Through the Wire


At TCA, Lifetime Tears, Hallmark Yuks

There’s a poignant back story to Lifetime’s upcoming dramedy Side Order of Life, which follows a photojournalist as she reassesses what she wants from own life after she learns the life of her best friend will be shortened by cancer.

The cable project turned out to be the last project for actor Roscoe Lee Browne, who died of cancer after finishing his scenes in the show.

Marisa Coughlin, who plays photographer Jenny McIntyre in the upcoming show, told TV critics gathered in Beverly Hills, Calif., that she couldn’t stop crying when shooting the scene in which she is taking a portrait of Browne’s character. The scene called for McIntyre to see a montage of her subject’s life in her lens, and Browne had brought in pictures of himself as a child, a teenager, a young man.

Producers had hoped to make the stentorian actor a recurring character in the dramedy. The montage made for the show ended up having a secondary purpose, producers said. It was played at the actor’s memorial service.

Meanwhile, Hallmark CEO Henry Schleiff was in expected Henry form for his channel’s portion of the Television Critics Association meeting, with snaps on everything from his own athletic prowess to the tonnage of new executives at the following panel.

  • Following a reel of the channel’s “H is for … ” branding campaign came “H is for Henry,” with Schleiff bounding in and out of the picture. The executive explained it had been filmed on a trampoline. “Now you know why there’s no Jews in the Cirque du Soleil,” he said. Rim shot!
  • Alluding to the name change of his old haunt Court TV to truTV, the executive introduced himself and added he was keeping his name. Oh, Henry.
  • Upon notifying tour organizers that Hallmark’s session would include nonogenarian Ernest Borgnine, Schleiff quipped that organizers replied, “Oh, then maybe we better have you on the first day.” Ba-da-bum.
  • At the end of the session, Schleiff mock-announced the following session (HBO’s) might not start on time. “They’re still loading in all the executives,” he quipped. Thank you, Henry from New York.

A&E Offering Aid to Lonelyheart Affiliates

With its current affiliate program, A&E is taking matters to heart.

Touting its Saturday-night series Confessions of a Matchmaker, A&E this week will begin disseminating “Patti’s Dating Tip Kit” to some 1,000 affiliate-marketing and local ad-sales contacts.

The kits, presumably, come courtesy of series star Patti Novak, whose lonely-hearts shingle is set in Buffalo, N.Y., where A&E has followed her doling out of advice and criticism to daters in half-hour interludes since June 16.

“We wanted to make our affiliates aware that we have a great new show with strong opportunities for local ad sales,” said A&E vice president of affiliate marketing Jennifer Ball.

Accompanying Patti’s Date Kit, which includes such trinkets and words of wisdom as mints (“always have fresh breath”), candle (“everyone looks better by candlelight”) and comb (“grooming counts”), are more pertinent affiliate pearls.

A&E is providing taggable tune-in spots in 25:5 and 20:10 splits; a quartet of taggable dating tip spots, involving what to and not to do, how to dress and what to wear; and two-minute Novak video on demand dating vignettes.

For starters, Ball said Comcast Corp. is on board with VOD airings of Confessions, as well as the on-demand vignettes. She noted A&E is also in discussions to roll the content to other operators.

As to the VOD opportunities, affiliates may want to heed Novak’s final tip for preparing for a first date: “Most importantly, be on time!”

N.J. Town Calls Cops On Verizon Sales Reps

Suburbanites can get a little panicky when they spot packs of four or five guys in blood-red polo shirts trolling their neighborhoods.

In May, several residents in Ridgewood, N.J., phoned local police with complaints about door-to-door sales representatives pushing Verizon Communications’ FiOS TV and Internet service.

One of the reps, employed by marketing firm 20/20 Companies on behalf of Verizon, apparently showed up at the home of a 73-year-old woman at 8:30 p.m. without any official I.D. The woman told The Ridgewood News she called the cops because “you don’t expect something like that late at night.” The paper also quoted an anonymous resident who said a 20/20 salesman refused to leave his property — until a patrolman showed up.

And it turns out 20/20 had not secured the proper permits to even be soliciting in the town.

Steve Peters, 20/20’s senior vice president of business development, acknowledged the oversight and said the company has “ceased marketing activities in Ridgewood” until it can get the right permits. He added that securing door-to-door solicitation permits can be complicated, requiring, in some cases, separate permission from county and village governments: “New Jersey seems to be one of the most formidable states for permitting.”

As for how the company deals with reps who step out of line, Peters said 20/20 will terminate an employee “or a mentoring activity would occur.” In Ridgewood, he said, there wasn’t a complaint about an individual representative.

Peters said that people call local police about 20/20’s door-to-door teams all the time. “Generally speaking, anytime residents see somebody unfamiliar in the neighborhood, they’ll call police to make sure we’re authorized,” he said. “It’s a normal practice for residents to do that.”

Asked to comment on the Ridgewood complaints, Verizon director of media relations Sharon Cohen-Hagar said that the telco requires its salespeople “to respect our customers. We expect our vendors to operate within any local guidelines; if they do not, we take appropriate actions.”

Fort Worth, Texas-based 20/20 also does work for AT&T, pitching U-verse in various local markets. Nationwide, 20/20 employs 1,500 sales reps in 37 states.