NBC has broadcast its first man-to-man, mouth-to-mouth kiss--and it wasn't on the sitcom "Will & Grace."
It was on the "Today" show yesterday morning.
It came during one of those segments when a camera and a "personality"--in this case Al Roker--head outside the Rockefeller Center studio to mingle with the little people. There in the crowd was a guy holding a sign that said "Will U Marry Me Jill?"
"Today" can't resist those signs; it's like throwing raw meat to piranhas.
So Roker ambles over to get the story from Sign Guy. Sign Guy tells Roker that he wants to tell Jill--and, apparently, America--he loves her and to ask her to marry him. Then Sign Guy turns and gives a big fat wet one right on the kisser to the person standing right next to him, who definitely wasn't Jill.
"We've been planning it for months," "Today" Executive Producer Jeff Zucker joked when phoned about the incident.
"Live TV is never dull," he added.
This would seem to take some of the oomph out of the will-he-won't-he sexual tension that the network has been trying to build this summer about its prime-time sitcom "Will & Grace."
Women kissing women has been positively done to death on network TV, going back as far as "L.A. Law." That didn't stop conservative groups from getting their knickers in a knot when Roseanne had her famous kiss with Mariel Hemingway on Roseanne's ABC sitcom of same name. And Ellen DeGeneres became the first TV star to come out at the same time as her TV character, in spring '97. (That episode did not include a kiss, but the show went on to feature a number of female kissing scenes.)
But guy kissing is another matter altogether. "Will & Grace's" gay title character saw no action for the entire first season. He was recovering from a recently ended long-term relationship, the show explained. (But so was Grace, and you didn't see that stop her from getting lip-locked with a string of guys last season.) Many newspapers recently carried an interview with Eric McCormack, who plays Will, in which he says he hopes season No. 2 will include a historic man-to-man kiss and that it'll be with someone along the lines of a Brad Pitt.
Unfortunately, Sign Guy beat him to the punch.
Called for comment yesterday, "Will & Grace" co-creator David Kohan says he's considering whether to take legal action against "Today" for stealing their storyline.
Asked his thoughts, the sitcom's other creator, Max Mutchnick, responded, "I feel sorry for Jill."
"Duck Tales" and "NBA Inside Stuff" are not educational programs--they just play them on TV, according to the latest study on children's television out from the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
The center, which has tracked kids' TV since 1996, says there were 12 percent more shows for kids in the 1998-99 TV season than the previous season. But much confusion remains about what constitutes kids' educational programming, and 21 percent of programs that have been earmarked educational in fact offer little or no such value, according to the study, which looked at both broadcast and cable television.
Federal rules that took effect in 1997 require TV stations to air at least three hours of educational programming each week, and they must be clearly labeled.
According to one of the study's authors, some stations listed such shows as "Duck Tales" and "Hercules" to satisfy the educational needs of children, even though syndicators and networks claimed they were not designed for that purpose. The report also noted that some NBC stations continue to use "NBA Inside Stuff" to meet their educational quota even though it contains "very little in the way of educational content."
In addition, most of the educational programming, the study notes, relies on "pro-social" messages to qualify under that three-hour minimum, though proponents of the three-hour rule intended that qualifying shows would reinforce school lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic, for example. About 21 percent of shows designed to meet the quota were only "minimally educational," the study claimed. On the other hand, one-third of the shows classified as educational under federal guidelines were "highly educational," the study concluded.
And, good news for Al Gore: More kids age 10-17 recognized the Simpsons (91.3 percent) than the vice president (63 percent). That's good news because they can't vote.
Kids spend an average of more than four hours a day in front of a screen of some kind, watching TV, playing video games or using a computer, and 48 percent have TV sets in their bedrooms, says the study, which covered 1,269 parents of kids 2-17 years of age and about 300 of their offspring between the ages of 10 and 17.
Once again, Catherine Crier has made way for Paula Zahn. Fox News Channel is developing a one-hour news and interview show for Zahn, which will replace "The Crier Report" in the network's weeknight 10 o'clock time slot. Crier announced last week she's vacating FNC to join Court TV.
Fox execs plan to debut the show in late August. It will be more oriented toward breaking news than the feature-oriented "Crier Report."
Zahn, who left CBS earlier this year, will continue to anchor the cable news network's 7 p.m. newscast, "The Fox Report," which she took over in March, replacing Crier and Jon Scott. The audience for that show has grown 179 percent since Zahn took over--from an average of 72,000 viewers during the second quarter of '98 to 201,000 viewers in the same quarter of '99. Fox News topper Roger Ailes says he expects Zahn to do the same for the 10 p.m. slot.
CAPTION: Eric McCormack, still unbussed. "Today" may have preempted "Will & Grace's" kiss.