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Oprah and Dave, Talking It Out at Last

Oprah Winfrey will be a guest on
Oprah Winfrey will be a guest on "The Late Show With David Letterman" on Dec. 1. (Michael A. Mariant - AP)

1989.

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Martin Bashir will not be allowed to wear black leather pants on "New Nightline" when he debuts as one of the "Nightline Three" on Nov. 28.

At least, we don't think so.

"Nightline" executive producer James Goldston was asked about that yesterday during a phone news conference with The Reporters Who Cover Television about the new "Nightline." Ted Koppel is bowing out tonight after more than two decades as show anchor.

It was one of the more painful phone news conferences ever attended by TRWCT.

Perhaps that's because the reporters weren't sure what to ask, having not seen any footage of the new "Nightline" -- and even the best television shows are difficult to explain in words to people who have not seen any footage:

Honest, Les, it'll be great! Jennifer Love Hewitt, talking to dead people -- wearing clingy men's sleeveless undershirts -- heaving bosoms, lots of cleavage. You slap it on Friday, it'll still do a 14 share -- it's a slam dunk!

Where were we? Oh yes, "Nightline." Some of the reporters seemed a bit skeptical that Bashir -- best known in this country for sucking up to and then demolishing Michael Jackson in that controversial British documentary "Living With Michael Jackson," which was purchased by ABC News and scored a gigantic 27 million viewers in the February 2003 sweeps -- had the whole Koppel statesmanlike thing going on.

Goldston, who coincidentally oversaw the making of that documentary when he was a producer working in the United Kingdom, naturally took umbrage, noting that Bashir also has done documentaries on race and crime, for instance, and won numerous awards for his work.

One reporter, who wasn't buying it, said she was going to take a "wild stab" and guess that no correspondent on "Nightline" had ever worn black leather pants like Bashir has on the air.

Goldston also took issue with that, saying he didn't think he'd ever seen Bashir in black leather pants, and that his response to the question "will have to be a no comment," but then added that there won't be any change in the dress code on "Nightline."

Moving on to more pressing matters, one reporter asked Goldston what was the difference between TV journalism in the United States and in Britain.

"There are many differences, for obvious reasons," he replied. "Because there's such a vibrant national press in Britain, much of the discourse . . . is led by the newspapers. Here the reverse is true. Some of you might disagree. But in large measure, television is the cultural agenda of America. It's a very profound difference," which, he said, "puts more pressure on anyone working in television for sure."

Guess how that went over.


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