Is CBS planning to revamp its morning news show? That’s the word around the water cooler at the Tiffany network, where Katie Couric’s takeover of the evening news has started tongues wagging.
The new best-case scenario would be a CBS "Early Show" with CNN’s Anderson Cooper and NBC’s Campbell Brown as cohosts. Where exactly that would leave beloved anchor Harry Smith is anyone’s guess. And the fate of Julie Chen, who is also Mrs. Les Moonves, would be up in the air, too. Moonves is unlikely to remove Chen unless he can find something better for her.
The Cooper scenario is not so unattainable, CBS insiders feel. Cooper is already starting to do reports for “60 Minutes,” and CNN has traditionally had a sharing policy with CBS. The latter network seems comfortable with the idea, since it has no cable affiliate of its own.
But the Brown idea is the more interesting one. Since she was passed over for the role of Couric’s successor at the "Today" show, Brown has made no secret of her unhappiness.
Steve Friedman of CBS may feel that getting Brown to jump ship is easy — especially after she’s had to work with Meredith Vieira, the winner of the coveted position.
CBS’ entry in the early morning market has always been troubled, and has never quite come together despite many talented producers and anchors who’ve come and gone over the years.
Lots of stars have tried and failed in efforts to woo viewers from "Today" and "Good Morning America," from Diane Sawyer to Bryant Gumbel.
Meanwhile, Couric’s second night anchoring the evening news showed a couple of things: Her news is a little more family friendly, and Katie is the chattiest national news anchor in history.
She’s obviously decided to break the “fourth wall” and talk directly to the audience. The evening news has always been done in the third person, so this should be interesting.
And a story about a young blind man seemed — not to be unsympathetic — a little banal for such a coveted spot.
Janet Jackson’s '20 Y.O.' album is 12 days away from release, but there’s trouble ahead.
The only “normal” member of America’s leading dysfunctional family is struggling to have a hit after the dismal performance of her 2004 album "Damita Jo."
That recording, which wasn’t so hot to begin with, was adversely affected by Jackson’s Super Bowl performance and wardrobe malfunction.
Now comes word from the inside that "20 Y.O." is too much the work of her boyfriend, Jermaine Dupri, and not enough of her regular producers, 'Jimmy Jam' Harris and Terry Lewis.
Dupri apparently got final cut on the album, pushing Jackson further away from the Harris-Lewis formula that brought her so much success. Instead, expect a much more hip-hop oriented sound.
And that’s not necessarily the right move for a 40-year-old woman, no matter how nostalgic she is for her debut 1986 hit, "Control."
Janet, after all, is not the singer Mariah Carey is. She requires a lot of studio “tweaking” and editing. You’re not going to hear her vocalizing impromptu or a cappella. Harris and Lewis know that and have always served her well by constructing a sonic cushion for her voice.
More importantly, if “20 Y.O.” doesn’t work, Janet’s failure will resonate at home. Her family, cut off from brother Michael Jackson, is relying on her to bring home the bacon right now. The Jacksons — despite father Joe Jackson's many wily efforts — don't generate much income on their own.
Earlier this year, it was Janet who was asked to step up and meet mortgage payments on the family home in Encino. If "20 Y.O." doesn’t sell, the Jacksons may have to hunker down and take some emergency measures.
Congress got jiggy with "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson yesterday in Washington. It was all part of a daylong program called Grammys on the Hill or Recordings Day in Washington.
Neil Portnow, head of the National Academy of Recordings Arts and Sciences — that’s NARAS — hosted a terrifically interesting day in D.C. for the industry to meet legislators and talk about piracy, downloading, music education in the schools and all the other “dry” stuff so important to the music biz.
But you had to see about eight congressmen on stage when Kelly agreed to show how a recording is produced.
In front of a couple hundred visitors on Capitol Hill, she performed a new song called "Maybe" with Mary Bono, Connie Mack, Charles Gonzales, Stennie Hoyer, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Joe Crowley, Stephanie Herseth and Marsha Blackburn joining in on background vocals and percussion.
It was like a bipartisan Woodstock. But listen, these guys will not be quitting their day jobs. (Queens, N.Y., voters should never hear Crowley’s take on "Fly Me to the Moon" — but he’s a sport!)
I’ll tell you what you already know, however: Clarkson has an amazing voice, and she remains as unpretentious, friendly and accessible as ever. Fame has not corrupted her yet!
But the voice: She reminds me of the great Linda Ronstadt from 30 years ago, a real powerhouse. She’s cute, too, complaining on stage that she’d rather be singing than talking about how she sings and records. We’re going to be hearing from Clarkson for years to come.
"American Idol"'s Randy Jackson was on hand for Grammy Day, too, as were jazzman Earl Klugh (he played the national anthem for us on acoustic guitar — sublime), plus Sam Moore (accepting kudos on his album “Overnight Sensational”) and many members of the Recording Academy including Dana Tomarken, who runs MusiCares, and many folks from BMI, ASCAP and all the labels.
At dinner, I got to meet the great Elliot Mazur, who’s worked with Neil Young since 1971 and once produced Janis Joplin and Gary Arnold, the man who puts the music and videos into Best Buy.
Grammy Day wasn’t the only music event of the day in D.C. Simultaneously, The Creative Coalition was saluting the Black Caucus and African-American entertainers with a performance by Chaka Khan and awards to many including Cicely Tyson.
I ran into The Supremes’ Mary Wilson — fully recovered from a small heart attack last summer, my pal Tamara Tunie of “Law and Order” and “As the World Turns” fame, Hill Harper of "CSI: NY," actors Ernie Hudson and Giancarlo Esposito and the marvelous Phylicia Rashad.
After all this was said and done, the two groups — Grammys and CC — headed to the very chic, private Mansion on O Street for a party saluting Moore that went on well past 1 a.m.
The Mansion is a better kept secret in Washington than any political headline. Hidden between Dupont Circle and Georgetown, it’s a private club with about 25 hotel rooms scattered over a couple of townhouses.
The place has 30 “hidden” passages, too, and gives new meaning to eccentric! It is jam-packed with tchotchkes, antiques and artwork, all of which are for sale. One reason parties go on so long there is that guests are constantly taking tours and getting lost!
And the Mansion is not without its unusual regular celebrity guests. One of them is Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, the famed guitarist for Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers. Why is the L.A.-based Baxter in D.C. so much? He “works for the government” — wink, wink — and has for about 20 years as a munitions expert with an eye on terrorism.
Baxter is said to have one of the highest security clearances at the Pentagon. But you know I like him because he played that lead on “Reeling in the Years”!