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Not in the script: For TV stars, honesty may contradict network policy

Saturday, January 17, 2004

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

HOLLYWOOD -- Promoting, touting and spinning, the stars came out to sell their wares -- in this case, TV shows -- over the past two weeks at the winter TV critics press tour. And, as usual, celebrities say the darndest things:

Kim D. Johnson, Associated Press
Kelsey Grammer: No cheers for "Cheers" cast.
Click photo for larger image.

Phoning it in

With "Frasier" coming to an end in May, star Kelsey Grammer said it will be a different experience from the end of his previous hit show, "Cheers."

"This is a much more dignified group, much more professional," Grammer said. "The last couple of years of 'Cheers,' nobody showed up to work. So I'm not sure they were ever aware that the show was ending."

'West Wing' cultists

Bradley Whitford, who plays Josh on NBC's "The West Wing," said the departure of series creator Aaron Sorkin last spring was "bewildering and disorienting. And I always say, being on a one-hour drama is like being in an acting cult, and it's like David Koresh left."

'Lyon's Den' done

Rob Lowe, who left "The West Wing" to star in the fall drama "The Lyon's Den," acknowledged that his timing was not the best.

"This maybe was not the year to try to launch a new show on a network television schedule," Lowe said. "By the time we'd found our creative voice, we'd been pulled."

After the show has been off the schedule for months, NBC finally confirmed that "The Lyon's Den" has been canceled.

Isn't it always the way

Finola Hughes left "All My Children" earlier this year in typical soap character style: "I discovered something about a murder that involved the man I was sleeping with. So I left town." She has no plans to return.

Biting the hand...

Veteran actress Elaine Stritch will be featured in May's HBO documentary "Elaine Stritch at Liberty," but she's no fan of HBO's "Sex and the City." "I think they're naugh-ty," Stritch said of the "Sex" women. "I'm sorry about this, HBO, but I don't like young women talking that way at all. Nobody should be able to talk like that. It's offensive to me. The sexual context of that takes away all the romance, the real romance that sex should have with it. I'm sorry, I don't care for that. It makes me very uncomfortable ... I'll probably get hell for that, but I don't care."

Another old soul

Tim Conway said he wasn't particularly pleased with some of the racy content in The WB's improv show "On the Spot," which aired briefly last year. "It went in a different direction that I normally don't like to go," Conway said, "because I don't like to apologize for something after I've done it. And I found it a little offensive. But other than that, I thought it was a great show."

Carol Burnett: Entjoy the TV shows, forget the movie. (Tina Fineberg, Associated Press)
Click photo for larger image.

Her own worst critic

TV Land airs a "Carol Burnett Show" marathon today beginning at 6 a.m., and the star is rightfully proud of the comedy she starred in back in the '70s. But she wasn't happy with her performance in the movie "The Front Page." She was even less happy when she found herself on a plane where the movie was being shown.

"It was over, all the shades went up and not one person turned around to smile at me" even though they had before the film began. Burnett got permission from a flight attendant to speak on the public address system.

"Ladies and gentlemen, hi, ah, this is Carol Burnett. I just happened to be on the flight this afternoon, and I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to each and every one of you for my performance."

The Ted Commandments

Motor City Madman Ted Nugent stars in VH1's new reality show, "Surviving Nugent: The Ted Commandments," premiering in April. Needless to say, he is outrageous: "I can't stand Rather, Brokaw or Jennings or Blitzer. I'm not interested in [expletive]."

Associated Press, Comedy Central
Jon Stewart: Always brims with sarcasm.
Click photo for larger image.

All the news that fits

"How excited do you think Blitzer is to get grouped in with Brokaw, Jennings and Rather?" asked "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, who appeared at a press conference following Nugent. "I'm sure he's thinking, 'I'm hitting with the big boys!' "

During his press conference, Stewart jokingly announced a new MTV series titled "Ashton Kutcher [Has Sex With] Your Girlfriend In Front of You."

Miller rants

Castle Shannon native Dennis Miller, who's become vocal about his conservative politics since Sept. 11, 2001, has a new talk show premiering on CNBC this month. He came to a press conference after watching cable news coverage. "I was up in my room right now watching the Democrats run for the presidency, or, as we like to refer to it, 'Average Joe: Iowa.' "

He said he understands why younger viewers don't respond to the traditional evening news anchors.

"Hard to imagine how 18-year-olds can't find themselves simpatico with Dan Rather," Miller said. "If you're an 18-year-old kid, who are you going to trust to give you the facts? Dan Rather in that epaulet jacket, where he's just about to go fly-fishing after the show, or are you going to listen to, you know, Jon Stewart? Of course you're going to listen to Jon."

Dennis Miller: Very vocal about his politics. (Louis Lanzano, Associated Press)
Click photo for larger image.

Plenty of material

Billy Crystal will host the Oscars on ABC again, but this year he expects any political jokes to be more local in nature. "When you have a governor like this, I don't think you need the president," Crystal said, suggesting that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had better develop a thick skin.

Martian probe

Keith Marder, a publicist for The WB and an aspiring comic, joked about his network's fall flop, "Tarzan."

"The scientists are still debating whether there's intelligent life on the red planet," Marder said, showing a slide of "Tarzan" star Travis Fimmel pasted over a picture of the Martian surface. "Who knows? Maybe 'Tarzan on Mars' might have worked. ... This character had heightened senses, including an acute sense of smell. Boy, imagine how bad the show stunk to him."

Post-Gazette TV Editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 .

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