Gingrich accidentally winds up with ‘Parks and Rec’ cameo, ABC News says

December 4, 2012

ABC News reported Tuesday that former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was being driven around Indiana on Monday and asked his driver where to stop for lunch. The driver said, “St. Elmo Steak House,” and that’s how the politician came to show up at the “Parks and Recreation” shoot at the restaurant.

“Parks and Rec,” of course, is the NBC sitcom that just last month featured veep Joe Biden playing himself. What a coincidence!

St. Elmo Steak House, which is in Indianapolis, does not open until 4 p.m., a restaurant marketing guy told ABC News on Tuesday. That was news to Gingrich’s driver.

Anyway, while Gingrich mistook all the trucks and TV production equipment for lunchtime customers at a popular restaurant, the “Parks and Rec” writer-producers at the shoot sat down and slapped together a short scene in which Gingrich would play himself, ABC News was told.

You buying any of this?

“It was great fun,” Gingrich told ABC News, explaining that he’s “intrigued by American entertainment” and adding, like the old sitcom pro he is, that it’s “always fun to do something like that.”

In case ABC News had forgotten, he reminded it: “I had a small role on a Candice Bergen show many years back.”

That “Candice Bergen show” was the controversial CBS sitcom “Murphy Brown” — controversial because Brown, the Washington journalist played by Bergen, was an unwed mother. And back in ’92, then-veep Dan Quayle condemned the fictitious character’s made-for-TV unwed motherhood during one of those family-values debates to which Washington is prey.

In February of ’96, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich played himself on the show, in a scene in which he confronted Brown backstage after she skewered him at a Washington “Presscapade” (think Gridiron) dinner.

“That was quite a speech,” Gingrich told Brown in the episode.

“Oh, really?” Brown responded. “There were some people who thought that writing ‘Newt’ on a greased pig went a little too far.”

Back then, Gingrich was not driving around looking for lunch — he’d come to Los Angeles to attend Ronald Reagan’s 85th birthday party. “Ever since I saw ‘The Wind and the Lion,’ I said [I’d] go to any length to be in the same room” with Bergen, gushed Gingrich after that taping — explaining that lots of people liked the show but not its “ideology,” then-Post writer Sharon Waxman reported at the time.

Richards to return

In his first regular series role in more than a decade, “Seinfeld” alum Michael Richards is set to co-star opposite “Cheers” veterans Kirstie Alley and Rhea Perlman in the TV Land pilot “Giant Baby,” the Web site Deadline reports.

Alley stars as a Broadway diva whose son turns up, looking to connect with her after his adopted mother dies. Richards will play Alley’s limo driver.

Richards was a fan fave on NBC’s “Seinfeld,” after which his own NBC series tanked quickly. Except for a Seinfeld story arc on Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” on HBO, he has not had a regular TV series gig since. He did, however, continue to perform at comedy clubs — which got him into hot water in ’06, after an on-stage tirade and racist slur, in response to a heckler, was caught on tape.

“I busted up after that event seven years ago,” he said on Seinfeld’s Web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

Responded Seinfeld: “That’s up to you, to say: ‘I’ve been carrying this bag long enough. I’m going to put it down.’ ” Seinfeld added later, “I hope that you do consider using your instrument again, because it’s the most beautiful instrument I’ve ever seen.”

ABC’s latest comedy plan

ABC has conceded the Tuesday comedy business to NBC and Fox and will cram all its comedy series on Wednesday nights going forward this season. Abandoning its sitcom push into Tuesdays, ABC’s new strategy for the night involves a food competition called “The Taste,” the network announced Tuesday. “The Taste” stars Anthony Bourdain. Of course it does. It debuts next month.

ABC’s new Tuesday strategy involves a food competition called “The Taste,” starring — you know it’s coming — Anthony Bourdain. It debuts next month.

In mid-March, Tuesday’s game plan includes a new celebrity diving competition, which will have a tough time given that Fox debuts its celebrity diving competition in January. Yes, celebrities diving into water is the new singing competition.

On Sundays, as of March 3, ABC is replacing its scrapped satanic drama, “666 Park Avenue,” with “Red Widow,” about a Russian gangster’s daughter living the good life in Marin County, CA, until her husband gets bumped off, which gives her something to think about.

On Thursdays, ABC will replace the failed “Last Resort” with “Zero Hour,” starting Feb. 5. Anthony Edwards plays the publisher of a paranormal-enthusiast magazine (really?) whose beautiful wife is abducted from her antique clock shop — maybe because one of her clocks contains a treasure map?

To cram all of ABC’s comedies onto Wednesday night, the aliens-in-a-gated-community comedy “The Neighbors” will air only originals until it runs out of them in March. “Suburgatory” will then move to its 8:30 p.m. slot April 3, giving Sarah Chalke’s new “How to Live With Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life)” the plum post-“Modern Family” time slot.

ABC’s other new comedy, “Family Tools,” will succeed “Suburgatory” at 8:30 p.m., but not until May 1 — so late that the show nearly qualifies as the first debut of the next TV season.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/
tvblog.

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