On NBC's Lineup, 'Pride' but No Shame
By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, May 18, 2004; Page C07
NEW YORK, May 17
In what has to be a broadcast network first, NBC on Monday trotted out a partially paralyzed mauling victim as part of its dog-and-pony show to promote its new prime-time lineup to advertisers.
Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn talked to advertisers at Radio City Music Hall via satellite about NBC's new animated Tuesday comedy, "Father of the Pride." It's about a pride of white lions that perform in the "world famous 'Siegfried and Roy' show," NBC Universal's king of all things television, Jeff Zucker, told the packed hall.
Of course he meant their former Vegas show; it's been shut down since one of the couple's rare white felines mauled and very nearly killed Horn during a performance in October; Horn suffered a stroke as a result of the attack. But, through the magic of CGI animation and General Electric, the "Siegfried & Roy" show lives on in a cartoon that seems frozen in a time before the attack. In clips shown to advertisers, jokes took on a tacky inappropriateness, as when Animated Roy says to Animated Lion Family, "Goodbye my lions, or should I say 'GRRRRRR!,' " as he crouches down and tries to look like a wild cat.
On an enormous screen at Radio City, the extremely made-over cat tamers prattled on merrily about this and that. Both men were seated; Horn's left arm and parts of the left side of his face appeared paralyzed. In truth, he, too, looked computer-generated in his eyeglasses with rainbow-colored frames.
It was virtually impossible to tell what the two were saying, but that didn't matter to NBC; it just wanted advertisers to see that Horn was able to speak. "Father of the Pride" is, after all, the 9 p.m. tent pole of its Tuesday lineup -- the latest attempt to get some traction on the night.
After Siegfried and Roy's short, uncomfortable-making appearance, Zucker announced that NBC will broadcast a special about Horn, the tiger incident and his recovery, right before "Father of the Pride" debuts. Reportedly, California first lady Maria Shriver will conduct the interview with Horn, and because she stepped down from NBC News after her husband's election, it will be produced for NBC Entertainment. Clever how NBC got around that one, yes?
Like soldiers just following orders, none of the audience members at Radio City dared risk censure by leaping up and shouting, "Are you out of your *!@$ minds?!" as the S&R scene played out. That was left to Conan O'Brien, NBC's late-night star -- and, apparently, the only sane person at the network. During a seventh-inning-stretch standup routine, he marveled at the network's decision to go ahead with the animated show after the attack.
"He's been horribly mauled -- let's make a show about it!" O'Brien said, pretending to be an NBC suit, to nervous tittering in the audience.
"He might die!
"If that show works, they're going to make another show -- about Billy Joel's car!"
"Father of the Pride" is one of only four "comedies" on the fall lineup of the network that once boasted 16 sitcoms.
"Scrubs," which Zucker announced Monday has been picked up for two more seasons, follows "Father of the Pride" at 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays. "Friends" spinoff "Joey" will kick off Thursday nights, followed by returning "Will & Grace."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
NBC's new Monday drama "LAX" stars Heather Locklear and Blair Underwood.
(John Marshall Mantel - AP)
NBC's Fall Schedule|
8 p.m. "Fear Factor"
9 p.m. "Las Vegas"
10 p.m. "LAX"
8 p.m. "Average Joe"*
9 p.m. "Father of the Pride"
9:30 p.m. "Scrubs"
10 p.m. "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
8 p.m. "Hawaii"
9 p.m. "The West Wing"
10 p.m. "Law & Order"
8 p.m. "Joey"
8:30 p.m. "Will & Grace"
9 p.m. "The Apprentice 2"
10 p.m. "ER"
8 p.m. "Dateline"
9 p.m. "Third Watch"*
10 p.m. "Medical Investigation"
8 p.m. "The Apprentice 2" rebroadcast
9 p.m. "Saturday Night Movie"
7 p.m. "Dateline"
8 p.m. "American Dreams"
9 p.m. "Law & Order: Criminal Intent"
10 p.m. "Crossing Jordan"
New shows in bold
* Moved to new time slot