WITHOUT WRITERS, NBC SWITCHING TO REALITY

NBC will be giving viewers a heavy dose of reality after the first of the year. Faced with the possibility, if not the probability, of a prolonged writers' strike, the network unveiled midseason plans Thursday that include the return of The Biggest Loser and 1 vs. 100 and the debut of American Gladiators. The network had already announced that Celebrity Apprentice will launch on Thursday, Jan. 3. Three other reality shows are due to air later in midseason: Amnesia, The Baby Borrowers, and My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad.

CONAN THE HUMANITARIAN

The 75 nonstriking staff members of Late Night With Conan O'Brien will continue to receive paychecks courtesy of O'Brien himself beginning next week, an NBC spokeswoman said Thursday. According to today's New York Times, the out-of-pocket expense to O'Brien will be about $200,000 a week. Until now, the staffers had been receiving paychecks from the network itself -- as had the staff of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Staffers of Late Show With David Letterman and Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson are receiving checks from Letterman's company, Worldwide Pants, which owns both shows. The staff of ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! will continue to be paid by the network. Today's Washington Post said that Leno has no plans to follow the lead of his late-night rivals, although a press representative told the newspaper that Leno has been providing holiday bonuses to the staffers.

FOR NBC, THURSDAY IS NOW MUST-NOT-SEE-TV

With the November sweeps now officially over, most of Thursday night's network offerings were repeats. NBC, however, stuck mostly with original episodes, which nevertheless fared poorly in the ratings against the reruns. Indeed it came in fourth with an average 4.6 rating and a 7 share. CBS, which offered only one original episode, its 8:00 p.m. reality show Survivor China (which drew the biggest audience of the night with an 8.4/13), easily won the night with an average 7.8/12.

HBO TO PRODUCE FILM ABOUT BONDS AND STEROID SCANDAL

Only days after baseball giant (and Giant) Barry Bonds was indicted on charges of lying to a federal grand jury about his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs, HBO announced Thursday that it has acquired rights to the book Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports, by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who covered the BALCO scandal for the San Francisco Chronicle. The made-for-TV film version is expected to be written and directed by Ron Shelton (Bull Durham, Tin Cup and White Men Can't Jump, although when it will go into production is anyone's guess. Shelton is barred from working on the script during the WGA strike.

LONGTIME GAY ACTIVIST SCORES BROKAW

Veteran gay activist Dr. Frank Kameny has fired off a letter to Tom Brokaw and his publisher, Random House, complaining that Brokaw's new book, Boom! Voices of the Sixties, omits virtually any mention of the gay rights movement of that period. In the letter, excerpted in the gay-oriented magazine The Advocate, Kameny cites many examples of gay-rights activism during the '60s, pointing out that only last month the Smithsonian Institution in Washington highlighted some of them in its exhibition, "Treasures of American History." In his letter to Brokaw, Kameny wrote: "In your book: No Boom; only silence." He concluded: "The only allusions to us in your entire book are the most shallow, superficial, brief references." The Advocate said that it had been unable to reach Brokaw for comment.

NBC QUIETLY BEGINS AIRING LIQUOR ADS

NBC's New York flagship, WNBC-TV, began airing, without fanfare, commercials for Bacardi North America last Friday, featuring brands Bacardi rum and Grey Goose vodka, the New York Times reported today (Friday). The spots are airing after 11:00 p.m. "The idea here was to take a responsible attitude and do it appropriately," Frank Comerford, president and general manager at WNBC, told the Times, "to be very targeted to an audience 21 and over and have social responsibility messages." He said they will not appear during station breaks during the youth-skewing Saturday Night Live. Corporate parent NBC does not accept liquor ads, nor does any other broadcast network. And no other NBC-owned station is airing the Bacardi spots.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.