new contract for Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce, he wants to “send in Hans Blix and United Nations weapons inspectors.” [WNBC, 4, 9 p.m.]