Lisa de Moraes: Jimmy Kimmel tapped for correspondents’ dinner

November 1, 2011

ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel has been tapped to entertain the crowd at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner next April.

Kimmel is the latest in a long line of late-night TV comics asked to amuse the masses from the annual Hollywood celebrity petting zoo-cum-POTUS roast held annually at the Washington Hilton hotel.

During the dinner, the massive basement ballroom becomes a dense, practically liquid mass of chattering journalists, politicos and Hollywood celebrities, seething to and fro, ignoring the handing out of scholarships and awards aimed at supporting aspiring journalists and recognizing excellence in the profession. Then everyone settles down and the late-night TV comic goes into his routine to warm up the crowd for the president of the United States, who then delivers a carefully crafted roast of his friends and enemies. And the air is thick with the mixed scent of perfume, mildew and mothballed evening gowns and tuxedos.

For the uninitiated, it can be quite intimidating. The year that CBS late-night talk-show host Craig Ferguson was the warm-up act, he resembled someone who had been using a lit match to look for the leak in his life’s gas line. He sat on the dais with the POTUS and others, watching the unruly crowd during the trophy- and scholarship-dispensing portion of the activities.

But Kimmel’s an old hand with unruly crowds. Heck, he co-hosted the ESPN Awards once, has hosted the American Music Awards five times, and also served as roastmaster at the Hugh Hefner and Pamela Anderson roasts on Comedy Central.

“I look forward to being a part of the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. I love dinner,” Kimmel said in Tuesday’s news.

This is a good year to have Kimmel host. He’s on a roll these days. This season, he’s on track to clock his most watched season in four years. He’s delivering the largest yearly gains of any of the late-night broadcast talk shows.

“Jimmy’s humor is sophisticated and edgy while appealing to a wide audience,” WHCA president and Reuters journalist Caren Bohan said in Tuesday’s announcement.

‘Most Wanted’ returns

Fox’s long-running play-along crime series, “America’s Most Wanted,” returns to the air Dec. 2 on Lifetime — a.k.a. the women-in-peril network.

Lifetime has ordered 20 one-hour episodes for the 25th season of the show, in which viewers will be provided with information about notorious crime cases — and will be asked to contact the show with tips about the alleged perpetrator’s whereabouts.

Show creator/star John Walsh said Tuesday that he was excited to be “back in the saddle” again and working now with Lifetime.

“We are the court of last resort and with the show getting back to our weekly airing, we’ll have the capability of getting more fugitives off the streets and behind bars where they belong,” he said.

Since its 1988 premiere, “AMW” has played a role in the capture of more than 1,100 fugitives in the United States and 30 other countries — including 17 fugitives on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, and the rescue of 61 children and missing persons.

Last May, Fox suits announced that they would not return the show as a regular series on Saturday nights, though they would run a batch of “AMW” specials, because they needed a time slot on Saturday nights in which to air reruns of weeknight shows.

‘Rock Center’s’ returns

NBC News managed expectations very well for its new newsmag, “Rock Center With Brian Williams.”

The show attracted 4 million viewers Monday night at 10, getting clobbered by its broadcast competition in all viewers and among key demographic groups.

Days earlier, NBC News President Steve Capus warned that the show would not do well in the ratings.

“We’re not going to sit here and predict for you that we’re going to be a smash hit right out of the starting blocks,” Capus said by way of opening a phone conference call with The Reporters Who Cover Television.

“In fact, I actually think it’s going to be the opposite. We’re not doing this as a ratings play.”

The show opened without the Big Buzz story that does so much to bring viewers to newsmagazine programs. “Rock Center” started with a segment about all the jobs there are to be had in Williston, N.D. — as reported by Harry Smith — and ended with a painful bit in which Jon Stewart visited Williams in his new Man Cave and took questions about trick-or-treating with his kids on Halloween — the night of the show’s debut.

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