Amanpour Strikes Back
As wars go, the Balkans conflict makes for pretty grim TV--few pictures of bombings-in-progress, sparse information from NATO and no Scud Stud. With the burden of infotainment resting with the news correspondents, we review their performances.
CBS EVENING News
Rating [3 1/2 missiles]
Kudos to Dan Rather for being the first network anchor in Belgrade. It may not be Baghdad live, but Gunga Dan is in his element. Kudos also to whoever chose the tag Crisis over Kosovo over the banal Crisis in Kosovo.
VIEWERS: 8.5 million
NBC NIGHTLY News
Rating [2 missiles]
Ron Allen looks as if he's dressed for a Ricky Martin video, not reporting a war. Maybe his snazzy disguise was the reason he was allowed to stay in Belgrade that day when other reporters were forced out.
VIEWERS: 10 million
ABC WORLD News TONIGHT
Rating [3 1/2 missiles]
While Jane Clayson sports the J. Crew look in Macedonia, her colleague Morton Dean blends in with the natives by dressing urban casual. The people in Belgrade seem to like this old-school, man-on-the-street reporter; so we do too.
VIEWERS: 9.5 million
Rating [3 1/2 missiles]
Christiane Amanpour, formerly the sultry voice of the Gulf War, shines despite CNN's rather dry coverage. You know you've arrived when the Serbian media accuse you of "great, great evil."
VIEWERS: 575,000 (avg.)
Rating [3 missiles]
John Hockenberry is suitably disheveled doing his talk show live--at 4 a.m. local time--from Tirana, Albania. Maybe he gloats a tad too much over the mud stuck to his wheel-chair. You're tough. We know.
VIEWERS: 262,000 (avg.)
FOX NEWS CHANNEL
Rating [2 missiles]
Since gutsy but shoestring Fox is relatively understaffed in the Balkans, its format centers on punditry. Amid all the bickering, Tim Marshall is sometimes just another voice in the wilderness.
VIEWERS: 136,000 (avg.)
New Real Estate in Space
Savvy speculators may want to look into the new solar system found orbiting the star UPSILON ANDROMEDAE last week. Distant planets have been popping up for a few years, but always singly; this is the first time astronomers have found a group. One even has an Earthlike orbit, so it might be hospitable--except that it's bigger than Jupiter and probably made mostly of gas. It could have an Earthlike moon, however. If you can find a broker, better get your bid in early for a choice lot.
David Bjerklie, Tam Gray, Daniel Levy, Lina Lofaro,
Michele Orecklin, David Spitz, Flora Tartakovsky and Chris Taylor
WWW.MYNAMEHERE.COM Want a distinctive website name? Network Solutions, the global-domain-name registrar, recently wrested a bunch of sites from owners who weren't using them. A few suggested domain names for folks you know:
doleful.com -- Bob Dole
epaulet.com -- Gen. Wesley Clark
earsplitting.com -- Mariah Carey
unctuous.com -- Barbara Walters
foppish.com -- Hugh Grant
whitish.com -- Michael Jackson
duplicable.com -- Dolly, the sheep
pectoral.com -- Jesse Ventura
inedible.com -- Steve Forbes
unkempt.com -- Martha Stewart
misshapen.com -- Barbie
ossify.com -- Strom Thurmond
thinnish.com -- Calista Flockhart
fallible.com -- NATO
HE SCORES! Last week so many sports stars got into trouble, it was as if they were competing. It seems appropriate, therefore, to inaugurate the Pete Rose Chalice for sporting miscreancy. The recipients are:
--Dennis Rodman, who was fired from the Los Angeles Lakers after being late to practice because, he said, he couldn't find his sneakers;
--University of Connecticut point guard Khalid El-Amin, who was arrested on marijuana charges;
--Yankee Darryl Strawberry, who is in treatment for cancer but was picked up for possessing cocaine and soliciting sex from an undercover cop.
