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IN THE KNOW / A LOOK AT THE WEEK AHEAD

Will Emmy Ratings Be as Easy as ABC?

September 02, 1996|Times staff writers and contributors

Television will be all dressed up in its finest Sunday, but whether the industry will have anywhere to go from a ratings standpoint remains to be seen. Viewing of the Emmy Awards has been in a bit of a funk since 1987, when the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which presents the awards, couldn't resist the big bucks offered by a then-fledgling Fox network and made a deal that began a six-year run there. The ceremony's share of prime-time audience quickly dropped from an average 33% from 1982-86 to just 16% over the next four years, becoming something of an embarrassment to the academy, which watched other televised award shows surpass its own exercise in self-congratulation. Since then the program's share has climbed back into the 20s and the academy agreed to a four-year broadcast deal rotating among all the networks. Even so, viewing dipped to a five-year low last year on Fox, and network levels in general have been on a downward track throughout the summer. ABC, which televises the event this year, and the academy hope popular shows and big-name stars (Paul Reiser hosts, with Michael J. Fox and Oprah Winfrey helping out) will return some Nielsen luster to the Emmy statue. . . . There could be a slightly uncomfortable moment when the Emmy is handed out for supporting actress in a miniseries or special. Among the nominees is Kathy Bates for her scathing portrayal of Helen Kushnick in "The Late Shift," HBO's account of "The Tonight Show" succession battle. Kushnick--Jay Leno's former manager, who was eventually ousted as executive producer of the NBC talk show--died of cancer last Wednesday. Other nominees in the category are Greta Scacchi, Diana Scarwid, Mare Winningham and Alfre Woodard.

Imus, a Little Too Early in the Morning

You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to be shocked by Don Imus--at least if you're planning to watch him on MSNBC. The New York-based syndicated jock begins his television experiment Tuesday when three hours of his radio show, "Imus in the Morning," will be broadcast live weekdays on the cable outlet. But, because MSNBC has only one satellite feed, Imus will be seen here from 3 to 6 a.m. Hey, who wants to get up that early to watch a radio show? (NBC plans a West Coast feed to be instituted next year.) Like his New York counterpart Howard Stern, parts of whose shows are seen daily on E! Entertainment Television, Imus is simply allowing cameras to be brought into the studio to chronicle his irreverent, sometimes bawdy skewering of politics and culture. It is, literally, radio with not very interesting pictures, a notion that Imus has himself been ridiculing on-air ever since the deal was announced. (Of course, he's laughing all the way to the bank.) Stern's show, however, is taped and edited into half-hour segments that are broadcast later the same day. Imus' show will be seen live, providing opportunities for the often risque Imus and his cohorts to offend viewers. When the show was announced in July, Imus said he would not tone down his act for TV. And NBC News President Andrew Lack said MSNBC's emphasis is on "taking some risks" and he didn't think the network was "rolling the dice." As for us, we'd just as soon be shocked, insulted or disgusted a little later when "Imus in the Morning" is broadcast--delayed, of course--from 5 to 10 a.m. on KLAC-AM (570).

Maybe Lisa Marie Will Kiss Pee-wee

MTV's "Video Music Awards" telecast isn't really about videos or awards. It's about exposure. Because of the cable channel's huge influence on the young record-buying audience, the show each year is able to attract the cream of the rock and rap worlds. It's why Beck, whose 1994 "Loser" is one of the most celebrated singles of the '90s, would agree to do something as silly as perform from the roof of a moving bus that will carry him down Manhattan's 6th Avenue to Wednesday's show at Radio City Music Hall. Not any bus, mind you, but MTV's "Choose or Lose" bus, which has been traveling around the country all year--without Beck on top--promoting voter awareness. Hoping to attract attention in more conventional ways will be a virtual battle of the bands among the evening's performers, who will include Alanis Morissette, Metallica, Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, the Fugees, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Hootie & the Blowfish and the ever-present KISS. Serving as host is smirk-meister Dennis Miller, who's sure to offer some off-the-cuff commentary. But usually the show's most talked-about moment is a surprise feature. Among memorable past highlights: Pee-wee Herman's first professional appearance after his arrest on lewd conduct and a show-opening smooch between then-newlyweds Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley.

Uh, Lisa Marie, Don't Expect Any Postcards

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