NBC has promised the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith that it will never rebroadcast a recent "Saturday Night Live" sketch in which cast members, pretending to be pop stars, say that Jews own all the banks and that Christians have forgiven them for "killing our Lord."
At least that's what NBC said last Friday in a letter. Yesterday, the official peacock word was "We currently have it under review."
Meanwhile, "SNL" executive producer Lorne Michaels told The TV Column that he's vehemently opposed to any guarantee the sketch won't be run again and says that ADL "trivializes the important work they're supposed to be doing with this kind of nonsense."
The sketch aired earlier this month as part of an "SNL" sendup of the CBS special "And So This Is Christmas," which featured Celine Dion, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan and Babyface singing carols and reminiscing about their childhood holidays.
The parody was in the form of a promo for a CBS show called "And So This Is Hanukah," with "SNL" cast members and guest Christina Ricci appearing as pop stars singing fake Hanukah songs. The faux Celine Dion ("SNL" regular Ana Gasteyer) said that as a child she was told Hanukah "is a holiday celebrated by the people who own all the movie studios and the banks." And Ricci, as Britney Spears, said this time of year "we as Christians take time out to think about forgiving our Jewish friends for killing our Lord."
Rosalyn Weinman, NBC's head of broadcast content policy, assured the ADL in a letter last Friday (a copy of which the ADL sent to The TV Column): "We have decided that a portion of the sketch, featuring the parodies of Britney Spears, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion, was problematic and therefore will be excised from all future broadcasts."
That was in response to a Dec. 7 letter from ADL National Director Abraham Foxman blasting the bit as representing "anti-Semitic stereotypes at their worst."
"To have Spears refer to forgiving Jews 'for having killed our Lord' is no laughing matter," he wrote. "We have worked with the Vatican and others for the last fifty years to educate against this poisonous doctrine and for SNL, in a lame attempt at humor, to revive this notion is unacceptable."
Foxman urged NBC to scrap the skit from reruns because some viewers, "rather than dismiss the words, will nod in approval."
After 25 years, Michaels countered, people know that "SNL" is a satire. "What satire is supposed to do is provoke discussion," he told The TV Column.
"We're not pro-drugs, but we make jokes about drugs; we're not pro-ignorance, but we make jokes about ignorance, and the only way you can do it is by showing ignorance.
"The idea that any discussion of these ideas is out of bounds is idiotic to me," he said.
Oh noooooo! "Time & Again," which was breeding like a bunny on the MSNBC cable network, is now creeping into the local NBC affiliate's lineup.
WRC Channel 4 is using "Time & Again" as filler--isn't everybody?--until it can debut its "Sunset Beach" replacement. That little-watched soap fades into the sunset here on the last day of 1999.
It's being replaced Jan. 10 by "The Ainsley Harriott Show," which is billed by NBC as a talk-cooking show. It will air at 11 a.m., followed by "Queen Latifah," which is being moved to noon on the 10th. But Jan. 3-7, "Latifah" will stick at 11 a.m., followed by "Time & Again" each day.
The Jane Pauley-hosted "Time & Again" repackages clips from the NBC News archives into feature reports about newsmakers past and present. MSNBC has used it a lot across its schedule. The week of Dec. 6-12, MSNBC telecast it 12 times. At its peak--the first week of July--MSNBC ran it 59 times.
Chef Harriott is a Londoner well known to British TV fans as the host of cooking shows; he's also done the comedy circuit in that country and was half of the Calypso Twins musical duo. Back in September, NBC cut a deal with Disney-owned Buena Vista TV to pick up a new Merv Griffin- produced Harriott show to fill the hour for "Sunset Beach," which seemed headed for the scrap heap.
Oh boy, another court show!
This time, former California prosecutor James Curtis is trading in respectability for a chance to make some hefty coin. He's been pitching himself as a legalese talking head on TV; you may have seen him on ABC's "World News Tonight," NBC's "Dateline," MSNBC's "Internight" or CNBC's "Rivera Live."
His new show, "Curtis Court," is being forged for next fall by game show giant King World, making its first stab at the genre.
Curtis toiled 10 years as a prosecutor before stepping down this year. He continues to sit on the California Bar Association board.
No dance numbers and Billy Crystal back as host. What more could you ask for in an Academy Awards broadcast? Crystal confirmed he'll host ABC's live broadcast of the 72nd Oscars show March 26 from Los Angeles. It'll mark his seventh stint on the movie industry's premier trophy show.
Crystal hosted the broadcast for four years beginning in 1990. After a three-year hiatus, he returned to host in 1997 and 1998.
He's been rewarded with three Primetime Emmys for his writing and hosting of the show, and critics also seem to like him better than Whoopi Goldberg, whose bluish jokes as host earned her mixed reviews. David Letterman's 1995 gig was so heavily panned he's still cracking self-effacing jokes about it on his CBS late-night show.
Virginia Moseley, interim executive producer on ABC's "This Week With Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts" since Dorrance Smith exited in September, has been named permanent EP.
Moseley, 37, had served since '94 as "This Week" senior producer, which put her in charge of guest booking and the show's actual production.
The dominant Sunday Beltway show when David Brinkley reigned over it, "This Week" has forfeited 25 percent of its audience since his retirement in '97. This quarter, NBC's "Meet the Press With Tim Russert" has at times enjoyed a 90 percent ratings edge over "This Week." Also this quarter, CBS's "Face the Nation" twice topped "This Week" in viewers and adults 25-54--the demographic on which most news programming is sold to advertisers--for the first time in more than a decade.
Moseley is a 10-year veteran of CBS News, where she was a producer in the Washington bureau.