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TRAGEDY IN COLORADO

TV Execs Quickly Shelve Offensive Shows

Entertainment: Violent episodes are pulled, and video retailers are asked to return 'The Basketball Diaries.' Marilyn Manson concert also is canceled.

April 23, 1999|GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Entertainment industry executives reacted swiftly to Colorado's Columbine High School shootings, and within hours a Denver concert by controversial rocker Marilyn Manson was canceled, potentially offensive TV shows were shelved, and requests went out to video retailers to pull copies of the 1995 film "The Basketball Diaries," which features actor Leonardo DiCaprio in a long black trench coat shooting a teacher and several high school students.

Network executives at the WB and CBS pulled scheduled episodes of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Promised Land," both of which contained stories about campus violence. In "Buffy's" case, the episode that was to air Tuesday featured a plot line on a potential mass murder at a school. Thursday's "Promised Land" episode dealt with gang violence.

And although ripped-from-the-headlines stories feed quickly into the TV movie-making machine, executives at CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox said they have no plans for a movie about the shooting and have not yet received pitches from producers about doing a project.

One network executive said: "There's no upside. All there is is grief and tragedy. This is one I would be surprised if anyone went near."

Mark Johnson, executive producer of CBS' "L.A. Doctors," which featured an episode this season in which a sniper opens fire on schoolchildren, said: "The horrible truth is, it was not the most preposterous story line we could come up with."

In the aftermath of the shooting, Denver rock radio station KBPI canceled an April 30 concert, its annual Birthday Bash, that was to feature shock rocker Marilyn Manson, Local H and Second Coming.

Although some news reports have indicated that the two gunmen--Eric David Harris and Dylan Bennet Klebold--were fans, Manson's dark music was not behind the decision, according to Don Howe, vice president and general manager of Jacor Communications, KBPI's parent.

"We as responsible members of the community feel that we must do the right thing," he said. The staff felt it was inappropriate to "throw ourselves a party."

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Manson's label, Interscope Records, said the shock rocker's "Rock is Dead" tour, which includes a show tonight in New Orleans, will continue.

In other developments, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. on Thursday began asking video retailers to voluntarily return copies of "The Basketball Diaries," promising a full refund. However, later in the day, MGM, which acquired the film Jan. 4 when it bought PolyGram Filmed Entertainment's movie library from Seagram Co., discovered that the video rights remain with PolyGram until June 30. PolyGram, spokeswoman Kristen Foster said, is not asking for such a return since there is an open return policy already in place.

A Monument, Colo.-based group called HAVE (Hollywood Against Violent Entertainment) placed a full-page "open letter to Hollywood" in Thursday's edition of the Hollywood Reporter, pleading with prominent filmmakers not to take part in projects featuring violent behavior.

"Choose not to participate one moment longer in any form of entertainment that includes graphic violence," read the ad.

Those choices are already being made, said Sara Finney, an executive producer of "Moesha," a youth-oriented series on UPN. "Moesha," which has dealt with topical teenage issues in the past, has no plans to do an episode alluding to the Colorado shooting.

But schoolyard shootings have become a frequent dramatic theme for television.

In last season's finale of CBS' medical drama "Chicago Hope," Dr. Keith Wilkes (Rocky Carroll) witnesses a shooting at his young sons' school by a disturbed woman who fires on students before turning the gun on herself. This season the story picked up with Wilkes buying a gun for his family's protection, only to see his young son shoot a friend who was taunting him.

Said Brenda Hampton, executive producer of the WB's "7th Heaven," which recently featured a story about a young boy who threatens the young Camden children with a gun he brought to school: "It was done in response to several similar incidents that had taken place. It posed several good questions. One of them was, 'If you have a troubled kid, do you really want to keep a gun in the house?' "

Separately, Boston TV stations reaffirmed their recent pledge to voluntarily regulate--and not air--news footage similar to the live images of SWAT teams and escaping victims that were picked up and broadcast throughout most of the country Wednesday as the Colorado incident was unfolding.

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Times staff writers Geoff Boucher and Susan King contributed to this story.

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