Tome buzz grips H'w'd

A new book about the TV biz doesn’t hit shelves for another month, but advance copies are already raising eyebrows.

“Desperate Networks,” by New York Times TV reporter Bill Carter, is ostensibly a year-in-the-life tome focused on the backstories surrounding the hits and failures of the 2004-05 season. But as he did with “The Late Shift,” Carter fills many pages with highly detailed anecdotes and accounts of conversations certain to raise the ire of many of the parties involved.

Among the tidbits:

  • Warner Bros. TV was on track to land the rights to Marc Cherry’s spec script for “Desperate Housewives” via Tony Krantz, who had an overall deal at the studio. Unfortunately, WBTV execs refused to give Cherry’s reps at Paradigm a packaging fee — so Paradigm set up the project at Touchstone.

  • Carter shows NBC U topper Bob Wright launching a fervent investigation to find out why NBC didn’t land “Housewives.” At one point, Wright even calls Cherry to ask if NBC had ever had a shot at the script. (It did. The network passed.)

  • Leslie Moonves was “absolutely livid” when it seemed Sumner Redstone was going to make Tom Freston sole head of Viacom. According to Carter, Freston suggested a co-presidency to keep Moonves from bolting.

  • In a subtle dig at Bob Iger, the producers of “Lost” recruited ousted ABC boss Lloyd Braun to supply the voiceover at the start of each episode that says “previously on ‘Lost.'”

  • Carter spends plenty of time talking about Hollywood’s animus toward NBC chief Jeff Zucker, including a slam from former Fox chief Gail Berman. “You gotta be able to say something about your tenure before you sit in front of people and say I’m the man, I’m the man,” Berman says, clearly referring to Zucker.

The book also captures Zucker’s frustration at the Peacock’s primetime performance and how it might impact his plan to eventually replace Wright. “They’ll never give it to me with primetime in this shape,” Zucker is quoted as musing.

  • During Berman’s run at Fox, Carter recounts a near-disastrous taping of the reality skein “The Chamber.” When a contestant is trapped in a superheated torture chamber, the Fox prexy begins to rock back and forth in her chair. “Please don’t die, please don’t die,” she says, according to the book.

One clear insight about the TV biz that emerges, according to not-yet-final galley proofs of the book: Small screen execs are fond of a certain four-letter word.

Detailing a much-documented 2001 Cuba trip by Moonves, Brad Grey, Brian Grazer and some other moguls, Carter recounts how Grazer hesitated when Cuban military officer insisted the group have lunch the next day with Fidel Castro.

“You know, I really have things I’ve got to do…,” Carter quotes Grazer as saying.

Replied Moonves: “Brian, shut the fuck up!”

There are plenty more.

Because “Desperate Networks” is being aimed at a wide audience, book also contains plenty of Us magazine-friendly dish about celebs, including a section on the casting of “Housewives.” Carter claims Dana Delany passed on the chance to play Bree, while Mary-Louise Parker said no to the role of Susan.

Carter also recounts Nicollette Sheridan’s “legendarily bad” audition for the part of Bree.

Turns out McDougall thought Sheridan was perfect for the part of Edie Britt.

“Oh, you want me to read the slut?” Sheridan replied. “No problem.”

“Desperate Networks,” from Doubleday, is set to hit stores May 2 — just two weeks before the networks announce their 2006-07 schedules.

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