Simon Rex and Eric Gilliland made news the week of April 17, 1998

Do as I say, not as I do

The Walt Disney Co., which employs an ex-drug dealer (Home Improvement‘s Tim Allen) and hired a convicted child molester to direct its 1995 film Powder, apparently does draw the line somewhere — as former MTV personality Simon Rex, 23, learned last week.

Rex had been cast in the teen sitcom pilot Zoe Bean, which Disney is producing for The WB. However, when Mouse execs learned of Rex’s adult-film past (at age 19, he showed off his onanistic skills on camera), the studio pulled him from the show. The WB (and parent Time Warner) fought Disney on its decision but lost. The battle, sources say, even reached into the offices of Warner Bros. chairman Bob Daly and Disney CEO Michael Eisner.

”They said they were not comfortable with him being in the project” is all one Time Warner exec will say (Disney had no comment). Eager to keep Rex, The WB tried to buy the project, to no avail. The only bright side for Rex: Disney paid him for his work, and The WB still plans to sign him to a development deal.

That’s all

ABC’s mid-season comedy That’s Life learned a hard life lesson — it got axed after little more than a month. ”How can you possibly figure out after five episodes if a show will work?” asks exasperated creator and exec producer Eric Gilliland (Roseanne, The Wonder Years).

Gilliland knew his working-class series might have some difficulties. ”We are a style of show that does not exist anymore. Wacky things don’t happen, and the networks want wacky things to happen,” he says, adding, ”I have to rethink what I do. Maybe I need to have pretty people who try to get laid every week.”

The sitcom also fell victim to ABC’s decision to put its promotional firepower behind Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place. ”In their awareness studies 30 to 40 percent had heard of Two Guys while only 14 percent knew our show,” says Gilliland, who also notes that ABC is still searching for a candidate to fill its top promotion position, vacant for weeks. ”It’s a questionable way to build a network.” Next time, he says, he’ll stay in everyone’s face. ”You have to fight every day, you can’t sit back and think people will do their jobs.”