BELLE OF FOOTBALL The final results are in, and apparently ”Fox NFL Sunday” fans are really into meteorology. Ratings were up 15 percent last fall in the first half hour of the net’s pregame show — due in part to the presence of weather gal Jillian Barberi, who kept people, um, abreast of the cumulus cloud formations on game day. ”I have breasts and I can deliver accurate forecasts,” says Barberi. ”I’ve never apologized for the way I look.”
Neither will Fox Sports, which just signed Barberi to a second year of accompanying sportscaster Howie Long and Co. Even though jaded journalists have accused Fox Sports of appealing to the lowest common football watching demo, coordinating producer Scott Ackerson insists that Barberi’s the real deal: ”She’s done the weather for over 10 years. It’s not like we took somebody off the street.” Besides, she’s on NFL Sunday for only two minutes (giving her plenty of time to host the celeb filled game show ”The Test” on Fox’s cable cousin FX, do weather for a morning show on L.A.’s Fox affiliate, and occasionally appear on ”V.I.P.” opposite star Pamela Anderson).
Says Ackerson: ”It gives people a reason to enjoy the weather who may not necessarily be watching the weather. It’s a football game preshow, people. We’re not breaking down China.”
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED When budding television titan Jarrett Grode graduated from high school in 1999, one of his teachers told him, ”Send me a limo for the Emmys.” Although it’s not quite time to rev up the big black car just yet, the Los Angeles native is certainly within striking distance. At the ripe old age of 20, Grode is currently executive producing the comedy pilot ”Definitely Maybe,” a quasi- autobiographical, high school set laffer that UPN is considering for fall.
Which, of course, raises the question: In the wake of Riley Weston (the then 32 year old ”Felicity” scribe who passed herself off as 19), has Grode encountered any age challenging skeptics? ”Oh, all the time,” sighs Grode, who also has a recurring role in Fox’s upcoming college comedy series ”Undeclared.” ”It’s like ‘Let’s see some ID, kid.’ So I just pull out my driver’s license and go, ‘Can we continue with the meeting now, because I’ve got like six of these lined up?”’
And if that’s not trippy enough, Grode recently shot the pilot at his alma mater in Northridge, Calif., where his sister attends the 10th grade. ”She’s overjoyed that we have craft service,” he notes. ”Every day, she’s like, ‘Is it 1 o’clock? Are you catering yet?”’ –Dan Snierson
AND SO ON… Kiss drummer Peter Criss will appear in two episodes of HBO’s ”Oz” next season, which will also feature return engagements from Luke Perry and Chris Meloni…. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has asked ”CSI” star and exec producer William Petersen to talk to Congress about allocating money for the advancement of forensic science — the basis of CBS’ hit drama. Petersen will make his appearance on Capitol Hill sometime in May.
Additional reporting by Mike Flaherty