The week's best and worst on the small screen:
A belated "Survivor"
CBS announced Tuesday that Survivor: Africa will debut an entire month after the Eye Network's fall lineup premieres. While CBS executives attribute the delay to "turnaround time," they're forgetting something fairly important: Friends (competing with Survivor at the 8 p.m. Thursday timeslot) will have already attracted a loyal following by mid-October, especially with the Monica-Chandler nuptials keeping viewers abuzz.
Last winter's debut of Survivor--during Friends reruns--was brilliant. This fall, don't expect the reality show's ratings to be as stellar as the previous two installments. NBC's execs are shrewd. They'll find a way to keep viewers onboard.
Calista gets "Scary"
Actress Regina Hall is perfectly happy as a regular on Fox's Ally McBeal. She's also perfectly happy with insulting the show's star, Calista Flockhart, in a major motion picture. Hall currently stars in Keenen Ivory Wayans' Scary Movie 2, in which she battles a living skeleton she nicknames "Calista." Gotta love that. Thank god there are still people in Hollywood with a sense of humor.
Conan's racial woes
Late last week, Conan O'Brien apologized to the press for a comment made by one of his guests during a taping of his late-night talk show. The comment, uttered by comedienne Sarah Silverman, involved the racial slur "chink"--referring to the Chinese. Silverman is yet to apologize for the comment, so NBC and Conan felt it was up to them to put out the PR fire with their public statement. While the comment may have been out of place, it isn't Conan's burden to bear--it's Silverman's. Conan should be completely off the hook here. Ever hear of another NBC late-night program called Saturday Night Live? Racial slurs are commonplace on SNL, and the show runs before Conan's 12:30 a.m. slot. Rest easy, Conan. Silverman can apologize if she wants to, but you're in the clear.
"Wing"ers hold strong
The four Emmy-nominated actors from NBC's The West Wing who threatened to quit the show if contract negotiations were denied returned to work last week to continue production. The dispute remains unsettled--Allison Janney, Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff and John Spencer still make $30,000 per episode, though they claim they were promised a major pay hike if the show entered a third season (which it has). Nevertheless, the foursome continues their struggle with Warner Bros. as production moves on. Note to Warner Bros.: Pay 'em whatever they're asking for. They're good. Otherwise you'll end up with Pauly Shore as Press Secretary.
"Resurrection" retains its quality
Last season, viewers who watched Showtime's Resurrection Blvd. probably did so with a wince on their face, awaiting the next instance of something cornball and cliché. This season, however, the show has maintained a level of quality, that's, quite frankly, shocking. The balance of drama and comedy thus far has been superb, and the performances seem to be getting better. Young star Marisol Nichols shined in a recent episode in which she stumbles through an alcoholic stupor to realize she's given her virginity away. On Tuesday night's episode, the only major character on TV who has never spoken a word--Ruben Santiago (Daniel Zacapa)--finally broke down in a fit of anguish in a crowed L.A. intersection. Good stuff. Keep it up, Showtime.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences have sent out the ballots for the 73rd Annual Academy Awards - and this time, Academy voters, rest assured. You will get them on time.
In an attempt to avoid a repeat performance of last year, when several thousand ballots were mistakenly mixed in with bulk mail shipments and never sent out, the AMPAS took extra precautions when sending out the approximately 4,300 ballots to voting members on Wednesday. The organization mailed ballots to overseas members and those outside of California early-on Feb. 21.
Oscar organizers traditionally dropped off the ballots in canvas bags at the Beverly Hills post office. This year, according to AMPAS president Robert Rehme, "The post office …came and picked them up [from the Academy]."
Lost ballots were not the only problem the Academy experienced last year. A shipment of 55 Oscar statuettes was stolen off a loading dock, with all but three recovered later, only days before the awards show aired.
Ballots must be returned to the offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20, 2001. The votes are then tabulated by the auditing firm and the winners' names are placed in sealed envelopes to be opened on Oscar Night®.
MORE OSCAR NEWS…: Legendary child actress, Margaret O'Brien, who won her only Academy Award as "special child-actor" for her performance in the 1945 "Meet Me in St. Louis," has pulled her Oscar from a charity auction, officials at the Sacremento AIDS Foundation said.
The award was taken off the block at the request of the AMPAS. "Out of respect for the Academy and all my fellow Oscar winners, I am removing my Oscar from the auction," O'Brien said in a written statement.
