Warner Bros. TV has stepped up to the tune of $27 million to persuade Eriq La Salle to return to "ER" for three more years.
La Salle was to leave the show at the end of this coming season, as will Julianna Margulies and Gloria Reuben. But after George Clooney's exit resulted in the loss of about 5 million viewers last season, the suits at Warner Bros. and NBC were understandably anxious to stop the show's outgoing flow of talent.
The "all Eriq La Salle" episode of "ER"--which aired the week after Clooney's swan-song episode in February--was the last time the doc drama saw an audience of 30 million until its season finale in May.
And La Salle was one of few actors that NBC West Coast President Scott Sassa could fall back on when he came under fire at the summer TV press tour for not delivering on his promise to increase minority representation on his network's prime-time schedule.
Shortly thereafter, WB Television persuaded La Salle to change his mind with the whopping salary hike as well as a better deal for his production company, which is based at the studio.
So now three key original cast members, including Anthony Edwards and Noah Wyle, have been locked in for a few more seasons. The actors are lined up for one year after the end of NBC's current pact with the studio for the series, for which it's paying a nose-bleedingly steep $13 million per episode.
La Salle's salary falls short of the $35 million being paid to Edwards, but it makes him one of the best-paid series actors in TV.
Why is CBS still running its Nike spoof ad when NBC has pulled its off the air?
Each network recently produced a sitcom promo that spoofs Nike's Tiger Woods commercial. The Nike ad features Woods bouncing a golf ball on a club. NBC's ad, for the new "Mike O'Malley Show," featured O'Malley bouncing a Wiffle Ball on a plastic bat. CBS's promo featured "King of Queens" lead Kevin James trying unsuccessfully to bounce a golf ball on a club, then ditching the club and tackling a golf bag. The CBS spot ends with the line "Just Watch It"--a takeoff on Nike's "Just Do It" campaign.
Nike registered its displeasure over the ads with the two networks. Nike is a big TV advertiser, with a budget of about $350 million a year, most of which is for TV. According to Nike spokesman Scott Reames, NBC agreed to yank its ad; CBS agreed only to yank the "Just Watch It" line. However, the network did agree to confer with Nike before lampooning its ads in the future.
Reames says Nike doesn't mind parodies of old ads, just new ones. "It diminishes the equity to have people 'drafting off' to do their own secondary ad. We don't mind too much the wink if it's not done on an ad we're still running, especially on the same network," he said.
NBC may have been more willing to yank its ad because it's the second time in two years it's incurred the wrath of Nike. Two years ago, it was over a Fred Savage ad for his sitcom "Working." After the athletic-wear company called the network's ad sales department to complain, the sitcom promo was canned.
Linwood Lloyd has resigned as executive vice president and chief operating officer of WETA, effective Sept. 3.
Lloyd, who has been with the public TV station since 1992, is being replaced by Joseph Widoff, WETA's senior VP for technical and support services and chief financial officer. And N. William Jarvis, WETA's senior VP for business development and general counsel, is being upped to executive vice president, reporting to Widoff. Those promotions take hold Sept. 6.
Lloyd is bowing out to create a communications consulting firm, MaineStream Media Inc., but he'll continue to work with WETA on certain business ventures, including cable projects and the station's transition to digital.
Lloyd has been responsible for management of WETA's daily operations. He developed its cable projects: Fanfare, the 24-hour classical music channel; and Forum Network, a regional public affairs channel. He joined WETA in 1992 as senior vice president for finance and chief financial officer. He had worked in senior financial management positions at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and as an analyst at the Congressional Budget Office.
Meanwhile, the station is still searching for a new moderator for its "Washington Week in Review." Paul Duke has been filling in since Ken Bode was unceremoniously dumped back in February. The station had talks with Bill Moyers about taking on the duties, sources report. But he's out of the picture now; sources say he didn't want to move back to Washington and WETA would prefer a locally based moderator.
Teya Ryan, a 10-year veteran of CNN programming and production, has been named executive vice president of CNNfn and will oversee day-to-day programming, operations and production of the financial network's 18 hours of daily business news. Ryan, who'll be based in New York, most recently was executive producer of the weekly prime-time magazine series "CNN & Fortune."
Ryan joined CNN in 1990; her resume includes a stint as vice president and executive producer of program development for CNN and CNN Productions; she created and executive-produced CNN's "TalkBack Live," which premiered in August 1994. Before joining CNN, Ryan was senior producer of the science and technology unit at Los Angeles public TV station KCET.
Suits from more than 20 television networks are among those set to meet at the White House this morning to announce a new TV and radio public service ad campaign to urge parents to talk to their kids about violence. The PSAs will include a toll-free phone number and a Web site for parents.
The PSA will be roadblocked on nearly all of the participating networks--including the broadcast networks--between 8 and 9 p.m. tomorrow. President Clinton is featured in the spots, telling TV viewers "our children need our help to deal with tough issues like violence. Please talk with your kids."
CAPTION: Gloria Reuben with Eriq La Salle, "ER's" $27 million man.