The TV Column: Lisa de Moraes on Kelsey Grammer and the conservative RightNetwork

By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, April 20, 2010; C06

Comcast executives donned hazmat suits and grabbed the tongs to deal with radioactive press reports saying it was partnered in a new conservative-tilting TV and online network called RightNetwork, which promises to "entertain, engage, and enlighten Americans who are looking for content that reflects and reinforces their perspective and worldview."

According to reports that began popping up on the Web over the weekend, the network was scheduled to launch this summer on Comcast's on-demand platform. Those stories quoted an overview posted on the RightNetwork Web site that said RightNetwork's partners included Comcast, the country's largest cable provider. The information has since been taken off the site.

The new network's online overview still includes a statement from Ed Snider, the chairman of Comcast-Spectacor (a division of Comcast), in which he says: "We're creating a welcoming place for millions and millions of Americans who've been looking for an entertainment network and media channel that reflects their point-of-view. RightNetwork will be the perfect platform to entertain, inform and connect with the American majority about what's right in the world."

Comcast, which is now trying to get government approval of its purchase of NBC Universal, insisted in a statement Monday that "reports that Comcast is an investor in, or partner of the RightNetwork are inaccurate."

"We have no partnership with this venture and have no plans to launch or distribute the network," the company continued, noting it had met with the network's reps "as we have done with hundreds of other content providers."

Snider is a backer of the network, a Comcast rep explained to The TV Column. His involvement is "personal," the rep added.

The site also includes a testimonial from actor-producer Kelsey Grammer, best known for playing Dr. Frasier Crane on "Cheers" and "Frasier" on NBC, and more recently, playing a titan of industry who suddenly finds himself out of work and almost out of money on this season's short-lived ABC sitcom "Hank."

Grammer is an investor in the new network, according to his spokesman.

RightNetwork president and COO Kevin McFeeley told The TV Column Monday the network has no distribution deal with Comcast.

The information those Web reports cited was taken from an internal document, explained McFeeley, who put his general counsel on the phone when speaking to us. Comcast's name had been included as an example of a cable distributor, McFeeley said.

"RightNetwork is filling a big gap with entertainment programs that combine compelling content with a perspective we don't generally get from the media," Grammer says in his testimonial.

Grammer cut a promo for the network that you can still view on its site, and he introduces video of three series in development.

A reality series called "Running," Grammer says, "puts you right in the middle of the action as six rookie candidates make a run for their political lives."

One candidate says he's running against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); another says he's running for the "congressional seat currently infested by Henry Waxman (D-Calif)."

"Right to Laugh" is "a comedy show that proves funny people and funny things come from both sides of the aisle," Grammer says.

"I did not vote for Obama, but I did order one of those Obama coins they were advertising on TV, because any collector will tell you a coin is worth a lot more when there is an obvious mistake on it," one comic says in the clip.

"Politics & Poker" is "a new series that mixes entertainers, pundits, cards and politics. Turns out, they go together perfectly," Grammer says.

"And we have President Obama. Is he going to get a second term? Or is this a one-time deal?" asks Guy No. 1, seated at a table where a poker game is in progress.

"My entire business model is built upon how horrible a president Barack Obama is," says Guy No. 2.

A women enters the screen, bearing a plate of itty-bitty hotdog/sausage snack food thinggummies: "The ones on the right are pigs in a blanket. The ones on the left are tofu in a sleeping bag," she says.

"Let's make it gay marriage plus vulgarity and see how we can, like, walk the fine line without getting in trouble," Guy No. 2 says later, apropos of we were not sure what.

"Speaking of gay marriage, are we done with our weiners?" the woman asks.

Monday, while speaking to Grammer, we noted that Comcast may be particularly sensitive about having been linked in news reports to the RightNetwork because it is in the middle of getting government approval of its NBC Universal purchase.

"Ahh -- and who's in control of Congress right now," mused Grammer who, the night before, had opened to rave reviews in the Broadway revival of "La Cage Aux Folles," playing a gay nightclub owner in a committed relationship with a drag queen.

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