Big Four plan telethon spec for N.Y. victims

Gallen to produce cross-network spesh

In a rare display of cooperation, the Big Four broadcast webs are trying to band together to produce and air a two-hour, music-driven fund-raiser for the victims of last week’s terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Star-studded event wasn’t a firm go as of late Monday, as execs tried to hammer out the complicated logistics of such a massive undertaking. If things go as hoped, however, the telethon will air live Friday from 9 to 11 p.m., with ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox all on board to beam the broadcast live to viewers in the Eastern and Central time zones. Telethon will be tape-delayed for the rest of the country.

While the Big Four are organizing — and paying for — the event, the broadcast will be offered free of charge to the WB, UPN and any and all other broadcast and cable outlets that wish to air it. Goal is to get the program on as many channels as possible.

Tom Hanks, George Clooney and Jim Carrey have made tentative commitments to appear on the broadcast. Bruce Springsteen’s name has also been mentioned as a possible participant, though insiders cautioned that the lineup was extremely fluid.

Each network will also offer two of its thesps or other talent to appear on the telethon, which will be produced by MTV Movie Awards producer Joel Gallen.

Official details on the telethon were hard to come by Monday, with nets and studio sources refusing official comment out of fear they’d appear to be taking credit for the idea, which was hatched late last week. Logistical problems– or news events– could delay the telethon or kill the project altogether.

There had been some discussion about airing the telethon Sunday night, when viewership is much higher. That plan, however, would conflict with series and season premieres of programming on ABC and CBS.

As it is, the planned broadcast conflicts with the WB network’s current plan to roll out its new Friday laffers. Having postponed the shows’ from their original Sept. 14 debuts due to the terrorist attacks, the Frog hasn’t yet decided whether it will bump its comedies again to make room for the telethon.

Meanwhile, broadcasters continued to deal with the aftermath of last week’s events:

  • HBO and Paramount have canceled their annual Emmy parties. 20th Century Fox TV was still evaluating its options. Several publicists and studios were lobbying the TV Academy to eliminate the red carpet at the Oct. 7 kudocast and make the affair a non-black tie event.

  • NBC has nixed a planned Wednesday repeat of its shock reality skein “Fear Factor.”

  • CBS has trimmed down tonight’s planned two-hour edition of “Big Brother 2” to just one hour.
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