Universal — one of the studios behind the 2000 blockbuster Ben Stiller-Robert De Niro feature film Meet the Parents — was apparently concerned by the premise-mimicking concepts of two NBC series: the current reality show Meet My Folks and In-Laws, the new fall comedy starring Dennis Farina as a fuming father-in-law (similar to Robert De Niro’s character in the movie). During the development of In-Laws, which focuses on young marrieds living with, you guessed it, the in-laws, NBC suits kept calling it a ”Meet the Parents” project, prompting Universal to investigate whether the Peacock was infringing on their property. The studio was also worried about Folks — which asks parents to select a guy to date their daughter and actually rips a page out of the movie by having the dads administer lie-detector tests. Still, a Universal rep says they have no problems with the two shows — for now. (They’re still deciding if Folks’ title is too close for comfort.) Folks executive producer Bruce Nash, meanwhile, doesn’t think De Niro’s possessive film father was a copyrightable concept. ”[The archetype] has been around for years,” Nash argues. ”It’s a universal theme.” You can say that again.
Although a bunch of surprise nominations should inject a breath of fresh air into this year’s Emmy broadcast, the rest of the Sept. 22 ceremony (hosted by Conan O’Brien and airing on NBC) will harken back to the traditional glitzy, back-patting yukfests of before the 9/11 attacks. ”We can now ask what’s the funniest we can be and what’s the most glamorous we can be and not constantly be second-guessing ourselves like we did last year,” says TV Academy chairman Bryce Zabel. ”If I say the word appropriate one more time, my eyes are going to roll back in my head!” Zabel also thinks it’s high time to include the categories honoring performances by guest actors in Emmy’s prime-time show, rather than in the separate, nontelevised affair (how else can you get celebs like Michael Douglas — who’s nominated this year for his appearance on Will & Grace — to slum it with Emmy?). And the same goes for the best reality show competition (can’t you just see Survivor’s Bible-thumping Vecepia thanking God for the gold?). Unfortunately, Zabel still has no solution for how to stop rival broadcast networks from trying to upstage the ceremony (last year Fox tried to keep viewers glued to the World Series by immediately announcing the Emmy winners as soon as they were crowned on CBS). ”I don’t think anybody expects anyone to lay down and not attempt to counterprogram the Emmys,” admits Zabel. ”But we all kind of hope that people will do the right thing.”
AND SO ON… Although you haven’t heard much from Roseanne lately, trust us: She’s still animated. She’ll guest-star in an episode of Futurama this season as a talking holographic encyclopedia. ”If you need any facts, you just press a button on your belt and Roseanne appears and begins lecturing at you,” says series exec producer David X. Cohen. ”What better technology could the world hope for?”