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Tunes In: Live from New York, it's Bush and Gore along with the spoofers!

Saturday, November 04, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Look at them run -- toward the TV cameras, that is.

George Bush and Al Gore have turned this year's campaign into one long TV appearance, with Bush kissing talk show queen Oprah and Gore chatting with ratings serf Queen Latifah.

Now they're feeding the hand that bites them, appearing on "Saturday Night Live's Presidential Bash 2000" (9 p.m. tomorrow, NBC) to make fun of themselves as they introduce this clip show of "SNL" political sketches.

Bush gets the better dialogue, making fun of his own supposed dimness and purposefully mispronouncing "ambivalent" and concocting the word "offensible."

"I'm governor of our nation's second-largest state," Bush says, "which is bigger than every other state. Except one."

Gore pretty much sighs and rolls his eyes after every Bush statement.

Late Thursday, NBC announced that former President George Bush and wife Barbara also taped appearances for the "Presidential Bash," but that segment was not available for review.

Even when "SNL" dies after the first sketch, its political parodies are usually standouts as this pastiche from the past proves.

A recent skit (rerun in tomorrow's special) on the first Bush-Gore debate depicts Gore obsessed with his lockbox while Bush flails in non sequiturs, authoritatively saying, "Don't mess with Texas."

"SNL" regular Darrell Hammond has perfected his Gore imitation. He's got both the body language and Gore's voice down pat. Will Ferrell does George W.

In the "Presidential Bash," viewers also see impressions of presidents Clinton (Hammond, Phil Hartman), Bush (Dana Carvey), Reagan (Hartman), Carter (Dan Aykroyd), Ford (Chevy Chase) and Nixon (Aykroyd).

Other politicians spoofed include Bob Dole (Norm Macdonald, Aykroyd), Ross Perot (Carvey), Adm. Stockdale (Hartman), Michael Dukakis (Jon Lovitz), Jack Kemp (Hartman), Pat Robertson (Al Franken) and others.

The most prescient moment comes in a rerun of a sketch from Clinton's first term. Clinton, played by the late Phil Hartman, jogs into a fast-food restaurant, but his Secret Service agent (Kevin Nealon) reminds him Mrs. Clinton doesn't want the president eating junk food.

"There's a whole bunch of things we don't tell Mrs. Clinton," the president says. "Fast food is the least of our worries."

How sadly true that proved to be.

Fox election coverage

Despite the Fox network's first-ever plan to cover election returns Tuesday night, Pittsburgh Fox affiliate WPGH won't carry the network feed.

Instead, Channel 53 will air the film "A Few Good Men" beginning at 7:30 p.m. The broadcast will include cut-ins with election updates.

"We decided with all three networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC -- doing wall-to-wall election coverage and also the coverage available on Fox News Channel, we'll [air a movie] for people who don't want to watch election coverage all night," said WPGH regional manager Dick Singer.

The Fox network came under fire from some quarters for not carrying the presidential candidate debates, but Channel 53's decision really doesn't disturb me. Because there will be so much coverage on the other broadcast outlets (including PBS), it doesn't feel as if WPGH is cheating viewers.

Besides, I suspect the primary reason Fox chose to offer election coverage wasn't to serve the public but to expose more viewers to the anchors of Fox News Channel.

"Life" needs support

CBS's "That's Life" (8 tonight, KDKA) was the network's only new drama not to get an order for additional episodes this week, a sign the network's faith in "That's Life" may be commensurate with its low ratings.

It's an unfamiliar position for "That's Life" executive producer Maddy Horne, who spent more than 20 years as an executive at CBS before leaving two years ago to develop series as a nonwriting executive producer.

While at CBS, Horne sometimes had to call producers and explain why a show was canceled. Now she's on the other side.

"I know what the bubble looks like and I know we're on it," Horne said during a telephone interview this week from her office on the Paramount lot in Los Angeles. "CBS has not lost faith in us. They are so supportive of this show, but we need to be competitive in the time period in both households and demos."

Horne's husband, David, is from Pittsburgh and her mother-in-law, Ellen Horne, lives in Ross. So "That's Life" has at least a few fans here, and it may get more in the coming weeks. Sewickley native Dan Cortese will guest star Nov. 11 and 18 as a literature professor smitten with series lead character Lydia De Lucca (Heather Paige Kent).

"That's Life" revolves around Lydia, a thirtysomething New Jersey woman who recently dumped her fiancee of eight years and went back to college. That's where she meets Cortese.

But tonight Lydia finds herself missing her ex, Lou (Sonny Marinelli).

In several Ally McBeal moments, Lydia hears a watch ticking whenever she sees a child.

"I was waiting for Mike Wallace to come falling out of my uterus," Lydia says.

This summer Horne said experience working at CBS helped her as an executive producer.

"I know how they think, I know the research and what tests well and what doesn't test well," Horne said. "It's actually a huge advantage to have that insight."

Insight alone won't keep "That's Life" on the air. This summer Horne was pleased with the Saturday at 8 time slot. Airing opposite movies on ABC and NBC, "That's Life" seemed like it would have an easy time. It hasn't.

This week Horne said competition from the Miss America pageant and baseball playoffs hurt "That's Life." One good sign, she said, is that ratings for the show have never gone down during the hour, rather, they build during the second half-hour. And CBS hasn't pulled "That's Life" during November sweeps, a common network move when a series is in trouble.

Still, Horne thinks ratings for tonight's episode will be crucial in determining the fate of "That's Life."

"They have not said it's make-or-break time," Horne said. "But I would never have said that to a producer [when I worked at the network]. That's why they're not saying it to me."

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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