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On the Air: The latest news from the TV beat

Showtime’s ‘Queer as Folk’ had trouble with advertisers, while a TV version of the musical ‘Mame’ may star Cher

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And a one, and a two …
Not even Drew Carey’s take on Geppetto has turned networks off to TV musicals. In fact, there seems to be an orchestra pit full of ’em in the pipeline. NBC is apparently sniffing out How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Once Upon a Mattress from producer Jordan Kerner (Inspector Gadget). Fox has already committed to a hip-hop The Wizard of Oz starring Queen Latifah, Little Richard, and Busta Rhymes for next May sweeps, and the genre’s preeminent producers — Annie‘s Craig Zadan and Neil Meron — have remakes of Mame (which Cher is in the running to headline), Fiddler on the Roof, South Pacific, and The Music Man in the works at ABC. Also, sources say a live-action version of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown could soon be on the auction block. Why all the hoofers and crooners in prime time? ”We look for movies that stand out — that we can truly say should be appointment television,” says Susan Lyne, ABC’s exec VP of movies. ”You can’t see [updated] movie musicals in theaters anymore, so the only place to see them is on television.” Fair enough, but promise we’ll never hear: ”Introducing Norm Macdonald as Tevye!”

Promos in Slo-mo
Speaking of Macdonald, Norm executive producer Bruce Helford became so frustrated with the scarcity of summer promos for his sitcom (Two Guys and a Girl, meanwhile, got tons of pitch time, he says), that he dug into his own pocket and sprang for ads on — of all places — hotdog-vendor umbrellas in New York (he also bought bus boards in Vegas to hype his new WB sitcom, Nikki). ”They way underpromoted Norm from May through now,” says Helford, who monitored ABC nightly. ”I can either invest in stocks or my shows. I don’t mind doing that.”

Queer Alienation
Controversy makes for strange bedfellows — just ask the folks behind the ultra-gay Showtime drama Queer as Folk and homo-averse Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who’ve both been hit by advertiser skittishness. Companies like Procter & Gamble decided to withhold their ad money from the conservative talker’s hot-button new show, and other big brands are keeping their distance from the potentially explosive Queer. In fact, Queer producers are accusing some corporate giants of homophobia for their decision not to allow product placement in the series (Abercrombie & Fitch and Old Navy are among those reportedly saying no go). ”If we have the advantage of logos, it’s a way to make our show more relatable to the public,” says exec producer Tony Jonas. ”We knew there was going to be a homophobic attitude, but we had no idea it would be at this magnitude.” Even the Pittsburgh Steelers cried foul when Queer, which is set in that city, wanted to use their logo in the background of a scene. Logos or not, the producers promise they won’t tone down Queer when it debuts in early December. Says Jonas: ”We’ll pull no punches.”

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