Because there just are no more great works of fiction, absolutely no more interesting true stories and not a single Hollywood writer with a fresh idea in his head, the poor broadcast networks are forced to double up on TV movies and miniseries this coming season.
Yes, indeed. Not one, but two "longform" projects are in the works about the Partridge family. Two networks have projects about Jesus, and two have competing rock-and-roll movies.
CBS was first to announce its Jesus program, a four-hour miniseries. NBC followed with an announcement that it had green-lighted a two-hour Jesus movie. But while CBS's mini is scheduled to air in May, NBC's is fast-tracked to air in mid-November--leading to speculation in Hollywood that the peacock network rushed the project to quash viewer interest in CBS's.
When asked about the two movies during the recent TV press tour in Pasadena, NBC West Coast President Scott Sassa, who appeared several days after CBS network topper Leslie Moonves, insisted his network started the Jesus-movie trend. "Did Les tell you he invented the Bible?" he snapped.
Undaunted, Moonves is quoted in a recent issue of Newsweek as saying, "Our Jesus is better than their Jesus."
In all fairness, it's plausible that the two networks coincidentally pursued the projects, what with the end of the millennium looming, not to mention CBS's success last season with its "Joan of Arc" miniseries and NBC's with its "Noah's Ark" miniseries.
But the Partridge family is another matter entirely. NBC announced its movie first, but it had no director, no script, no writer; what the network had was a deal with Partridge heartthrob David Cassidy. Meanwhile, ABC had Partridge movie plans of its own, including a signed director, a finished script, music rights and a production start date. The only thing it hadn't done was make an announcement. So it was upstaged--leading to speculation in Hollywood that NBC had rushed to quash a competing network's movie.
NBC's movies and miniseries division chief Lindy DeKoven says she's been interested in doing a project about Cassidy since his book "C'mon Get Happy: Fear and Loathing on the Partridge Family Bus" came out back in the early '90s.
ABC's project, meanwhile, is based on a Sony script--Sony owns the Partridge family franchise. That script has been around for years and initially got a nibble from the Fox network, which later thought better of the idea or we might have had three Partridge projects airing this coming season, which would have signaled the end of the world, not just the millennium.
Neither net has announced an air date, but ABC's movie starts shooting next week, while NBC still has no finished script, so it's likely ABC will beat it to the air. (Both networks had very successful rock-based long-form projects this past season: NBC's "The 60's" (22.5 million viewers) and "The Temptations" (22.1 million) and ABC's "The Sonny and Cher Story" (18 million).)
But wait, there's more.
CBS earlier this year announced it was going to do a four-hour rock-and-roll miniseries called "Shake, Rattle and Roll." Some time later, NBC announced it would broadcast a two-hour movie, "Mr. Rock 'n' Roll: The Alan Freed Story." CBS has scheduled its rock mini for Nov. 7 and 10. NBC's is airing in mid-October, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Proving once and for all that, as comedian Fred Allen said back in the '40s, imitation is the sincerest form of television.
Barney is not happy.
A federal judge has ruled against Lyons Partnership, which licenses Barney products and had accused a costume company of renting and selling purple, Barneylike costumes under different names.
Lyons sought an injunction preventing Morris Costumes from renting or selling the costumes, as well as $300,000 for infringement of its copyright.
A U.S. District Court judge in Charlotte, N.C., ruled that the Duffy the Dragon costume didn't infringe on Barney's copyright, but two other costumes did because they were more similar to the grinning, six-foot-tall, purple dinosaur who sings and dances for preschoolers on the PBS show "Barney and Friends." He did not enjoin the company, however, noting that Morris Costumes had stopped marketing its Hillary and Purple Dino costumes.
The judge ruled that Morris Costumes didn't infringe willfully, so Lyons couldn't collect damages in its 1997 lawsuit, the Associated Press reports.
Lyons says it plans to sue at least 700 costume shops and other retailers in 20 states because Barney's image may be tarnished if people wearing the costumes are seen smoking, drinking or swearing. In fact, says Lyons spokeswoman Kelly Lane, newspapers already have printed photographs of someone in a bogus Barney suit smoking a cigarette.
Jay Bilas, the lawyer who helped represent Morris Costumes, said he has no beef with Barney. But he called Barney's friends at Lyons "bullies."
Two months after announcing plans for a new cable network targeting women, Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting System has pulled the plug.
"TBS Inc. has decided that it is not in our best interest or the best interest of our affiliates to actively pursue the creation of the Women's Network at this time," the Time Warner division said in a statement. The company said the project is "on hold," but sources say it's unlikely it will ever be off hold.
TBS says it will instead devote the resources to two networks it has in development--a cartoon channel and a regional Southeastern channel--as well as promotion for its newer networks, including Turner Classic Movies and CNN-Sports Illustrated.
The Women's Network, which had been in development for a year, would have been the second of its kind to take on the Lifetime cable channel. Months earlier, cable TV veteran Geraldine Laybourne announced she was starting up a cable channel for women called Oxygen, in partnership with Oprah Winfrey and the Carsey-Werner production company, creator of such shows as "Roseanne," "The Cosby Show," "Cosby" and "3rd Rock From the Sun." Oxygen has since won backing from several major investors, including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
When the Women's Network was announced, TBS said it would include participation of two magazine publishers, Time Inc.--also part of Time Warner--and Conde Nast, publisher of Mademoiselle, Vogue and Glamour, among other magazines.