Clinton's View: NATO Spoke Rashly, Unwisely
The White House is privately furious at how NATO commander General WESLEY CLARK first handled reports that one of his jets had mistakenly attacked a refugee convoy last week. Within hours of the Wednesday strike, which may have killed more than 70 ethnic Albanians, Clark told a news service he had "strong evidence" that Serb forces had fired at the refugee column. By the next day, embarrassed NATO officials admitted that their first claim was wrong and that an American F-16 had indeed attacked civilians. NATO tried to recover, releasing an audiotape of an F-16 pilot who may have struck the civilian convoy. He described how he thought he was attacking Serb military vehicles. The tape only added to the muddle. Pentagon officials, some of whom still suspect that Serb forces killed the civilians, now say that the pilot was describing another military convoy he had struck. "It wasn't handled well," a senior Administration aide said of NATO's response to the tragedy. NATO knew there would be civilian casualties during the air war, and when they occurred, "we had all agreed we wouldn't jump the gun and say things" before knowing for sure who was responsible, said the aide. Clark's gaffe handed Belgrade a propaganda windfall: a tragic accident that became a weeklong media flap over NATO credibility.
Not So Long Ago in a Beltway Not So Far Away
George Lucas hasn't exactly been known to feel the force of politics. Unlike his friend Steven Spielberg, Star Wars supremo Lucas doesn't make campaign contributions to the Democrats or, as far as we know, anyone. But could there be a heavy hint of party affiliation in his latest epic? Consider: Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, written in the mid-'90s and shot in scandal-filled 1998, opens with a hot-headed character named Nute (pronounced Newt), whose attack on the defenseless planet of Naboo has all the speed and surprise of the Republican revolution. Nute's ally in the Galactic Senate is known as Lott, and Lott's main aim is to tie up Naboo's call to arms in committee, allowing it to die a quiet death, a la campaign-finance reform.
The Senate, we are told, is "full of greedy, squabbling delegates who are only looking out for themselves and their own systems," while the elected leader of the Republic is powerless to stop them, having been "mired down by baseless accusations of corruption." Lest anyone doubt the meaning of this last line, Lucas made it crystal clear in conversations with Terence Stamp, who plays the hapless Galactic leader. After asking for some clues to his character, Stamp was told, "He's a bit like Clinton." Primary Colors was never this much fun.
15% Increase in the amount given by the average taxpayer to the IRS this year, to $1,563
4% Increase in the number of refunds given last year
20% Decrease in the number of audits
15 min. 44 sec. Duration of commercials in the average hour of prime-time television in 1998, up 25 sec. from 1997
19 min. 13 sec. Duration of commercials per hour of ABC's sitcom Sports Night, a prime-time record
21 min. Duration of commercials per hour of ABC's daytime soap All My Children 44th Position at which the National Review placed owner William F. Buckley's God & Man at Yale on a list of the century's 100 best nonfiction books
45th Position at which the magazine placed Selected Essays by T.S. Eliot
1 Number of American authors with books in the Top 10
Sources: IRS, AP, Washington Post, American Association of Advertising Agencies, National Review
The First Lady Gets into A New York State of Mind
Hillary Clinton will be in New York City for three days this week to talk about education and children's health, give awards to DESMOND TUTU and KATIE COURIC, raise money for Democrats--and no doubt fuel more speculation about her plans. Despite intriguing little gestures like the Long Island wine that was served at the official dinner for China's Zhu Rongji, the First Lady isn't expected to give a formal inkling of her decision on the New York Senate race until June. But her advisers say that the more she thinks about it--egged on in private by the Campaigner in Chief--the more she likes the idea. She's unfazed by polls showing her lead shrinking in a hypothetical match with New York Mayor RUDY GIULIANI and advice from her strategists that her chances are about even in a race that would be largely fought upstate and on Long Island. Says an intimate: "The upsides are taking the balance right now." Meanwhile, Hillary's other post-White House options--running a university or a think tank, sitting on boards--seem stodgy by comparison. From all this comes one loud signal, intended not least for her own husband: "She's not interested in making money," says another friend. "That's his job now."
That's All, Folks
FROM ANOTHER WORLD TO OURS After 35 years on the air, Another World, NBC's longest-running soap opera, has been canceled. You may not know anything about Bay City, but a number of important plot developments and future stars premiered there, some more welcome than others:
--It was the first television program to allude to an illegal abortion (1964)
--It was the first soap opera to expand from half an hour to an hour (1975)
--It's where Ray Liotta got his start (1978)
--It was the first soap opera to expand from an hour to an hour and a half (1979)
--It's where Morgan Freeman (1) broke out of children's television (1982)
--It was the first soap opera to feature a dwarf as a regular character (1984)
--It was the first soap opera to feature a character with AIDS (1987)
--It's where there have been 18 disrupted weddings since 1977
--It's where Anne Heche (2) got her start (1987)
--It's where Beverly Hills 90210's Gabrielle Carteris (3) got her start (1988)