Plus, Leeza Gibbons tones down ''Extra'''s sleaze-ah
Johnny Knoxville
Credit: Knoxville: Jeff Bender

‘JACKASS’ DANDY You better sit down for this, Joe Lieberman: MTV’s new Spike Jonze cocreated series, ”Jackass,” featuring bad boy du jour Johnny Knoxville (who just nabbed $1 million to star as a lumberjack/ trucker in the movie comedy ”Tree”) — is emerging as the highest rated new entertainment series on cable this year, trumping such fledgling shows as the Howard Stern produced ”Son of the Beach” and TNT’s much touted ”Bull.” Even more shocking, since debuting Oct. 1, the stunt driven half hour (see Johnny get showered by a Porta Potti; watch him grill steak on his fire retardant clad body) has packed in the most guy viewers ages 12 to 34 of any show in MTV history. MTV programming chieftain Brian Graden credits Knoxville (whom he dubs ”the most likable jackass ever”) and makes no excuses for the gross out premise: ”Just as there is a place for the West Wings,” he says, ”there’s surely a place for the Jackasses of this world, too.” Eat your heart out, Tom Green.

LEEZA’S ‘EXTRA’ EFFORT It’s not easy trying to inject some real entertainment news into a TV magazine that likes to focus on scantily clad babes. Just ask Leeza Gibbons. The onetime host of ”Leeza” and coanchor of ”Entertainment Tonight” was hired to preside over ”Extra” in September as part of a massive retooling and relaunch of the foundering syndicated nightly strip. Gibbons’ mandate: to clean out the sleaze and rekindle trust with celebs who had no interest in sitting down for the seven year old show. ”The intent is for me to put my stamp on the show and bring it some heart,” says Gibbons. She’s already succeeded in persuading such A listers as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Cher, and Jamie Lee Curtis to yak for the ”Extra” cameras. But the overhaul clearly remains a work in progress. Consider these recent ”Extra” stories: ”The Laser Bra,” ”Paula Jones: Penthouse Pet,” ”Sexual Fantasies,” and, of course, ”Naked Golf Caddies.” Notes Gibbons: ”Transitions are challenging.”

PREHISTORIC AS A PEACOCK NBC is planning a live Lorne Michaels exec produced special (tagged to air September 2001) honoring the network’s 75 year broadcast history, which raises the question: Was the Peacock really broadcasting back in 1926? Answer: Well, sort of. The first NBC radio broadcast — available to 22 stations in the East and Midwest — debuted Nov. 15, 1926, with a four hour entertainment extravaganza involving Will Rogers and a bunch of vaudeville types. In other anniversary news, NBC’s also putting together a ”Fifty Years of NBC Late Night” celebration for 2001, which raises a different question: How do you make an NBC late night tribute without Johnny Carson? Answer: You don’t. NBC will pull out the stops to get the legendary recluse, who turned 75 on Oct. 23, to emerge from his Malibu beachfront cocoon to participate. It’d be the first time he’s appeared on the network’s air since 1993. ”We’re approaching Johnny to do both [specials],” confirms NBC spokeswoman Shirley Powell, ”and we’re hopeful.”

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