Through The Wire: Right Place and Time for Weather Chasers

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The WeatherChannel field producer Simon Temperton and photographer Blair Carper were inOklahoma last week, preparing for the network's annual special focusing on the start ofthe tornado season, when they got more than they bargained for: the biggest and mostdestructive tornado in recent memory. Temperton said he and Carper had just arrived inOklahoma when they began hearing reports of tornadoes within the vicinity.

Searching for the network's "Doppler on Wheels" storm chasers, Temperton andCarper drove toward Newcastle, Okla., but were unable to locate them. Just as they wereheading back, however, the huge, nearly mile-wide tornado appeared in the distance. Thetwo followed the tornado until it crossed their paths nearly half a mile from their car."It was so surreal. We couldn't believe it was really happening," Tempertonsaid.

But the incredible damage left in the wake of the tornado was very real, he added."The area looked like it was under construction, but it didn't dawn on us until laterthat some lives may have been lost."

Robert Romano, a PR spokesman for Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc.,was wondering last week if he'll be able to get in to see CBS' upfront, announcing its newfall schedule, May 19 in New York.

What's strange is that Romano is connected -- he is thekid brother of Ray Romano of the CBS Everybody Loves Raymond Romanos.

In fact, he says, he's been an extra on that popularsitcom. And even though their older brother is named Richard in real life, he's Robert onthe show because, he says, Ray "threw me a bone of sorts." C'mon, Robert: Justcall Ray for an upfront ticket.

Speaking of the new fall TV season, in a sense, themajor broadcast-television networks are sleeping with the enemy as they mull theirprimetime-series pilot crop -- but less so than in recent seasons. This year, just two ofthe pilots in the running have a cable connection.

MTV Productions did Chaos Theory, an NBC projectabout three sisters and their family living in a college town, and Dodge's City, aUPN pilot about "an extreme private eye" who lives in an abandoned DC-10 andworks at a comic book/record store. MTV's co-producing both with sister Paramount NetworkTelevision.

Beyond those projects, there are more tenuous cable linkslike Prototype, a Spelling Television pilot for Fox about an android cop and hispartner (shades of Showtime's Total Recall 2070), and Secret Agent Man,Columbia TriStar's project about two agents whose headquarters are beneath Madison SquareGarden. The Wire wonders if Cablevision Systems Corp. knows about that!

Bill McGowan, senior vice president of ad sales at Discovery Networks U.S., now has anickname within the company. "We now refer to him as 'Billion-Dollar Bill,'"Johnathan Rodgers, Discovery Networks' president, joked the other day. That, of course,was inspired by McGowan's recent prediction that network-cable ad sales may enjoy a $1billion uptick, to $3.8 billion, by the time mid-July rolls around.

Semaphore Entertainment Group may bemoving closer to getting its controversial Ultimate Fighting Championship eventback on cable. The highly influential Nevada Athletic Commission has agreed to form aspecial committee to review the rules and regulations governing the combat-sports event.

The committee will attend an upcoming event and, if it issatisfied that the rules are being enforced and the medical practices and procedures arebeing carried out, it would consider sanctioning the UFC in the state.

The lack of an official sanction from a reputable stateathletic commission has been one of the main reasons why operators have refused to offerthe events on pay-per-view.


By R. Thomas Umstead, from bureau reports.

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