PBS President: On Second Thought ...
Pat Mitchell tried to bolster morale among her PBS troops as they held their annual meeting in San Francisco this week. Downplaying the significance of the network's flagging ratings, she tried to reframe an earlier comment she made about the significance of those numbers.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 27, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 10 inches; 386 words Type of Material: Correction
PBS date--A Morning Report item in Wednesday's Calendar said that an observation by PBS President Pat Mitchell about the network's ratings being close to "falling below the relevance quotient" was made in May. She made the comment in February.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday June 29, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 9 inches; 348 words Type of Material: Correction
Photo credit--A photo of PBS President Pat Mitchell in Morning Report in Wednesday's Calendar should have been credited to Dennis Drenner / For The Times.
"We are dangerously close in our overall prime-time number to falling below the relevance quotient," the PBS president told public TV programmers in May. "And if that happens, we will surely fall below any arguable need for government support, not to mention corporate or individual support. There is a level beyond which we cannot go and still claim to be a universal service."
Upon reflection, Mitchell now says, PBS' content and community contribution are far more important than its Nielsen performance. "I fear that ratings have become the whole ballgame for far too many inside our system," she said. "And I want to take responsibility for having played a part in that."
That hasn't prevented PBS from shuffling its lineup in an effort to maximize audience, however. "Masterpiece Theatre," moved from its traditional Sunday night slot last fall, will return at the start of the new season. Why? Because "American Experience," which alternated with "American Masters" in the Sunday slot, was being clobbered by HBO original fare such as "Six Feet Under" and "Sex and the City."
"There is an audience available on Sunday night of older women and what show do we have that they love? 'Masterpiece Theatre,' " said Coby Atlas, PBS' co-chief program executive. "We tried to do something--and we were smart enough to know when it didn't work."
Chung's CNN Debut: Better but Not Best
Connie Chung's new CNN show drew an average 858,000 curious viewers to its Monday debut, according to Nielsen Media Research figures--a 32% improvement over the numbers for the 5 p.m. time period in June.
But so far, her Fox News Channel competition, Bill O'Reilly, doesn't have much to worry about: His show drew 2.15 million viewers Monday, up 21% over his June figures.
Florida Tally Targeted by Documentary
Documentary filmmakers Joan Sekler and Richard Perez were conducting a seat-of-the-pants operation: flying to Florida to shoot footage about the state's infamous 2000 presidential election, using frequent-flier miles donated by friends and colleagues.
In March of last year, they asked filmmaker Robert Greenwald ("Steal This Movie") for support from his newly created, nonprofit Public Interest Pictures. He's now executive producer of the hourlong "Unprecedented: The 2000 Election," co-directed by Sekler and Perez.
Rather than focusing on talking heads that dominated the airwaves at the time, the movie highlights those on the front lines--from the African Americans who were turned away from the polling booths for assorted reasons (for example, their names incorrectly appeared on a felons' list) to an Al Gore supporter who mistakenly voted for Pat Buchanan on the state's controversial "butterfly" ballot. In one memorable scene, the filmmakers freeze-frame a "protest" against the ballot recount, identifying participants as staff members of Republican elected officials.
"This story has everything--drama, personalities and a story that's important to tell: the way both sides handled things, not from the vantage point of the 'general good,' but from a perspective of narrow self-interest," Greenwald says. "Though we never found a smoking gun, the patterns were pretty damning. In the end, the Republicans just played the better game. They had a plan of victory, while the Democrats played defense."
Finishing touches are being put on the film, which Greenwald hopes to screen at film festivals and air at election time. Sales to cable, home video and the foreign market are planned. Foreign? "For better or worse, the U.S. is still the 'big boy,' " he explains. "People are riveted by what went on."
Kubrick's Obsession: A Napoleon Film
Stanley Kubrick, the legendary director who died in March 1999, made his name with films such as "A Clockwork Orange" and "2001." But a new book, written by Jan Harlan, focuses on a project that didn't make it to the screen.
"Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon--His Greatest Film Never Made" recounts the director's obsession with the French dictator: the 18,000 books and 7,000 location photographs he accumulated over the course of 30 years. The appeal?
"Although Kubrick films are very different in form, there is a common denominator--the human folly and vanity built into our species that appears to be our downfall," said Harlan, Kubrick's executive producer, who also filmed the documentary "Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures."
Harlan is writing the book with his sister, Christiane, Kubrick's widow. Their work, containing the film's script and details of the location scouting in Romania, France and Britain in the 1970s, is expected to come out next year.
A Monet painting of water lilies, not seen in public for more than 75 years, sold for $20.2 million Monday at Sotheby's auction house in London.... Jennifer Lopez will produce and co-star in a feature about the life of salsa legend Hector Lavoe, to be produced by Sony-based Screen Gems, Variety reports.... Geraldo Rivera will return to prime-time as an investigative reporter for "Pulse," a Fox summer newsmagazine. The show, also featuring Bill O'Reilly and Shepard Smith, premieres July 11.