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The latest news from the TV beat

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Having a Blackball?

Even though the audience can no longer drink alcohol and Disney jokes are verboten, producers of ABC’s ”Jimmy Kimmel Live” are bullish about the late-night chatfest. ”It’s compelling TV,” says exec producer (and Letterman vet) Daniel Kellison. ”When a show sort of blows up, it’s totally fun to watch.” Which is why he seems willing to overlook a supposed boycott of Kimmel by the other nets. Rumors persist that CBS, NBC, and Fox are keeping their stars away from Kimmel’s couch, but all the nets insist that’s not true. (Still, Fox star Bernie Mac was scheduled to appear, but then bailed at the last minute.) ”There are enough funny people out there,” claims Kellison, citing previous guests like Adrienne Barbeau and Christopher Lowell, as well as future guest cohost Don King. It’s hard to tell whether viewers agree; the program is drawing the same number of young adults as ”Politically Incorrect” did a year ago. But Kellison says he has the key to college kids’ hearts: He predicts that the show will be allowed to serve booze again to the audience — as early as next month. ”Of course, I haven’t talked to anybody at Disney about it,” he admits. As long as he doesn’t bring up Mickey’s rumored problem with Ripple, it should go over just fine.

Past Imperfect

Fox reality guru Mike Darnell feared his genre was dead after the scandal diggers at ”The Smoking Gun” posted a report in 2000 exposing the unsavory past of ”Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?’s” Rick Rockwell. But the website that should have extinguished the genre only fanned its fires. A record 1.5 million people visited thesmokinggun.com recently to read how ”Joe Millionaire’s” Sarah Kozer had appeared in fetish films; meanwhile, Fox enjoyed its best-ever ratings on the show. ”You cringe whenever the site calls,” says CBS rep Chris Ender — who had a lot of ‘splaining to do last year when ”The Smoking Gun” revealed ”Survivor: Thailand’s” Brian Heidik was a porn star. However, ”they really serve as another PR vehicle…. It’s not always publicity you want, but you get attention.” As does the site, says editor William Bastone — so it’s only a matter of time before his staff takes on the ”Survivor: The Amazon” crew. ”It’s almost like we have to now,” says a resigned Bastone. ”Everybody has something dirty in their background.”


Jason Priestley, who was seriously injured in a race-car accident last summer, returns to acting in a guest spot on the Feb. 25 episode of ”8 Simple Rules…” as — get this — a race-car driver. ”He just hit the ground running and is having a lot of fun,” reports creator-exec producer Tracy Gamble. ”The guy was born to do comedy.”

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