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Bloomberg puffs up new Whoopi sitcom

Star safe from smoking fines under 'artistic' exemption

NEW YORK — Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-smoking fervor seemed to go up in smoke Wednesday as he enthusiastically welcomed Whoopi Goldberg’s new NBC sitcom to New York, saying he isn’t bothered that her character puffs away inside a public establishment.

“Whoopi,” which bows in September, is the first sitcom to begin production in Gotham since “Spin City” went off the air in 2000.

ABC’s fall laffer “Hope & Faith,” starring Kelly Ripa and Faith Ford, will soon begin production in the city as well.

“Television production in New York represents the lion’s share of entertainment spending in the city, and we are thrilled that ‘Whoopi’ has come our way,” Bloomberg said as he joined the show’s cast at the Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens.

Goldberg, who plays the owner of a small New York City hotel, said she was perfectly prepared to write a check to the city for smoking indoors. Fines range from $200 for a first offense to $2,000 for repeat offenses.

But the mayor’s office said that wouldn’t be necessary, since his tough new smoking law exempts certain artistic performances.

Bloomberg said “Whoopi” would create 250 jobs and pump about $13 million into the city’s economy in the first year alone.

All told, there are 118 TV shows being shot in New York. The Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater & Broadcasting is trying to attract more production by streamlining the permit process.

“Whoopi,” which will air Tuesdays at 8 p.m., is produced by Carsey-Werner-Mandabach and NBC Studios. Carsey-Werner execs, along with NBC Entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker, were on hand for Bloomberg’s welcome.

Bloomberg told the crowd he was so jazzed that he would even consider making a guest appearance on “Whoopi.”