Inside Moves

Shepherd orbits 'Venus' as Rhea, Leykis yak

Shepherd orbits ‘Venus’ as Rhea, Leykis yak

NEW ORLEANS — Cybill Shepherd, who recently published an autobiographical tell-all, was negotiating Friday to replace Eleanor Mondale as host of Columbia TriStar Television Distribution’s upcoming strip “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.”

A replacement for Mondale was expected (Daily Variety, April 14). A CTTD spokesman declined to comment, and Shepherd’s agent at William Morris Agency could not be reached for comment.

Strip is set to debut in syndication this fall on TV stations across the country, including the NBC O&Os.

Also, Big Ticket Television, the Paramount-owned shop that’s home to syndie hits “Judge Judy” and “Judge Joe Brown,” confirmed that negotiations are under way with actress-comedienne Caroline Rhea to host a daily talkshow for Big Ticket in 2001.

Sources likewise indicate that Telepictures Prods., the Time Warner entertainment company that produces the majority of firstrun programming distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, is looking toward developing a talk strip for 2001 with syndicated radio host Tom Leykis.

— Melissa Grego

Puffery blurs lines of crix, news

The old rules of entertainment journalism are changing, and the studios are both happy and perplexed.

Suddenly the first reviews on important films aren’t even from a film critic; they’re from Reel.com columnist Jeffrey Wells, who has turned himself into a human buzz machine, scooping every film critic in the business, on pictures including “Gladiator,” “Me, Myself & Irene” and “The Patriot,” even before the long-lead reviews in established outlets such as Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair have hit the streets.

Meanwhile, old media weeklies like Time and Newsweek, once hard-nosed meritocracies where films were reviewed on their own terms, are giving the red carpet treatment to splashy summer spectaculars in the form of flattering soft features, what Newsweek arts and entertainment editor Sarah Pettit calls “combination plates,” full of tales from the set, profiles of players and industry dish.

Take “Mission: Impossible 2,” a film that might have seemed review-proof: a box office juggernaut that no critical slam could stop in its tracks.

What’s surprising is that Time and Newsweek didn’t even try. Both weeklies let the action thriller’s May 24 opening pass without comment, only to run features on the film the following week. On May 29, Time published an effusive profile of star Thandie Newton, while Newsweek gave the same treatment to director John Woo. Newsweek critic David Ansen finally reviewed the film June 5. He didn’t like it. But by then, it had grossed well north of $100 million.

“These feature-reviews,” says Time critic Richard Corliss, “are simply shorter versions of Time cinema cover stories. They provide a critical look at the film and a reportorial look inside it.”

But they’re rarely critical. And at a time when seat-of-the-pants Web reporters like Wells and Harry Knowles’ reviews — with their freewheeling mix of reporting, gossip and attitude — run rampant, posting their reviews far in advance of the traditional press, old print stalwarts are increasingly willing to break release dates.

Newsweek’s Pettit says “there’s always a healthy resistance to ganging up reviews with other things.” But the studios don’t complain when it happens, though they are having second thoughts about the online embargo-breakers like Wells, especially when they post a pan. As one studio publicity maven puts it: “The Internet can be a marketing tool, but it can also be a marketing hurdle. We may have to make sure these Internet critics only see the films at the all-media screenings, not as part of the long-lead screenings.”

— Jonathan Bing

Radio stations to swap formats

L.A. urban radio listeners better have their change-of-address forms ready by June 30.

As long expected, urban oldies station KCMG-FM (100.3) and hip-hop/R&B outlet KKBT-FM (92.3) will swap frequencies at the end of the month.

The convoluted exchange is a result of AMFM’s earlier divestiture of stations in order to pass muster with the FCC in regard to its merger with Clear Channel Communications.

AMFM/Clear Channel decided to sell the 100.3 frequency but keep the KCMG (“Mega 100.3”) format. As part of a deal with growing radio operator Radio One, AMFM packaged the 100.3 frequency with KKBT’s (“The Beat”) hip-hop flava.

If you’re just tuning in, KCMG will move up the dial and be rebranded “Mega 92.3,” while KKBT slides down to “Mega’s” old house, which will now be known as “100.3 The Beat.”

The two stations have been hinting at the move in recent weeks, but will launch a full-scale marketing campaign beginning today to alert listeners of the change; new station IDs are also in the works.

— Michael Schneider

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