Wednesday, May 12
@ Tucker Carlson, CNN’s 34-year-old paleo-yuppie pundit guy-Robert Novak’s right-wing apple-polisher on Crossfire -will launch his own half-hour talk show on PBS on June 18. That’s right, PBS-dybbuk to the right, enemy to four Republican administrations, broadcaster of the Watergate and Iran-contra hearings.
They’re calling it Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered .
Was Mr. Carlson actually filtered up until now?
“No,” Mr. Carlson told NYTV, but “basically, I want a place where if you’ve got an opinion that you think is right, but a little out of step with the mainstream, and you’re embarrassed to express it, you feel comfortable expressing it on this show.”
For instance, he said, “I was thinking this morning: ‘Diversity is the strength of our country.’ Oh yeah? How’s that? Why don’t you explain that to me? I don’t see that. I mean, is diversity the strength of the Balkans? No.”
For years, PBS has been home to paleoliberals like Bill Moyers. But it seems Mr. Carlson has had a change of heart recently. While he’s still a staunch conservative-he’s anti-abortion, married with four kids-he’s changed his mind about the war in Iraq. “I think it’s a total nightmare and disaster, and I’m ashamed that I went against my own instincts in supporting it,” he said. “It’s something I’ll never do again. Never. I got convinced by a friend of mine who’s smarter than I am, and I shouldn’t have done that. No. I want things to work out, but I’m enraged by it, actually.”
Mr. Carlson-never really a card-carrying member of the vast right-wing conspiracy-said he had broken off from the hawkish neoconservatives who flogged the war from the get-go. “I’m getting more paleo every day,” he said, referring to the so-called paleoconservatives.
Mr. Carlson was beginning to sound a bit like former Nixon speechwriter and Crossfire alum Pat Buchanan, another righty who has been an opponent of the war. In the past, said Mr. Carlson, he had made some unfair attacks against Mr. Buchanan, and he was feeling guilty about that, too.
“Buchanan is a perfect example of somebody who’s been name-called into oblivion,” he said. “And I did some of that. I definitely called Pat a lot of names. And I feel bad about that. I think he deserved some of those names. On the other hand, calling people names is a way of ignoring what they’re saying. It’s actually an outrage, and I actually feel really bad about my role in that.”
What kind of names?
“I wrote two different pieces calling him an anti-Semite,” said Mr. Carlson. “And while he may be an anti-Semite, I would say, in Buchanan’s case, not all his ideas are crazy.”
Mr. Carlson said he called Mr. Buchanan last year and apologized to him personally. “He was completely confused, I think,” he recalled.
So what’s next-maybe doing a little time on Al Gore’s new news network for twentysomethings? Mr. Carlson said that he would like to help the former Vice President out, but “saying you’re starting a channel to appeal to 18-to-34-year-old viewers-as if no one’s ever thought of that-it’s actually unbelievable. It’s like showing up to a cocktail party and saying, ‘Let’s serve booze.’ It’s so out of it!”
Mr. Carlson, however, is gunning to get former President Bill Clinton on Unfiltered as his very first guest. “I like Clinton a lot,” he said, even though “I thought he was one of the worse Presidents ever.”
Tonight, we direct Mr. Carlson to the CBS special, The Carol Burnett Show: “Let’s Bump Up the Lights!” , which features Ms. Burnett, Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner helping the silent majority to forget a sequence of embattled Presidents running a lousy war. [WCBS, 2, 10 p.m.]
Thursday, May 13
$ Lately, Carol Burnett, the 71-year-old caramel-topped, rubber-mouthed comedienne, has been calling for the return of old-school, gut-busting laughter.
“I think what I miss-and it’s not just with our show in particular, with Conway and Korman-I miss belly laughs, where you never said, ‘Isn’t that clever?'” she told NYTV. “You would just kind of let it go and belly-laugh. I don’t see too much of that. I think there’s a lot of cynicism that happens. And I’m not cynical, and I don’t object to clever cynicism either, you know-but I would just love to see something where I don’t even know why I’m laughing, but it’s funny.”
Mr. Burnett’s CBS special, on Wednesday, May 12, is like that. On one level, it feels like a public-access cable program broadcast out of Branson, Mo., a weirdly innocent bubble from that variety-show era when the nuclear family huddled around the flickering hearth and laughed along with the polyester-draped audience. But the closer you listen, and the longer you watch Tim Conway’s face-which rivals Jonathan Winters’ for sheer plasticity (see Mr. Conway’s all-in-the-face imitation of a cow being milked for the first time and you might even forgive Dorf on Golf )-the more you realize how adult their comedy actually was. And not just the “makin’ whoopee” stuff. Ms. Burnett’s wildly infectious laugh could triple an entendre and leave a naughty joke in your lap before you knew it wasn’t scrubbed-clean. In one clip, when an audience member asked her what the shotgun microphones on the ceiling did, Ms. Burnett told her, then said, “Don’t worry, you can uncross your legs.”
Ms. Burnett knew the comic potential of her own gangly figure, cracked voice and hiccuping guffaws. When she’s asked by an audience member to name the most embarrassing question she was ever asked, the answer is funny because it’s so shockingly honest: “Whether or not I had a sex change,” she said.
