Remember how the broadcast networks explained that they would cover only three hours of each of the four-day Democratic and Republican conventions because they are nothing more than infomercials out of which no real news comes?
This is why it's perhaps unfortunate that, just one short week after the close of the Democratic National Convention in Boston, both ABC News and CBS News will devote portions of their Friday newsmagazines to infomercials for products in which the networks have a financial interest.
Let's start with ABC News, which tonight on "20/20" will interview "the latest reality star" Victoria Gotti "about her hot new television show, 'Growing Up Gotti.' " Gotti, who also will discuss raising her three sons as a single mom -- they also star in "Growing Up Gotti" -- is the daughter of mobster John Gotti. Her show debuted this week to 3.2 million viewers, which, although not a number that will rewrite history books, is the biggest series debut in cable network A&E's 20-year history.
ABC is one of the owners of A&E.
Now on to CBS News, which tonight on "48 Hours" will speak to Yoanna House, who dreamed as a child of becoming a model. House is worth devoting a segment of "48 Hours" to because she developed a regimen that helped her lose 60 pounds. And if that isn't interesting enough, she then tried out for the UPN reality series "America's Next Top Model" and was one of 12 women chosen from 8,000 applicants to participate.
"Does House have what it takes to be the top model?" CBS News asks in its news release.
CBS is owned by Viacom, which also owns UPN; Leslie Moonves, who oversees CBS, including its news division, also oversees UPN.
To its credit, CBS News noted that UPN is owned by CBS's parent company. CBS has been extremely careful about noting such overlaps of interests ever since "60 Minutes" did an interview with Richard A. Clarke about his book "Against All Enemies" without noting it was published by Viacom's publishing division, Simon & Schuster. Even though "60 Minutes" Executive Producer Don Hewitt dismissed the criticism, saying something snappy like if that's the best his detractors can come up with, he'll take it.
Meanwhile, over at Fox, plans are to run a half-hour infomercial -- the same length as the speech given by former president Bill Clinton at the Democratic convention -- for the 20th Century Fox movie "Alien vs. Predator" on Thursday.
Fox and 20th Century Fox are both owned by News Corp. Hosted by the flick's star, Lance Henriksen, the "special," Fox says, will include "an exclusive behind-the-scenes peek at the new 20th Century Fox film," which, in one of those happy coincidences, opens the very next day. Better yet, this infomercial will contain commercial breaks. Which means you, the viewers, can experience commercials within a commercial.
Of course, Fox has no dog in the convention-coverage feud between the broadcast networks and political parties because the Fox broadcast network has no news division. And Fox's sister network, cable's Fox News Channel, was all over the convention, knowing full well what a great backdrop the conventions make for its talking heads.
We think Tim Russert has found a surefire way to get more viewers for his weekend CNBC show.
Book Bill O'Reilly as a guest with fill-in-the-blank from the New York Times.
Fox News Channel's chief talking head was invited to "chat" with Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and author of "The Great Unraveling," after one of the "Tim Russert Show" producers learned that O'Reilly had issued a challenge to any New York Times reporter or columnist to engage in a debate with him.
"Eureka!" we're sure this producer must have shouted -- at least in his or her head -- knowing that Krugman was scheduled to appear on Russert's CNBC show anyway this weekend to discuss his book. The producer offered Krugman the opportunity to be that person; he agreed, a show rep assured the TV Column.
According to a transcript of their "conversation," a copy of which was given to the TV Column, it was everything you'd expect.
O'Reilly called Krugman a "quasi-socialist"; Krugman called that "slander" and said if he is a quasi-socialist then O'Reilly is a "quasi-murderer"; O'Reilly pronounced Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" a bit of "Nazi propaganda" that reinforced all of Krugman's "paranoid delusions"; Krugman insisted Moore's flick was "flawed" but was made by "a guy who really does love this country"; Russert hardly got a word in edgewise; and a good time was had by all. One of those exchanges that make you so proud to be a journalist.
During their give and take -- okay, maybe it's more accurate to say push and shove, or slap and smack -- O'Reilly would periodically accuse Krugman of not letting him get in a sentence, or words to that effect.
So we counted and, according to The Washington Post TV Team Transcript Tally, O'Reilly actually got in 321 sentences during the "debate," to Krugman's 258.
Remember when Oprah was going to do her daytime gabber only a couple of years into this millennium? And then she changed her mind and said she'd do it only through 2008? Well, she has cried wolf again, this time signing up to do the show through 2011.
In a news release from Oprah's Harpo production company and Viacom-owned King World, which distributes the show, Oprah said she decided to extend her cutoff date because "the thought of taking the show to its 25th anniversary is both exhilarating and challenging" and because "the years ahead will allow me to continue to grow along with my viewers and will give my production company the time and opportunity to use the show as a launching pad to create and develop additional projects and potential future shows."
Personally, we think it's because she finally started reading Leo Tolstoy's 838-page novel "Anna Karenina," the latest book she has picked for her Oprah's Book Club reading list, and has come to the realization that it will take her the three extra years to get through it.
Lucky she didn't pick Tolstoy's "War and Peace," which comes in at a denser 1,472 pages, or we might have learned today that she'd re-signed through 2020.