Through the Wire

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Pass the Bottle and Praise the Movie

Writers at the Television Critics Association’s twice yearly meetings have gotten some goofy and mostly useless premiums dropped in their rooms over the years: gaudy polyester Hawaiian shirts, beach towels, ball caps, mugs. The usual stuff.

But AMC last week dreamed up a room drop we’re sure “spoke” to more than a few critics. The promo package is for Broken Trail, the basic movie net’s first original film, a Western starring Robert Duvall and Thomas Haden Church.

The large wooden boxes, emblazoned with the name of the film, contained two clear shot glasses and an elegant chinoiserie bag. Inside the bag, a gift that threatened to keep on giving to anyone who uses it: a bottle of nine-year-old Knob Creek bourbon.

Finally, a network who knows the trick to calming cranky writers!

No Steamy Reunion For Old Love 'Birds’

Some critics attending the Hallmark Channel session at TCA were excited to see that one of the channel’s upcoming original movies featured Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward as apparent co-stars in Bluebeard.

But to anyone expecting a reunion of the stars who sizzled in the ’80s miniseries The Thorn Birds, you’re in for a letdown.

Chamberlain explained that he and his former on-screen love actually have no scenes together in the telefilm. Were it not for a chance meeting in a Thai airport as one star left the set and the other arrived, Chamberlain wouldn’t have even greeted the Aussie brunette, whom he had not seen in 25 years.

Just birds that pass in the night.

Can a Kung Fu Hit Play on Mouse Net?

Here’s an interesting script idea: make a tweener version of the Golden Globe-nominated feature Kung Fu Hustle.

The theatrical film described as “part martial arts, part slapstick” has been a worldwide hit. The plot, in a nutshell: in 1930s Shanghai, thugs called the Axe gang rule by terror. In a town in the countryside, a youth tries to impersonate a gang member only to draw the opposition of the townspeople. Even the elderly kick his butt.

Producer Bill Borden, one of the men behind the Disney Channel’s Jan. 20 debut of original made-for-TV flick High School Musical, thinks the kung fu film is ripe for a downsized, youth-oriented, Disney Channel version.

The only problem, in Borden’s view: getting the violence, even cartoonish violence, past the channel’s content police.

He’s been plugging away at a script for about six months, aiming at scenes that would be the live-action equivalent of a classic Tex Avery cartoon. But any time he writes a script line like “man’s head goes through a wall,” he imagines heads shaking in the standards and practices office.

Hmm, have you tried casting a white-gloved Mouse?

Court TV Using Web To Tweak New Rival

Court TV plans to offer a “vidcast” on pertinent topics each month on its affiliate Web site, kicking off with a discussion of retransmission consent and — perhaps not coincidentally — the launch of a potential rival, Sleuth, the new crime-and-suspense channel from NBC Universal.

Bob Rose, Court TV’s executive vice president of affiliate relations, will be taping two to three minute vidcasts at a studio and then streaming them on the network’s affiliate Web site. He’ll do a new one each month.

Rose said Court TV, which has been beating the drum against retransmission consent for years, sees Sleuth as possibly one of the last cable networks whose distribution is driven by retransmission-consent agreements, in this case for NBC’s stations. That’s why he was planning to lead off with it.

NBC Universal officials couldn’t be reached for comment last week.

Court TV plans to send out e-mails prompting affiliates to watch the vidcasts. As an incentive, those who actually watch are eligible to win an iPod.

Channel Drops Felt In Ergen Household

EchoStar Communications chairman Charlie Ergen might have taken a little heat at home for dropping Lifetime Television. During a press conference at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, Ergen said his wife, Cantey, was mad because his Dish Network dropped Lifetime on New Year’s Day. He said they had to go over to a friend’s house who had cable to watch it, sparking laughter in the audience of reporters.

Ergen then backtracked and quipped, “Don’t print that, it’s not true. She wanted to watch bull riding on Outdoor Life” — another network Dish has dropped.

OK, which part is really bull?