The latest news from the TV beat

By Lynette Rice
November 12, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

What a Witchin’ Idea

Television folks love a good idea, especially after somebody else comes up with it. So when those clever kids behind The Blair Witch Project proved that a prerelease website could translate into boffo box office, the networks paid close attention. To wit: Fox plans to introduce a site later this season that will hype its teen-skewing fall 2000 drama Fearsum (about — how apropos — the host of a website that tracks supernatural occurrences). Fearsum just happens to be created by Haxan Films, the five-member team responsible for writing and producing Blair Witch.

CBS, meanwhile, has already jumped on the Blair Witch bandwagon. Almost three months ago, the Eye’s promotional team quietly launched BRAINHARVEST, a website for its old-brain-in-a-new-body sci-fi drama Now and Again. ”I’m a college student on the East Coast. That’s all I can tell you about me at this time,” the site starts out, before the so-called ”author” reveals how she gained access to an internal government memo referring to a brain remaining ”fully functional” after its owner was struck and killed by a subway car (the premise of Now and Again). ”It goes back to shows like The X-Files,” says CBS’ senior VP of advertising and promotion Ron Scalera, whose site has lured more than 50,000 visitors from as far away as Russia, Finland, and Singapore. ”The fact that it could possibly be real makes it that much more enjoyable.”

Not-So-Good Sports

In a bad sign for sophomore struggler Sports Night, ABC will preempt at least two episodes of the series in favor of Spin City reruns during November sweeps (which began on Thursday, Nov. 4). Although the Aaron Sorkin dramedy has actually been attracting more viewers this fall than last, it’s also been averaging a 23 percent drop-off from Dharma & Greg in adults 18 to 49. ”Sports Night is incompatible with Dharma & Greg,” points out Tony Krantz, cochairman and CEO of Imagine TV, which produces the series with Touchstone TV. ”We’re going at 78 rpms and Dharma is going more slowly. Frankly, we’re frustrated. If you pull it off, you’ll do damage to the franchise. And we think the franchise will go the distance.” Unless, of course, the race is already over.

Keeping his Pants On

David Letterman returns to NBC! Okay, not really, but Worldwide Pants, Letterman’s production company, did just sign a deal with the net. The Peacock bought a dramedy pilot titled Ed, about a big-city guy who relocates to a small town in Ohio after losing his job and catching his wife having an affair. Worldwide Pants, which produces The Late Show With David Letterman, The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn, and Everybody Loves Raymond, all for CBS, originally developed the project for the Eye, which ultimately blinked, thus paving the way for its segue to NBC. ”Obviously it was not lost on us that we were sending it over to the old place, but we got over it,” said Worldwide Pants prez Rob Burnett, who said it helped that all the previous NBC execs who ”hated” Letterman were now gone. ”I think the credit here goes to [NBC Entertainment president] Garth Ancier for looking at this on its own merit and not considering the baggage, and equal credit to [CBS Television CEO] Les Moonves for letting it go,” says Burnett before adding ”That’s big for me, sucking up to not one but two people simultaneously.”

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