Can't wait for Fox News Channel to bring you wall-to-wall coverage of the next national calamity? Not to worry. Fox's sister entertainment network, the Fox Broadcasting Co., is working right now on re-creating one for you.
The News Corp.-owned broadcast network is developing a special in which it would crash a real 747 jumbo jet--live--somewhere in the California or Arizona desert. Of course the program would be gussied up like a news-you-can-use public service broadcast about airline safety, and called "Jumbo Jet Crash Live: The Ultimate Safety Test." But Fox's specials specialist, Mike Darnell, knows a bang-up ratings-getter when he sees one. "I mean, are you going to watch 'Friends' or a jumbo jet crash?" he is quoted as saying in this week's issue of TV Guide.
Yes, the folks at Fox are so excited about this idea that news of it somehow got to the News Corp.-owned TV Guide, and an advance of that TV Guide column somehow got to the News Corp.-owned New York Post newspaper, which ran a big story on it Friday.
Network suits insist there was no synergy here. In fact, they don't seem happy that this news got out at all. Why? Because the Federal Aviation Administration has gone into a tailspin over the report.
The FAA is particularly heated over Darnell telling TV Guide--which told the New York Post--that a deal is in the works to get the FAA's approval on the crash, which he says "is the kind of test the FAA does periodically" in which three trained pilots get a plane up into the air and then "bail out before the crash." And the broadcast won't literally be live, Darnell assures TV Guide, but will be delayed by a couple of seconds so that the network itself can bail out "in case anybody dies."
"They have never come to us for this, and we would not work with Fox or anyone else on something like this," an FAA spokeswoman said Friday--emphatically.
"Absolutely not," she responded when asked if the FAA periodically tests planes by having pilots go airborne, then parachute to safety before the crash. When the FAA tests planes, she explained, it hauls a fuselage into the air and drops it. Years ago, tests were conducted in which aircraft were actually crashed, but they were remote-controlled, she added. The FAA would never put pilots in a plane in order to crash it and "we certainly wouldn't give anybody approval to do it," she said with gusto.
The Fox network, meanwhile, issued a statement Friday saying that the project was "in the early stages of discussion" and that "formal sanction by either the network or the FAA has yet to be pursued."
"A venture of this nature would not move forward without such approval," Fox spokesman Tom Tyrer added.
And Darnell? He was in his office Friday, but would not be available for comment, a Fox network rep said.
The children of America were drawn to the debut of "WWF Smackdown!" Thursday night. About 1.2 million kids between the ages of 2 and 11 tuned in to the street-fighting-in-a-ring show that aired from 8 to 10 p.m. on UPN. The fledgling network actually won the night among children--beating ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, as well as WB.
Only 265,000 tykes watched CBS's good old NFL preseason football from 8 to 11 p.m. the same night. But football snared 3 million viewers 55 or older; "Smackdown!" averaged just 495,000 in that age bracket.
Armed with babes, "Smackdown!" came within an inch of tackling football's total audience of 6.8 million. The show's total haul of 6.2 million was its biggest Thursday audience ever.
HBO captured a leading 16 Primetime Emmys Saturday, paving the way for a potential big win at the main event on Sept. 12.
More than 60 trophies in the Primetime Emmys' "creative arts" categories were handed out in Pasadena Saturday night. Statuettes went to stylists, designers, cinematographers, editors and other behind-the-scenes professionals in the TV industry.
Also named were guest-acting winners, with Mel Brooks honored for his role as Uncle Phil on NBC's defunct "Mad About You," Tracey Ullman for her therapist role on Fox's "Ally McBeal," Edward Herrmann for guesting on ABC's "The Practice" and Debra Monk for her appearance on ABC's "NYPD Blue."
Though HBO claimed 16 wins at the preliminary ceremony, its heavily nominated drama series "The Sopranos" nailed just two: casting and single-camera editing.
The cable net's other wins were spread among many projects, including "Winchell" (cinematography for a miniseries or movie), "The Canterbury Tales" (animation), "Thug Life in D.C." (best nonfiction special) and "Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth" (picture editing).
Nonetheless, Saturday's wins demonstrated that the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has fully embraced cable into the once broadcast-only Emmy competition, which could bode well for "The Sopranos" on awards night. The mob drama is this year's most nominated program. NBC's star-studded movie "Alice in Wonderland" was the most honored show, with four wins, including special effects, best costume design, makeup and music composition.
PBS's "American Experience" and "American Masters" were both honored as best nonfiction series, in one of several races that had more than one winner. And the net's "Dance in America: A Hymn for Alvin Ailey" picked up the win for best choreography.
Discovery Channel's "Why Dogs Smile & Chimpanzees Cry" went home with the sound editing trophy, as did National Geographic's NBC special "Avalanche: The White Death."