The award itself has changed many hands. It was stolen originally in 1954 and found 31 years later, when two collectors found it at a Pasadena swap meet and returned it to O'Brien. According to Academy spokesman John Pavlik, the Academy gave O'Brien a replacement after she signed an agreement stating she would offer the Oscar to the Academy if she decided to sell it.
"We realize it was a good cause but we can't open the door to one good cause and slam it in the face [of another]," said Pavlik. He went on to say, "We struggle to maintain the Oscar as a symbol of excellence in filmmaking and not how much money [someone] has to pay for one."
The crime spree is over. "The Sopranos" will have to kiss someone else's ring -- namely, the big boss man's, the president of the United States of TV America.
"The West Wing" was named Best Drama Series at the 52nd Annual Emmy Awards, capping a night wherein the political drama dominated, save for one major setback when James Gandolfini of "The Sopranos" bested Martin Sheen in the competition for Best Actor in a Drama Series.
"I think the Academy has an affinity for slightly overweight bald men," Gandolfini quipped onstage.
Gandolfini's win was the lone bright spot for "The Sopranos," which otherwise got whacked -- like when Sela Ward of ABC’s "Once and Again" beat both Edie Falco and Lorraine Bracco for the Best Actress in a Drama Series Emmy. "The Sopranos" came into the night with 18 nominations.
Hollywood.com's Sandy Kenyon asked Gandolfini: "It's been a long kind of overnight success for you. What was going through your mind and is this a form of sweet justice for you?"
"I didn't feel any miscarriage of justice last year or anything like that, I'm just pleased to be in the show, doing the work we do,” Gandolfini said. “I didn't feel anything went wrong last year, so this year is just icing on the cake for me personally."
Meanwhile, Sheen was doing a lot of congratulatory on-camera hugging, as his comrades made their way to the stage to accept their trophies. Among the other honors for "The West Wing" were Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Allison Janney) and Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Richard Schiff); Best Writing in a Drama Series (Aaron Sorkin and Rick Cleveland); and Best Direction in a Drama Series (Thomas Schlamme).
"I've got a 'West Wing' feeling," host Gary Shandling mused halfway through the telecast.
NBC’s “Will & Grace” came away with some big wins, including Best Comedy Series and Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Megan Mullally and Best Supporting Actor in A Comedy Series for Sean Hayes.
The lead actor and actress in “Will & Grace,” Eric McCormack and Debra Messing, respectively, lost out to Michael J. Fox for ABC’s “Spin City” and Patricia Heaton of CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
HURRY IT UP: The Emmys aren't known for brevity. In recent years, the broadcast has dragged on well past the allotted running time, but this year's festivities wrapped up within its three-hour slot. Just barely.
During the final hour, that tinkly "get off the stage, already" piano music was heard often as awardees dragged on too long with acceptance speeches. Host Shandling was cut off in mid-sentence as he introduced presenter Bruce Willis, who walked onstage before his cue and explained, "We're running really late" under his breath.
The producers tried (mostly in vain) using TelePrompTers to quicken the pace -- a fact that Jack Lemmon inadvertently revealed, when he unconsciously read the "please wrap up" cue out loud.
In his opening monologue, Shandling said, "You know what slows this show down? It's the awards," and jokingly suggested that the names of winners be taped to the bottom of their seats to save time.
Not a bad idea.
Here's a brief blow by blow of the highlights of the 2000 Emmy telecast:
THERE'S NOTHING LIKE A GOOD POTTY JOKE: This being an awards telecast, there were of course lots of pre-taped and live time killers in between the awards and commercials.
The best of these was a "Big Brother" parody, wherein Shandling was caught on camera in the men's room. The valet offering him a hot towel was David Duchovny, who informed Shandling that a vote was taken and his bathroom privileges had been revoked. Guess you had to be there.
The whole show began, of course, with a "Survivor" parody that featured a mock vote of the Tribal Council (with celebrity members including Andy Richter of "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" fame). The winner of which would be named host of the Emmy telecast and also get an SUV. Shandling tried to cop out, asking if he could just take the car instead. Guess you had to be there for that one, too.
