George Zimmerman sued NBC on Thursday, alleging that the network defamed him when it edited the recording of his 911 call to police about the death of Trayvon Martin — to make Zimmerman sound like a “racist and predatory villain” for the sake of ratings.
“NBC News saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain,” Zimmerman said in the complaint, filed Thursday in Seminole County, Fla., near Orlando.
In February, Zimmerman shot to death the unarmed Martin, 17, during a confrontation. During the 911 call, Zimmerman explained that he had followed Martin in a gated community in which Zimmerman was a neighborhood-watch volunteer.
In the recording heard by NBC viewers, Zimmerman seemed to say without prompting: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”
Edited out was the 911 dispatcher asking Zimmerman whether the person he was suspicious of was “black, white or Hispanic.”
NBC “pounced on the Zimmerman/Martin matter because [the network] knew this tragedy could be, with proper sensationalization and manipulation, a racial powderkeg that would result in months, if not years, of topics for their failing news programs, particularly the plummeting ratings for their ailing ‘Today Show,’ ” the suit alleges.
Zimmerman is seeking an undisclosed amount of money in the lawsuit, which also names as defendants the NBC correspondents Ron Allen and Lilia Rodriguez Luciano, as well as Jeff Burnside, a reporter for the NBC-owned station in Miami.
Luciano, Burnside and an NBC producer were fired after a network investigation determined that the 911 tape had been edited.
“We strongly disagree with the accusations made in the complaint,” NBC Universal said Thursday afternoon in a statement, adding: “There was no intent to portray Mr. Zimmerman unfairly. We intend to vigorously defend our position in court.”
CBS will deploy its utility comedy “Rules of Engagement” in the time slot of the canceled freshman comedy “Partners”: Mondays at 8:30 p.m., starting Feb. 4. And the future of the network’s other new comedy, “Friend Me,” is up in the air after the October death of one of its creators.
Among CBS’s other midseason announcements Thursday, the new cop drama “Golden Boy” is getting the time slot of the canceled “Made in Jersey”: Fridays at 9 p.m., starting March 8. “Golden Boy” will first warm up with two Tuesday outings in “Vegas’s” 10 p.m. time slot, where it will have the lead-in power of the “NCIS” franchise at its back, on Feb. 26 and March 5. (“Vegas” returns March 12.)
“Golden Boy” is about the meteoric rise of an ambitious cop named Walter Clark Jr. The character is played by Theo James, who — yes — played dashing Turkish diplomat Kemal Pamuk in an episode of “Downton Abbey” (the guy who seduced Lady Mary Crawley, eldest daughter of Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, then inconsiderately died in her bed).
But back to CBS: Clark Jr. becomes the youngest police commissioner in the history of New York City. The series explores the high personal and professional cost that he pays to get the gig, mentored by a veteran detective (Chi McBride).
Conceding the Friday time slot is “CSI: NY,” which will have its season finale Feb. 22.
In its midseason announcements, CBS made no mention of its freshman comedy “Friend Me” — a fish-out-of-water show about two guys who move from Bloomington, Ind., to Los Angeles to work for Groupon.
“Friend Me” was one of two new comedies for this TV season that CBS unveiled to advertisers in May. The future of “Friend Me” was thrown into doubt in October with the death of co-creator Alan Kirschenbaum (“Yes, Dear,” “My Name Is Earl,” “Dear John,” “Coach”). CBS has not made a statement about the fate of the midseason show, which was to have been produced by CBS Television Studios.
Elsewhere, the spring rounds are set for “Survivor” (Feb. 13) and “Amazing Race” (Feb. 17).
The body of “Jersey Shore” hasn’t even been laid to rest, and MTV has already scheduled its replacement.
MTV announced Thursday that three weeks after it plows “Jersey Shore” under, it will premiere a suspiciously similar docu-soap about BFFs who “dream big, love hard and hustle even harder.”
Only this time, they’ll do so in the “vibrant and diverse New York neighborhood of Washington Heights,” at the north end of Manhattan.
While the “Jersey Shore” gang was all about gym, tan and laundry, the nine best friends of “Washington Heights” are all about fashion, music, baseball — and poetry? These are the BFFs:
●JP, a.k.a. Audubon, dreams of making it big in hip-hop — while living at home with his mom.
●Reyna is a fiery diva and budding singer.
●Frankie is little in stature but has a “big personality” and “boy-crazy tendencies”; she acts tough and is always ready with the snappy one-liners, MTV said.
●Ludwin — whom Frankie has the hots for — dreams of a career as an artist. It’s like a Bronte tragedy.
●Jimmy wants to play pro baseball, and his father is finishing a seven-year stint in prison. Meanwhile, his BFFs don’t like his girlfriend, budding fashion designer Eliza, because she’s an outsider — from New Jersey.
●Rico also lives at home with his mom, and he can’t decide whether he wants to be a model or an actor.
●Meanwhile, Fred (elder brother of Rico) is hustling to make it in the fashion industry.
●And, finally, Taylor looks like a preppy cheerleader but is “Heights to the core.”
“The show celebrates their friendship, neighborhood pride and mutual support as they make their mark — even when the challenges are great,” MTV exec VP Chris Linn said Thursday. “We are optimistic that the stories of this incredibly appealing cast will connect with our audience in a deep and meaningful way.”
Translation: “Ratings! Ratings! Ratings!” “Washington Heights” debuts Jan. 9.