‘Lateline’ on target

D.C. insiders peek at NBC comedy, see selves

WASHINGTON — In more ways than one, D.C. insiders were the target audience for the Tuesday-night sneak preview of NBC’s midseason replacement “Lateline.”

It was standing room only at the National Press Club, where Beltway heavies laughed at themselves and the Paramount series, which takes a satirical stab at a network news show that has more than a passing resemblance to ABC’s “Nightline.”

“Lateline’s” co-creator Al Franken was warmly received by the D.C. insiders — a crowd he has become increasingly familiar with as he has become a self-proclaimed liberal antidote to Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the right wing. Among those making an appearance in the first two episodes are House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), gay rights advocate Candace Gingrich and talkshow host G. Gordon Liddy. Franken told the audience that the real reason behind the premiere was to demonstrate to the crowd that ” ‘Lateline’ is safe.”

The Paramount invitation quietly became a hot ticket in Washington, attracting everyone from presidential lawyer Bob Bennett to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Also jetting in to D.C. for the event was Franken’s co-creator, John Markus, and Paramount television topper Kerry McCluggage and other execs including Brett King.

The show premieres nationally March 17 on NBC at 9:30.

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