By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Fox will slaughter the competition the final week of the November ratings sweeps when it airs a two-hour interview in which O.J. Simpson details how he would have murdered his wife, Nicole, and Ronald Goldman more than 10 years ago.
Had he done it.
Which he didn't.
Just ask him.
He is, in fact, looking high and low for her killer as we write.
"O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened" will be broadcast over two nights, Monday, Nov. 27, and Wednesday, Nov. 29. Fox airs "House" on Tuesdays and nobody messes with House. Not even O.J.
"If I Did It" is also the title of the former pro football player's new book that, Fox said yesterday, hits bookstores Nov. 30 -- just in time for the holiday gift-buying season, ho, ho, ho. And who wouldn't love to find a copy of O.J.'s sordid sort-of hypothetical confession in his Christmas stocking on the morning of the day in which we celebrate the birth of baby Jesus?
And, in one of those incredible coincidences that make covering the TV industry so fulfilling, the book is being published under the Regan imprint, headed by Judith Regan, who will conduct the interview with O.J. on Fox. And her publishing outfit, ReganBooks, is a division of HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corp. -- which also owns Fox!
Fox didn't divulge details of the interview other than to say it was "wide-ranging," "no holds barred" and "unrestricted" and that "Simpson describes how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade." He was acquitted in the criminal trial that gripped the country in 1995 but found guilty in a later civil trial.
But on its Web site, under the headline "The Interview That Will Shake the Nation," Fox presents a video clip in which someone, presumably Regan, says to Simpson, "You wrote, 'I have never seen so much blood in my life.' "
Simpson responds, "I don't think any two people could be murdered without everybody being covered in blood."
The National Enquirer -- which broke the story about the Simpson book last month -- has cited a West Coast source familiar with the project in providing grisly details of what it claims to be Simpson's story in the book. The Enquirer says its source described the book's account of the double murder as "so detailed and chillingly realistic -- with O.J. as the central figure -- that it leaves no doubt it is a confession of what really happened." According to that report, Simpson was paid $3.5 million to do the book.
"No comment!" a Fox spokesman said on the phone yesterday before we'd said a word.
Nicole Brown Simpson's sister, Denise Brown, said in a statement issued late yesterday, "We hope Ms. Regan takes full accountability for promoting the wrong doing of criminals and leveraging this forum and the actions of 'Simpson' to commercialize abuse."
She also said she regrets that the Simpsons' two children "will be exposed to 'Simpson's' inexplicable behavior and we will provide them with our love and support during this time."
TV industry executives yesterday expressed shock and awe, and the certainty that everyone in this country would be outraged that O.J. will make big bucks off his ex-wife's murder and Fox will run a promo for the book as a sweeps stunt.
Except for their Hollywood colleagues.
"No, not in Hollywood at all, because we're all whores, but in the rest of the country where they have morals -- sure," guessed one such exec, who conceded that the moral, non-Hollywood segment of the country probably would nonetheless tune in by the millions.
"They've really kept this way under wraps," he continued. "Holy [expletive], is that a coup!"
Which pretty much summed up everyone's reaction in TV Land.
"Everybody here in town believes he did it, period, but to have framed the discussion the way Judith has is pretty unique," said the exec, who wants to be anonymous because O.J. is a free man.
And not one of the TV execs was worried Fox might have trouble selling the show to advertisers.
"This is not about advertising -- it's a news coup," one exec said. "It's also great scheduling. Fox is hurting big-time" in the ratings, "getting killed with all their new shows. They're sitting around ready to commit suicide until 'Idol' comes back."
By the way, in case you're not familiar with Regan, in 1978, she landed a job as a reporter for the National Enquirer.
You may remember Regan from her affair with married New York police chief Bernard Kerik, which came to light around the time of his failed nomination to become the head of the Department of Homeland Security in December 2004. Regan also published his bio, "The Lost Son."
Look her up on Wikipedia and you'll see the U.K. Telegraph has called her the "angriest woman in the media" and "the enfant terrible of American publishing." Vanity Fair magazine called her a "foul-mouthed tyrant."
One of the people we spoke to yesterday called her "a sick genius," adding, "And how did she convince him to do a book with that title?"
Regan, who made her name publishing the memoirs of Drew Barrymore, Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh, among others, moved her operations to Los Angeles last year to focus more on film and TV projects.
Ironically, Fox's O.J. special, which will save the network's November ratings sweep, is being produced under its reality-programming evil genius -- and we mean "evil" in the best possible sense of the word -- Mike Darnell.
"This is an interview that no one thought would ever happen," Darnell said in yesterday's announcement.
"It's the definitive last chapter in the 'Trial of the Century.' "
* * *
Tonight on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" we learn whether voters gave NFL great, three-time Super Bowl champ and amateur dancer Emmitt Smith the win he so richly deserves, or handed the win to that little weasel Mario "Shouldn't-be-in-this-competition" Lopez, who insisted he had no formal training except break dancing with his pals as a kid, until YouTube exposed his secret past as a kid dancer on "Kids Incorporated."
Plus, tonight we get the Sara Evans skanky divorce update! Yes, ABC has promised Tom DeLay's favorite "Dancing" contestant will be back, not to perform, alas, though we suspect we'll hear some about "how she's doing."
"Dancing" judges wisely decided to make sure they wound up last night's competition program all tied up: Emmitt 89 points, Mario 89 points. So if Mario steals the trophy it won't be their fault -- you, the viewing voters, will be entirely to blame.
On the other hand, it also means tonight's finale will do a humongous number, during the November sweeps.
Last night the two men performed three dances each. First, samba vs. samba, then each contestant got to revisit his fave performance from the season and finally, the freestyle competition -- last season's trophy-clinching round. As usual, in the first two rounds, Lopez was better, duh, and Emmitt was more charming.
But in the final round, Emmitt put on MC Hammer pants and gold shoes to dance with his professional partner Cheryl Burke to "U Can't Touch This" and tore the place up. It does not get any better than that, folks.