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IN THE KNOW / A LOOK AT THE WEEK AHEAD

On 'Jerry': Movies That Sleep With TV

November 23, 1998

Ashley Holbrook never expected to be in a movie like this. One minute, he's working the video camera during auditions for the new Jerry Springer film, "Ringmaster." The next, he lands a part as a character named Willie after stepping out from behind the camera to read for the part. But Holbrook is not the only unlikely actor in this $4-million independent production directed by Neil Abramson. The biggest is Springer himself. TV viewers know him as the host of America's most popular and controversial talk fest, the "Jerry Springer Show." Now, Springer stars as a fictional host of the not-so-fictional "The Jerry Show," where incest, adultery and love triangles are never taboo. In real life, Springer has cultivated a cult following--and legions of critics--by getting his lowbrow guests to air their own dirty laundry in public, sometimes to the point of duking it out on stage. The film, however, seeks to delve deeper into the lives of such guests, whether it's the mother who seduces her daughter's fiance or the woman who catches her boyfriend taking a roll in the hay with her best friend. But will followers of the real "Jerry Springer Show" want to pay $8 to see a fictional "Jerry Springer"-like show? Artisan Entertainment thinks so. The Santa Monica-based distributor plans to release "Ringmaster" in 1,300 to 1,500 theaters over the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Amir Malin, Artisan's New York-based president, said the company believes Springer has built-in name identification, plus his show is popular with key demographic audiences. "In looking at Jerry's TV audience and the people who buy his videotapes, we realized he has great strength in the black community, Hispanic community, in college towns and in blue-collar areas," Malin said. He stressed that the R-rated film is not a documentary. "It's a comedy," he said. "To that extent, what you want people to do is leave the TV show at the door of the theater and walk on in." But, please, no fighting at the box office ticket line.

Tuned In to Super Tuesday's Final Tallies

This is the week executives throughout the music industry will get a good idea about whether they are in for a green Christmas. The dust is settling from the retail explosion last week known as "Super Tuesday"--the big day when a flurry of major albums hit the stores for the make-or-break holiday season--and this Wednesday is when the sales totals arrive, providing answers to some tantalizing questions. Did Garth Brooks' "Double Live" become the first album ever to sell 1 million copies in its first week? Answer: A good chance, according to retailers around the country. The real suspense, they say, is who'll finish second. How about such blockbuster acts as Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Jewel? A better bet might be Method Man, the most celebrated member of rap's always hot Wu-Tang Clan, who appears to have racked up big sales with "Tical 2000: Judgment Day." And there's also the first solo album in five years from another rapper, Ice Cube. "It's a fight for spots two, three and four on the chart, but Method Man outsold Garth at our stores, so I think he'll get it," said Scott Levin, marketing director of Musicland, the largest music specialty store chain. And who sold better than expected? Offspring's "Americana" is "an extremely pleasant surprise," Levin said, and may be among the top five sellers for the week.

Networks Finish Sweeps Race With Jockeys

The networks are racing toward Wednesday's November sweeps finish line with NBC clinging to narrow ratings leads over CBS in total audience and over Fox in the demographic segment that most directly translates into profitability. To ride that horse-racing metaphor a little farther, both NBC and Fox also close the sweeps with new jockeys in the saddle, with NBC replacing entertainment president Warren Littlefield a few days before the competition began and Fox removing programming chief Peter Roth a week ago. Sweeps are most significant to local TV stations, which use results from November, February, May and July to negotiate advertising rates. The four-week surveys also offer networks a chance at bragging rights, which may help explain last-minute scheduling changes made seeking to win the survey. For NBC, that meant shelving tonight's sitcom lineup, inserting the Sandra Bullock movie "While You Were Sleeping" and adding a "Friends" rerun Tuesday trying to bolster that night. While such tinkering risks confusing viewers, given the attrition rate in executive suites it's not surprising network officials are eager to find some standard by which they can proclaim "We're No. 1."

Compiled by Times Staff Writers and contributors

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