There were other funny gags. Conan O'Brien did a self-effacing bit about paying lip service to women's issues so he could get a date to next year's Emmys; and Shandling did a tribute to his idea of "risk taking" TV: like the Home Shopping Network, "Jerry Springer," monster trucks, "Teletubbies," "Xena" and The Weather Channel.
PRESSING THE FLESH: Hubba, hubba. Was it just the fact that we're watching the Emmy telecast on crystal-clear satellite TV, or did everyone see Geena Davis' um, er, um, ahem ... nipples? Is Renny Harlin nuts? She's the most beautiful over-40 woman in the universe -- see-through, skin-tight outfit or no.
I SEE DEAD PEOPLE: The annual montage of dearly departed TV celebs featured Loretta Young, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Madeline Kahn, John Gielgud, George C. Scott, Larry Linville, Meredith MacRae, Gene Rayburn, Durward Kirby, Shirley Hemphill, Hoyt Axton, Nancy Marchand, Leonard Goldenson, Clayton Moore, Doug Henning, Craig Stevens, Mary Jane Croft, Mabel King, Charles M. Schulz, Alec Guinness and Walter Matthau.
WHO'S THAT, ER, GIRL? Cher's got blonde hair now. She looks just like Christina Aguilera, sort of. Just thought you'd like to know.
WE LIKE MIKE: The evening's biggest no-brainer was probably Michael J. Fox's win for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. The actor received the second standing O of the night (the first went to Jack Lemmon) as he took his first "Spin City" Emmy in four tries and fourth trophy overall (he got three for "Family Ties").
NBC won bragging rights for the night, taking 23 Emmys. HBO won 20, ABC 15, Fox 11 and CBS 7.
Is Diane Sawyer further honing in on the turf of Barbara Walters?
Probably, as the name game of ABC's venerable television magazine "20/20" continues.
USA Today reported Tuesday that head honchos over at ABC news are once again thinking of renaming the Wednesday's edition of 20/20 (it was changed from "PrimeTime" just last season to reflect the network's decision to consolidate all its news magazines under one unifying brand name) to "20/20/Primetime."
The name might change but the anchors will apparently remain the same. The future "20/20/Primetime" will continue to be hosted by Sawyer and Charles Gibson. But unlike its former "20/20" incarnation, it will air live (like "PrimeTime" once did) and feature correspondents Chris Wallace, Jay Schadler and John Quinones ... (all from "PrimeTime") and a distinctive editorial style that is more reminiscent of ... "PrimeTime."
TELEVISION AWARDS: The Alfred I. Du Pont-Columbia University Awards for excellence in television reporting were handed out Tuesday.
The top honor went to Bill Moyers' "Public Affaires Television" for its documentary on the post-apartheid South Africa. The Silver Batons were shared by Diane Sawyer's "20/20" report on unwanted children in Russia; Bob Simon's "60 Minutes II" report on the Serbs massacre in 1995; "Frontline's" story on the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda; and CNN's Candy Crowley for her coverage of the Clinton impeachment process.
FOX TALKS: Michael J. Fox came out of the woodwork on "Access Hollywood" on Tuesday to discuss his decision to leave "Spin City."
In the two-part interview (the second part will air today), Fox asserted that his current health condition hasn't deteriorated to the point where it prevents him from performing and that his exit is solely based on his preference to spend time on things other than acting.
"Certainly, it is a progressive disease, it doesn't get better," Fox told host Pat O'Brien. "But it hasn't debilitated me. So I thought, 'If that time comes, if it comes when my ability to do things is severely impaired more than it is now, if I'm in the middle of a show or a season, then I have no choices.'"
Fox continued, "So I wanted to make the choice while I could. It wasn't about taking a turn, I didn't suddenly take a turn, it wasn't like I hit a wall. I feel good and I'm happy and I have energy and there's stuff to do."
Fox went on to say that he supports ABC's decision, whether the network decides to continue "Spin City" or not, and will work with the show's producer to come up with the best way for his character's exit.
CAMEO: James Garner will come out of TV retirement to guest star on CBS's "Chicago Hope" this spring. Garner is slated to appear in the drama's last four episodes as a millionaire who takes over the hospital. The actor was last seen on the tube in "Rockford Files" 20 years ago.
WHAM, BAM: "The Sopranos" continues to make television history, as it became the most-watched original drama ever on cable with its season premiere Sunday night. The same episode is predicted to pull in a total of 11.5 million viewers for its four repeated airings this week on HBO.