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TV Notes: 11/15/03

Saturday, November 15, 2003

CNN imposed question at Democrats' debate

A college student who asked the Democratic presidential candidates at a debate whether they preferred the PC or Mac format for their computers says the question was planted by CNN.

The news network on Tuesday acknowledged that a producer went "too far" in telling Brown University student Alexandra Trustman what to ask.

CNN televised the debate, co-sponsored by the nonprofit Rock the Vote organization, last week. It was billed as an event geared to the interests of young people.

CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson said the cable network regrets the producer's actions. She would not identify the employee.

"In an attempt to encourage a lighthearted moment in this debate, a CNN producer working with Ms. Trustman clearly went too far," she said. All of the other questions from the audience originated from the person asking them, she said.

In an editorial written for the Brown Daily Herald, Trustman said she was called the morning of the debate and given the topic of the question CNN producers wanted her to ask.

Trustman said she was "confused by the question's relevance," and constructed her own question "about how, if elected, the candidates would use technology in their administrations."

But when she arrived in Boston for the debate, Trustman wrote, "I was handed a note card with the Macs and PCs version of Clinton's boxers or briefs question" and told she couldn't ask her question "because it wasn't lighthearted enough and they wanted to modulate the event with various types of questions."

She referred to a 1992 student forum where Bill Clinton was asked what kind of underwear he preferred.

A message left Tuesday for Trustman was not immediately returned and she did not respond to an e-mail from The Associated Press. A woman who answered Trustman's phone said Trustman did not want to comment.

(Associated Press)

CNN shifting focus

CNN rented an elegant ballroom a few weeks ago, feeding breakfast to top advertisers and filling them in on 2004 election coverage plans. Virtually all the network's big names were there.

Larry King was master of ceremonies. Christiane Amanpour appeared via satellite from London. All four "Crossfire" combatants argued politics. Judy Woodruff, who had flown from a California assignment a few days earlier, boarded a 5 a.m. train from Washington, D.C., to New York for scrambled eggs and small talk.

Conspicuous by his absence: Aaron Brown, whose Manhattan office is a cab ride away.

It was a visible -- or, rather, invisible -- sign that Brown's star appears to be fading in the CNN firmament.

CNN's chief executive, Jim Walton, cautioned against making too much of Brown's nonappearance. The anchorman was working to arrange an important interview and asked to be excused, he said.

But there's talk that Brown may not have appeared partly because he was upset about not playing a prominent role on the night of the California recall election.

Brown declined to comment for this article.

(David Bauder, Associated Press)

Wanna set dad up?

Are you an attractive 20-something interested in interfering with your single father's sex life? Do you want to have an extremely hands-on role in selecting your future stepmother? NBC is holding casting sessions in four cities to find the perfect family for the next installment of the summer reality entry "Who Wants to Marry My Dad?"

Saturday and Sunday, producers will do auditions in Scottsdale, Ariz., Dallas, Cleveland and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Ideal candidates will be attractive single fathers with at least two attractive children 18 or older. Producers will also be on the outlook for single, attractive women open to the idea of undergoing "secret tasks" and lie-detector tests to romance those single dads.

The original "Who Wants to Marry My Dad?" performed solidly for NBC this past summer. During its six-episode run, the show averaged 9.39 million viewers per show. The Aug. 12 finale was watched by more than 11 million viewers.


Emmys honor Rogers

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will host "A Tribute to Fred Rogers" on Dec. 9 at the Academy headquarters in Los Angeles.

Arthur Greenwald and Donna Mitroff, Pittsburgh natives, are among four producers of the event, which will not be televised but is open to Academy members.

Celebrity participants will include LeVar Burton, Lily Tomlin, Bradley Whitford, Jane Kaczmarek and Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton. Katie Couric, Linda Ellerbee and Charles Osgood will offer taped tributes. A medley of Rogers' songs will be performed by Tyne Daly and Jean Louisa Kelly ("Yes, Dear"). David Hartman hosts the evening.

Bill Isler and David Newell from Rogers' Family Communications Inc. are expected to attend, along with Rogers' widow, Joanne.

(Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor)

Britney pre-empted

Channel 4 will air a Steelers pre-game special before next week's "Monday Night Football," pre-empting the special "Britney Spears: In the Zone."

The special will air at approximately 2:05 a.m. Tuesday or following "Jimmy Kimmel" if the game runs long.


WBGN's local film festival

Low-power station WBGN, in conjunction with a newly formed nonprofit group calling itself the Motion Picture Commission of Pittsburgh, will broadcast a film festival Sunday through next Thursday.

The festival will showcase feature films, documentaries and shorts made by Western Pennsylvania filmmakers. Features include:

"The Murder" (6 p.m. Sunday): Directed by Greg Rempel, it's the story of a woman (Nancy Bach) and her daughter (Suzi Hofrichter) as they confront "a cold-blooded monster" (Tim Hartman).

"Mucked" (8 p.m. Monday): This documentary feature by Robert Gates chronicles the flooding of several West Virginia communities in May 2002.

"Project: Valkyrie" (8 p.m. Thursday): In this horror feature by Jeff Waltrowski, a Nazi-created virus that turns men into zombies is accidentally sold to the head of a skinhead organization years after World War II.

For a complete list of films, including shorts, visit the MPC Web site at


Fox gets 'Complex'

Think of "The Complex," Fox's latest nonfiction programming endeavor, as something like "Melrose Place" without all that cumbersome sex and backstabbing. Or imagine "Trading Spaces" with a Fox attitude and a profit margin.

Four couples will enter a condominium complex in Southern California. Over two months they will have to work within a limited budget to renovate their units as they see fit. At the end of the two months the condos will sell in public auction and the couples will be able to pocket any profit they make.

Fox is casting "The Complex" in a series of open calls in New York (Long Island), Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, Minneapolis and Jackson, Miss. The producers are looking for real-life couples ages 22-35 who live together and have been in their relationship for at least two years. The couples must be able to take two months off from their jobs and have skills in home renovation and decoration.


Channel surfing

Discovery Health Channel's "The Residents" (8 p.m. Sunday), a medical reality series, features Nova Foster, a 1978 graduate of Penn-Trafford High School in Harrison Ci- ty . . . "On Q" (7:30 p.m. WQED) reporter Michael Bartley offers a feature on the 20th anniversary of Family House on Tuesday's broadcast . . . The "60 Minutes" report about security risks at chemical plants -- for which reporter Steve Kroft was cited for trespassing at a plant on Neville Island -- airs tomorrow at 7 p.m. on CBS . . . "The Steel Town Entertainment Summit," an effort to bring more Hollywood productions to Pittsburgh that was taped here last month, will air on WQED Thursday at 8 p.m.


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