The TV Column in Friday's Style section incorrectly identified the cable TV parent of the Romance Classics network. It is AMC. (Published 11/07/99)
Don't expect many of Manhattan's beloved landmarks to survive the Big One in the CBS November sweeps miniseries "Aftershock: Earthquake in New York." The Statue of Liberty--a goner. The Brooklyn Bridge--all falls down. Times Square--bye-bye. The New York Stock Exchange--crashed. But, the producers of "Aftershock" are no dummies, so they leave standing . . . the CBS Building, which makes a cameo. "It's a well-built granite building--and a landmark," said a CBS rep by way of explaining the decision to spare the Darth Vaderesque monolith on 52nd Street, appropriately nicknamed Black Rock. The building, the last completed work of architect Eero Saarinen, was declared a New York City landmark in 1997, and is one of those pedestrian-unfriendly behemoths of which New Yorkers are so proud.
Don't count on NBC's, ABC's or Fox's New York headquarters surviving. And since the project was shot between April and July--long before the CBS-Viacom merger was announced--I wouldn't expect the Viacom building to be spared either.
Over here at The TV Column we like to encourage the telecast of programs based on classic works of literature--makes us feel less guilty about covering "WWF Smackdown!" But A&E's new Jane Austen film festival has us reconsidering this policy. More accurately, A&E's "Jane Austen Power! Film Festival," which is billed as "a super-groovy tribute to the shag-adelic 19th century scribe."
Setting aside the fact that the cable network has referred to one of the Eurocentric culture's most beloved authors as a slut, you gotta wonder what the A&E people were smoking when they decided it would be a great idea if they put on a Jane Austen festival in November, during the broadcast networks' intense sweeps derby, so that they could tie the fest to this month's video release of the flick "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me."
"We wanted to tie it into another cultural phenomenon to try and elevate Jane," said a Romance Classics exec.
What a comfort to Jane Austen fans that she'll soon be elevated by Mike Myers, former "Saturday Night Live" stand-up turned ham.
The Austen festival also coincides with this month's release of Miramax's film "Mansfield Park," based on the Austen book of the same name. The A&E Jane Austen fest runs every Sunday this month and includes BBC miniseries productions of "Mansfield Park," "Sense and Sensibility," "Emma" and "Pride and Prejudice." The "P&P" miniseries is not the BBC's most recent, featuring Colin Firth--he's the actor who ends up marrying Gwyneth Paltrow in "Shakespeare in Love"--but a BBC production from the '70s.
Film actor Kiefer Sutherland, best known as the guy who came that close to becoming the first Mr. Julia Roberts, is about to become a TV actor in the small-screen series adaptation of the flick "L.A. Confidential" for the Fox network.
Sutherland's in negotiations to play Sgt. Jack Vincennes, a role played by Kevin Spacey in the 1997 film, set in 1950s Hollywood. The series will be set several years before the movie, which earned Kim Basinger an Oscar for her supporting performance as a call girl. Fox has bought a pilot for the proposed drama series, which was first developed over at HBO. Fox has tried this once before, with the series "Action!," and look where that got the network. Sutherland, son of Donald, has made few TV appearances to date; among them, he directed and starred in the Showtime movie "Last Light."
Roberts called off her wedding to him in 1991 just days before the Hollywood-esque extravaganza was supposed to take place--over at Fox.
Fox News Channel one-upped rival MSNBC in prime time during the month of October.
Most of the cable news networks experienced viewer defection last month compared with October '98, when the Lewinsky scandal was in full flower. That's with the notable exception of FNC, which is up for the full day by a whopping 46 percent, and in prime time by 21 percent. In hard currency, however, we're looking at some pretty puny numbers here--FNC averaged 115,000 viewers for its full day and 246,000 viewers for prime time. But hey, you gotta start somewhere.
And MSNBC's numbers? An average of 128,000 viewers for the full day and 211,000 in prime time--down 15 and 12 percent, respectively. Fox News Channel and MSNBC both have enjoyed big boosts in distribution since the 10th month of '98; FNC gained 8.2 million subscribers and MSNBC 7.8 million. That makes MSNBC now available to 53 million cable homes and FNC to 42.3 million.
Even venerable CNN, which is available in 76 million U.S. homes, was down, by about 20 percent, October to October. CNN averaged 350,000 viewers for its full day of broadcasting last month and 659,000 viewers in prime time.
CNBC was No. 2 but showing red, too, with a full-day par of 295,000 watchers--minus 6 percent--and an average prime-time audience of 416,000 viewers--minus 23 percent.
Over in broadcast news, October was dominated by stories about the JonBenet Ramsey murder case. There were 19 segments on the subject on the broadcast prime-time newsmagazines, according to a document called NewsTV Reports, which tracks every story aired on broadcast TV news programs; it's put out by NewsTV Corp. in Lawrence, Kan.
That said, the NewsTV folk define as a newsmagazine not only ABC's "20/20," CBS's "48 Hours," "60 Minutes" and "60 Minutes II" and NBC's "Dateline," but also "Extra" and "Inside Edition" and what's up with that?
"Dateline" contributed the most JonBenet reports, NewsTV Reports reports. Gee, could that be because there are more "Datelines" than months ending in Y?
According to the NewsTV-ites, JonBenet Ramsey has generated so many stories since her murder in January 1997--259 and counting--that she now stands second only to Princess Di, whose death racked up 355 reports.
The Ramsey case also topped the morning news programs, which collectively logged 55 segments in October, beating the World Series's 44 segments and the Matthew Shepard murder case, with 29 segments.
CAPTION: The quake-resistant CBS Building. The other networks aren't so lucky in "Aftershock."