Through the Wire


USA Gets 'Wife' Off to a Glitzy Start

USA Network put on the glitz for its Los Angeles premiere of The Starter Wife last Tuesday (May 22), taking over the screening room at the Pacific Design Center, the city's hub of haute interior design.

Guests were carefully separated into the “to be photographed” and “not to be photographed” lines and funneled to the outdoor-cocktail party once past the “pink” carpet.

Once they reached the party area, they were entertained by String Theory, a band whose most remarkable instrument was a series of cables attached high on the building and strummed by one of the band members to hypnotic effect. Good background music for people-watching, as NBC Universal drew significant star power for the miniseries starring Debra Messing.

On the carpet were Messing's former Will & Grace co-star, Eric McCormack (unfashionably early); Fran Drescher; S. Epatha Merkerson; Sharon Lawrence; Battlestar Galactica's Lucy Lawless, palling around with the much shorter Marissa Jaret Winokur; Desperate Housewives's Marcia Cross, The Starter Wife author Gigi Levangie Grazer and her mega-producer husband, Brian Grazer.

We noticed an interesting trend on the carpet here (we, too, were unfashionably on time and had plenty of time to watch): in the digital age, the photographed often ask the network's official photographer to see the image. Apparently the shooters knew their stuff: We didn't see many do-overs requested.

The theater was packed for the actual screening of the production USA chief Bonnie Hammer called “the perfect escapist beach read, on TV.”

The director, Jon Avnet, was a bit less promotionally minded, thanking the audience for their attention to “this piece of fluff.”

The mini is the genesis for a multimillion dollar marketing campaign, elements of which continued after the screening. Guests were provided with a branded tank top, makeup remover pads, a logo scarf (in the show's signature hot pink) and a pedicure kit.

The polish: a pale pampered pink called Starter Wife, natch …

For our reviewer's take on this high-profile USA series, see page 18.

Retiring (Not Shy) BrooksLikes 'Rockford,' 'Quark'

He still has much to look forward to, but Tim Brooks, retiring as Lifetime Networks' executive vice president of research at year's end, last week took a look back at some of his TV favorites.

On the broadcast side, Brooks, the co-author of TV industry guide book The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present, gave two thumbs up to The Rockford Files and James Garner who played “a different kind of detective, with a wink and a nod.”

Brooks, citing a preference for offbeat fare, cast his vote for the short-lived Quark (NBC, 1978), starring Richard Benjamin in a parody of space adventures in which his Adam Quark character was assigned by The Head to clean up garbage in outer space, aided by a pair of sexy identical girls, one a clone of the other.

On the cable side, Brooks called CNN's coverage of the Gulf War a defining moment that gave cable news the respect it deserved, and cited Comedy Central's South Park, “still a cultural phenomenon to some extent.”

Closer to home, he said Lifetime's Any Day Now — in which a black woman and a white woman renew their friendship after 30 years separation, with scenes alternating between their childhood and adult lives — “inspired other shows we see today.”

Brooks, whose career also included stints at USA Networks, ad agency N.W. Ayer & Partners and NBC, has TV, book and music projects in mind. He became interested in copyrights while researching his book Lost Sounds, which profiled the role of African Americans in the earliest years of the recording industry. The book's CD adapation won a 2007 Grammy Award.

Those and other travels have yielded many friends around the country. “I think I'm going to go bother some of them” in retirement, he said.

ITV's Kalick Hyperlinks To Google's TV-Ad Unit

Irv Kalick has made the leap from interactive TV to … interactive TV ads.

In March, Kalick left TVWorks, the interactive television joint venture between Comcast and Cox Communications. He became president of the TVWorks applications division in spring 2005 when the venture acquired ITV developer MetaTV, where he was CEO. He said he left after the MetaTV team was “situated happily” and integrated with Comcast's product development and engineering operations.

Since then, he's been doing consulting work for Google's TV advertising unit. Specifically, Kalick is helping to market the search giant's AdSense For TV (AFTV) service, which provides a platform to sell advertising inventory on cable networks in an auction format. Google has lined up EchoStar Communications to pilot the system. “We're trying to explain to people what we're doing, what it is… and trying to get other distributors on board,” he said.

Kalick said he is also continuing to provide consulting for Comcast surrounding business issues with TVWorks as well as other media and technology companies. “There's so much going on in the interactive advertising, application, video-on-demand space right now,” he said, adding, “I'm enjoying non-corporate life.”

Kalick said he sees the Google TV ad initiative as an extension of what he was doing at MetaTV and TVWorks: “It's the marriage of online and cable.”

So which big cable operators, if any, are going to say “I do” to Google?

Jay Rockefeller TV Stance:Parsons Connection Seen

Sen. John D. “Jay” Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) wants to clean up television, but he and Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin disagree on how to do it (See story on page 3). Martin, a Republican Bush appointee, is urging Congress to pass a law that would give him to power to force cable operators to sell channels one-by-one in an a la carte system that is despised within top cable circles.

Rockefeller, according to his staff, is no fan of a la carte. Instead, in a bill that he plans to unveil in a few weeks, Rockefeller is likely going to require that excessively violent cable and broadcast programming be limited to late-night hours, probably 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Rockefeller's opposition to a la carte has been the subject of some speculation. An Associated Press story intimated that Rockefeller was influenced by Time Warner campaign contributions.

Seeing as Rockefeller's great grandfather was American's first oil baron billionaire, the senator probably could live without Time Warner's largess.

A better theory: Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons is a Rockefeller family friend, who got his start in politics as an aide to New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller (Sen. Rockefeller's uncle) in the 1970s. Parsons followed Nelson Rockefeller to Washington, D.C., when President Gerald Ford appointed him vice president after Ford moved into the Oval Office upon President Nixon's resignation.