WHITE HOUSE, NETWORKS GAMESMANSHIP
In perhaps another sign that American life is returning to normal nearly two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the White House and the TV networks reportedly engaged in an elaborate dance over TV coverage of President Bush's primetime address to the nation Thursday.
Among the four big networks, only ABC carried the speech. NBC went with its No. 1 hit, "Friends." CBS stuck with "Survivor 3." Fox presented the season premiere of "The Family Guy," the series premiere of "The Tick" and the season premiere of "Temptation Island."
According to a report in the Washington Post, some unidentified network executives were not happy with the way the White House handled the matter -- and one even brought up the "Wag the Dog" scenario that was used frequently to criticize former President Bill Clinton's use of the media.
(The reference is to the 1997 movie, "Wag the Dog," in which White House operatives stage a phony war in Albania to distract public attention from a presidential sex scandal).
The paper reported that White House correspondents were told the administration regarded the speech as Bush's "most crucial ... since he went before a joint session of Congress on Sept. 20."
Fox reportedly was ready to pre-empt its primetime schedule and run the speech, until programming executives got an advance draft and decided it was sufficient to let the Fox News cable network handle it.
One network executive told the Post the White House was "playing this game" with networks.
"It sounded like a war effort thing to pump up people," said the executive. "He'll look presidential. ... It's a little 'Wag the Dog'-y."
Several network news sources told the paper the White House stopped short of formally asking the networks to carry the speech -- possibly for fear the answer would be no.
The networks are one week into their November sweeps, during which they load the schedule with their best stuff -- hoping to attract the largest audience possible, in order to set the highest possible advertising rates.
'SHALLOW HAL' FAT JOKES SPARK PROTESTS
An advocacy group for fat people is calling for a boycott of the new Gwyneth Paltrow comedy, "Shallow Hal," to protest the way the movie deals with the issue of obesity.
The Sacramento-based National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance said the movie "reinforces stereotypes and myths about fat people."
Critics have noted that the movie makes the case that inner beauty matters more than physical appearance, but NAAFA executive administrator Maryanne Bodolay said that doesn't make it okay to crack fat jokes.
"Hollywood is intent upon perpetuating the myth that fat people are miserable and unattractive," said Bodolay, "and that the path to happiness is through losing weight."
The formerly fat Carnie Wilson has her own issues with "Shallow Hal." She told the TV show, "Hot Ticket," she cried "through half the movie" because the fat jokes were too much.
"I know it's a little dramatic to say, but I was so sad ... it was making fun of fat people the entire movie."
The New York Post reported that Wilson was particularly offended by sight gags such as a steel chair buckling when Paltrow's character sat down on it.
"I'm sorry, that wouldn't happen," said Wilson. "I could see it happening with a plastic chair. That happened to me, and it hurts."
BRITNEY WANTS TO GIVE HBO SPECIAL TO U.S. MILITARY FOR FREE
HBO has announced that it will feed Britney Spears' upcoming pay-TV special to Armed Forces Radio and Television Service free of charge, at the request of the 19-year-old singer herself.
"Britney Spears: Live From Las Vegas" will air Nov. 18 on HBO, originating from the MGM Grand.
AFRTS will carry the show on its AFN-Atlantic and AFN-Pacific channels.
Plans call for several segments of the show to have Spears interact via satellite with military personnel at Fort Polk. La.; Lackland Air Force Base, Texas; and two installations in California, Camp Pendleton and the San Diego Naval Station.
KIDMAN IN TALKS FOR THRILLER
According to a report in Daily Variety, Nicole Kidman is in talks to star in "The Forgotten," described as a thriller about a man and woman who join forces to investigate the disappearance of their children.
Kidman -- who earned the best reviews of her career this year for "Moulin Rouge" and "The Others" -- is already set to appear in "The Hours," "Dogville" and "The Human Stain."
She plays writer Virginia Woolf in "The Hours," directed by Stephen Daldry ("Billy Elliot"). "Dogville" -- written and directed by Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier -- is described as a dramatic thriller. "The Human Stain" -- based on Phillip Roth's novel of the same name -- also stars Anthony Hopkins.
ELLEN FEELS POSITIVE
Ellen DeGeneres is feeling pretty positive about herself and her future in show business, following her well-received gig as host of the 53rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards last Sunday.
"I feel like it was important for me to re-establish myself in the industry," said DeGeneres. "I think there were probably some people on the fence (who weren't sure they) liked me anymore."
DeGeneres previously starred in "Ellen," a half-hour comedy on ABC the produced respectable ratings but was overwhelmed by controversy when the actress and the character she played both came out as lesbians.
The coming out episode produced spectacular ratings, but the audience soon abandoned the show and it was canceled in 1998.
"The last time people saw me I think they thought she's controversial and in our face and this and that," DeGeneres told USA Today. "I'm coming back and trying to do a different show."
In "The Ellen Show," she plays an Internet executive who goes back to her hometown after her dot-com enterprise folds. Her character is gay, but that's not central to the show.
Whether the positive glow from Sunday will spread far enough and long enough to enhance the ratings for her new half-hour comedy on CBS remains to be seen. "The Ellen Show" has been struggling in its Friday 8:30 p.m. time slot.
"I think we'll be No. 1," said DeGeneres. "I watch Oprah. Positive thinking."
STARS COME OUT FOR NEW HOLLYWOOD SPOT
Denzel Washington will be the main attraction for star watchers when celebrity chef Gerry Garvin opens his new restaurant in West Hollywood Saturday.
The guest list also includes Jessica Biel ("7th Heaven"), Coolio, Donald Faison ("Scrubs"), Dule Hill ("The West Wing"), Orlando Jones ("Evolution," "Bedazzled,") and Oscar-winning actor Joe Pesci ("GoodFellas," Lethal Weapon 2-4").
The 32-year-old Garvin -- formerly executive chef at the legendary Beverly Hills restaurant, Morton's -- also served as executive chef at L.A.'s Kass Bah until Tampa Bay Buccaneer wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson recruited him to help open his restaurant Reign, in Tampa.
Garvin was also commissioned to cook a private dinner for former President Bill Clinton and has cooked for foreign diplomats and heads of state.