News, Feb. 11: Academy Miffed About Oscar Tape Delay, Black Eye for the Nerdy Guy, DJ Rick Dees Ends Morning Radio Show, More…

Top Story: Academy Miffed About Oscar Tape Delay

ABC’s decision to impose a five-second tape delay on the Feb. 29 Oscar telecast isn’t sitting well with Frank Pierson, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Pierson wrote in a letter to the Academy’s membership: “Even a very brief tape delay introduces a form of censorship into a broadcast–not direct governmental control, but it means that a network representative is in effect guessing at what a government might tolerate, which can be even worse.” Although this is the first time a time delay has been imposed on the Oscar telecast, a spokeswoman for ABC told The Reporter the network has used tape delays for other live broadcasts in the past in order to better deal with potential technical problems–even before the Super Bowl halftime incident. Pierson, however, warned that even though the delay is aimed at stamping out individual words, the principal of the delay could mean wide-ranging consequences down the road. “How long,” Pierson asks, “before not only words but ideas become subject to deletion?”

DJ Rick Dees Ends Morning Radio Show

Los Angeles-based disc jockey Rick Dees has ended his 22-year run as host of a popular syndicated morning radio program, The Associated Press reports. The 53-year-old Dees, who has been on the air since 1982, didn’t elaborate on why he was leaving the show. “It has been decided that I will no longer be doing the daily morning radio show on KIIS-FM,” he said on air during his last broadcast Tuesday. “To my morning team and the entire KIIS staff over the years, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude.” Dees, however, will continue to host the Weekly Top 40 radio program, which is internationally syndicated through Premier Radio Networks Inc. KIIS-FM owner Clear Channel Communications had no statement but referred inquiries to Dees’ statement. Being courted as a replacement for Dees is none other than American Idol host and DJ Ryan Seacrest, who is also set to replace radio icon Casey Kasem as host of the weekly pop countdown show American Top 40.

Reba Takes Break From Reba

Reba McEntire has made a couple of last-minute calls saying that she cannot return to work on the set of her WB sitcom Reba because of a “family emergency” in Oklahoma. But according to The Hollywood Reporter, rumors have surfaced that McEntire is unhappy with her current salary on the show, which ranks as the WB’s strongest comedy. Sources, however, also told The Reporter that the country star is expected to return to work Wednesday and that her reps have made no formal overtures about renegotiating her contract. The WB, the show’s producer, 20th Century Fox TV, and reps for McEntire declined comment Tuesday. This was McEntire‘s second break in four weeks.

Investors Sue Restaurant Chef Rocco

China Grill Management, the group that financed Rocco DiSpirito’s Italian restaurant on 22nd street in New York for the NBC’s reality series The Restaurant, sued the celebrity chef in Manhattan’s state Supreme Court, accusing him of mismanaging the eatery, resulting in a loss of more than a half million dollars, the AP reports. The show, which ran last summer, followed Rocco and his staff through the opening and operation of the restaurant, but investors charges that the food’s quality has been widely criticized and that the restaurant has failed to turn a profit. China Grill seeks unspecified money damages and wants a judgment that they alone own the restaurant. The Restaurant is expected to begin a second limited run this summer.

Black Eye for the Nerdy Guy?

If a quintet of queer guys can make a straight guy stylish, can a handful of black guys infuse some cool into a bunch of drips? Showtime is about to find out. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the network has ordered a pilot for Make Me Cool, the working title for a primetime reality series in which a cast of stylish blacks helps the uncool of all races overcome their obstacles. Robert Greenblatt, Showtime’s entertainment president, said the premise made sense. “A lot of the coolest stuff emanates from the black culture. That culture seems to have the hold on stuff that is going to be cool tomorrow–they know it today.” He added that the show would be edgier than Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. “I think the dialogue between different cultures and races will be more explicit and frank,” he said. If the pilot is greenlighted, Cool could air by year’s end.

FCC Wants Tougher Penalties for Broadcasters

On Wednesday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell told the Senate Commerce Committee, which has received more than 200,000 complaints about Janet Jackson‘s Super Bowl halftime show, that there should be tougher penalties against broadcasters who violate indecency laws. “Action must be taken by the entire television and radio industry to heed the public’s outcry and take affirmative steps to curb the race to the bottom,” he said. Powell and four other FCC commissioners are expected to present their case today in front of the House telecommunications subcommittee. The House panel will also hear from National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Viacom Inc. President Mel Karmazin, the Associated Press reports.

Harrelson To Make Second Eco-Awareness Trip

Woody Harrelson, whose spring 2001 trip down California’s Pacific Coast Highway to raise awareness for ecological issues was recorded in Ron Mann’s documentary Go Further, announced plans Tuesday for a second trip. “The first trip, we were sort of preaching to the choir, since the West Coast is pretty ecologically aware,” Harrelson told The Hollywood Reporter. “The next one, we want to go to tougher territory–starting in Massachusetts and heading down to Florida.” For his second eco-awareness trip, Harrelson, a longtime ecological activist, will hit the road in a bio-fueled bus once he completes work on the screwball comedy Jack Tucker, Trucker for Bad Santa director John Requa. Go Further, meanwhile, premiered Saturday at the Berlin International Film Festival.

The Simpsons: The Movie, at Last?

After years of speculation, could it finally be happening? According to Variety, The Simpson creators Matt Groening and James L Brooks are leading a team of writers in actively developing an animated big-screen feature based on the long-running Fox hit. “They’ve wanted to do this since season two. It’s been 13 years of wanting to do