Ms. Burnett said it was the silly vaudeville stuff that was lacking now. “Sometimes we did do heavier stuff, like with the family, like Ed and Eunice,” recalled Ms. Burnett, referring to the skits that became Mama’s Family . “Those things, which if we hadn’t played it for comedy, would have been serious little one-acts, because there were no jokes in it. But then the mindless stuff, where you see Tim doing his schtick and driving Harvey up the wall, you just can’t help but go with it.”
A lot of comedy on TV seems overworked, she said, not loose enough. “We really did an original musical-comedy revue a week,” she said. “And we would be finished and go out to dinner. Now, a lot of these shows, even sitcoms, 22 minutes of show, they’re there for six, seven, eight hours. For 22 minutes of show. Wait a minute! This is insane. And I think it hurts the spontaneity of the performances sometimes.”
Tonight is the final episode of Frasier , a show Ms. Burnett admired.
“I’ve always loved Frasier ,” she said. “I mean, that writing was just incredible-and the performances, just great. I’m sorry to see it go off the air.” [WNBC, 4, 9 p.m.]
Friday, May 14
$ You’ve been Zucker-punched!
Tonight, another episode of Dateline NBC , the “investigative journalism” show that NBC president Jeff Zucker has apparently retooled into an arm of the marketing department. In recent weeks, they’ve aired a two-hour episode on NBC’s The Apprentice , another on NBC’s Friends , an hour on NBC’s Frasier and an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press host Tim Russert on his new book, Big Russ and Me .
Next week, Dateline NBC does a two-hour special on Dateline NBC , causing a rip in the TV space-time continuum-did you see that Wrinkle in Time movie on the Wonderful World of Disney last week?-that turns Jimmy Fallon’s Jeff Zucker impersonation into the actual new head of the network. [WNBC, 4, 9 p.m.]
Saturday, May 15
$ Tonight, it’s the season finale of Saturday Night Live , featuring teen-marketing holographic heroines Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen simulating humorous situations. [WNBC, 4, 11:30 p.m.]
Monday, May 17
& It’s hard to blame New York Times reporters John M. Broder and Nick Madigan for quoting Michael Jackson superfan Jake Byrd, an employee of a tropical fish store in Chino, Calif., in their May 1 story on Mr. Jackson’s recent not-guilty plea.
“He might dance on the S.U.V. again,” The Times quoted Mr. Byrd as saying. “When Michael moves, it’s always a dance.”
But as a correction published five days later noted, it turned out that Mr. Byrd was really “an actor playing a recurring character” on the ABC show Jimmy Kimmel Live . While The Times said the publicist for Mr. Kimmel declined to “reveal the name of the actor, known for stunts that insinuate him into news coverage,” NYTV can reveal that the man in question was a writer for the show named Tony Barbieri.
“There’s so many lunatics up there, and Jake is just another one of these lunatics,” Mr. Barbieri told NYTV on May 11. “These people are just blindly spouting his innocence-as well they should, because the only thing he’s guilty of is loving too much. Way, way too much!”
Mr. Barbieri, as Jake Byrd, has been showing way, way too much support for Mr. Jackson in recent weeks, much of it featured on Mr. Kimmel’s show. “Jake tried to get a chant going-‘The kid had it coming!’-but no one else would join,” he recalled. He also shouted out, “If Michael needs to find love in the arms of a sickly Latino boy, we support that 1,000 percent!”
Mr. Barbieri showed up at a Martha Stewart hearing a few days before she was convicted of obstruction. Mr. Byrd, explained Mr. Barbieri, “was on Access Hollywood , standing on the stairs of the courthouse, screaming to Martha Stewart as she came out of her limo that Michael Jackson loves her. Access Hollywood was like, ‘A very odd greeting from a fan this morning!'”
The writers for The Times , of course, were less than amused. “I didn’t find his stunt particularly amusing,” said Mr. Broder. “I don’t particularly appreciate people misrepresenting themselves. We take quite seriously what we put into the newspaper, as the editor’s note would indicate. I’m sure someone thinks it’s funny, but we didn’t.”
Had Mr. Byrd seen the correction?
“He doesn’t get The Times ,” said Mr. Barbieri. “He subscribes to a lot of Michael Jackson fanzines and Soldier of Fortune .”
Tonight, “Jimmy” “Kimmel” is “live.” [WABC, 7, 12:05 p.m.]
Tuesday, May 18
@ As his 36-year run at 60 Minutes winds down, Don Hewitt, the show’s creator and executive producer, has been polishing up a speech he intends to give at the City College of New York on May 27. It’s not some boo-hoo farewell thing-oh no, sir! It’s written in the form of a letter that begins: “Dear New York Times .”
Mr. Hewitt told NYTV that he’ll once again address the Dec. 31, 2003, story by reporter Sharon Waxman claiming that 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley had promised money to Michael Jackson for an interview. Mr. Hewitt has loudly disputed the story, and he’s still angry that Times culture editor Steve Erlanger has refused to run a correction. “Steve Erlanger said, ‘The truth hurts,’ to which I said, ‘Maybe that’s why Steve Erlanger avoids it,'” said Mr. Hewitt, quoting his speech.
Give ‘em hell, Donny! You are ageless! You’re a sprite! You’re the Peter Pan of pioneering producers! Bravo, Mr. Hewitt! Tonight, CBS presents Tell Me a Story: The Man Who Made 60 Minutes . [WCBS, 2, 9 p.m.]