Well, we've had a suburban pot dealer in Weeds, a suburban meth-maker in Breaking Bad, and suburban wife-swappers in Swingtown. Sounds like depravity in the 'burbs is pretty well played out. Wait! What's this? A suburban pimp? By golly, you're right, we haven't had that...yet. The production company Cinema Hill Motion Picture proudly announces that it's just completed work on a pilot titled PIMP-24/7 which it describes as a "riveting, sophisticated drama which centers on a well-spoken, educated street pimp who lives undetected by his suburban neighbors, while trying to protect his young nephews who are quickly becoming drawn into the procuring lifestyle." Stars include Gary Sturgis of Daddy's Little Girls and Antwon Tanner of One Tree Hill. Cinema Hill execs hope to get a deal with a network lined up this spring. First one to make a "Ward, I'm worried about the Beaver..." joke gets a hard slapping.
At last, we have an answer to the question, is there anything that NBC -- the network of Fear Factor, Knight Rider and Kath & Kim -- won't put on the air? And the answer is Yes: Women cannot have sex with pumpkins, broccoli or asparagus, not while the NBC cameras are watching. No word on other vegetables, but if you're a carrot or a green bean, I don't think your chances of boinking that cheerleader on Heroes are too good.
The continued existence of NBC's Standards & Practices department, previously thought to have quietly expired sometime during the Clinton administration, came to light this week when the network banned a Super Bowl ad from the animal-rights folks at PETA. Entitled Veggie Love, it depicts a bunch of lithe lingerie models lasciviously writhing around with the aforesaid greenery on sofas, tables, floors, piano benches and practically any other flat surface you can think of. There's even a scene in a hot tub which, if you're a vegetable, would come uncomfortably close to cannibal sex. All this is accompanied by a convenient subtitle that explains, "Studies show vegetarians have better sex." Though not necessarily with human beings, apparently.
NBC must have really hated the ad, considering that it still hadn't sold out all its Super Bowl commercials as of Thursday morning. (Usually all the ad time has been sold weeks and even months in advance.) But there's no confirmation yet that the network is considering giving the PETA slot to a commercial for the Bacon Explosion.
Contrary to popular opinion, playing for the Dolphins a couple of years ago when they were losing not just to everybody in the NFL but even Canadian semi-pro teams whose fans consisted mostly of herds of dazed moose did not necessarily doom your career. Well, it did if you were a player. (Joey Harrington? Cleo Lemon? Has anybody seen those guys? Somebody check the I-95 underpasses.) But the cheerleaders, that's a whole 'nother matter. Two of those nice, wholesome-looking girls you watched writhing on the sidelines -- whether in supercharged hormonal storms or agony over what they were seeing out on the field was never clear -- have teamed together to compete in the CBS show The Amazing Race, in which contestants race around to exotic places all over the world on a 40,000-mile scavenger hunt.
So meet Cara Rosenthal, 26, of Boca Raton, now a law student in Boca Raton, and Jaime Edmondson, 29, of Fort Lauderdale, a former cop. (Wouldn't it be fun to watch Nancy Grace with the two of them?) Their race gets underway on CBS at 8 p.m. on Feb. 15. Among the lush oases they'll visit if they stay in the show long enough are Siberia (where that quirky Stalin fellow used to send annoying people to be shot) and Romania (where the real-life Count Dracula used to have his political opponents impaled on giant stakes). Lucky girls! Well, it can't be any worse than watching Daunte Culpepper play quarterback.
Color me surprised, at least briefly: The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday didn't pass a bill that would have delayed until June the conversion from analog to digital TV signals. The vote was 258 to 168 in favor of changing the date from Feb. 18 to June 12, but because its consideration was expedited, the bill needed a two-thirds majority to pass. The Senate passed its version of the bill Monday night.
The question is, will the House stand by its decision? Remember, it also voted against the Bush administration's bank bailout last fall before caving a couple of days late when the White House waved some more goodies around. I suspect the Obama administration, which supports the delay, will try the same thing. Stay tuned.
Betting on the Super Bowl game? That's strictly for punks. Real fans are betting on the commercials. Yes, those helpful folks at Betonline.com are actually laying odds on which Super Bowl ads will be the most popular with television viewers. (As measured by the USA Today Ad Meter, which runs electrodes into the brains of a bunch of people who really truly are in need of a buck, then ties them down in front the tube.) The favorite is Anheuser-Busch at 5-1, which seems unnecessarily high to me since either an ad for either Budweiser or Bud Lite has finished first on the ad meter for the last 10 Super Bowls in a row.) Second, at 6-1, is Go Daddy, the Internet company that's run ads the past couple of years overflowing with big half-covered boobs and smutty double-entendres (and I mean that in the nicest possible way). The list extends through Denny's and Pedigree Dog Food -- and no, smart guy, that's two ads, not one -- at 25-1, and ends at 2,850-1 for rabid weasels pouring out of the stands to eat Ben Roethlisberger's face and being mistaken by viewers for a commercial for a new NBC reality show. Okay, I made the last one up, but I'm pretty sure Betonline.com will lay odds on it if anybody asks.
Hollywood actors took a huge step back away from a strike Monday, firing the hard-line team of union negotiators who seemed intent on leading the Screen Actors Guild into a strike. The SAG moderates who've been increasingly uneasy about the possibility of a strike were so intent on getting rid of chief negotiator Doug Allen that they agreed to eat the final 12 months of his $500,000-a-year contract.
Allen was closely allied with SAG President Alan Rosenberg and other militants who've been spoiling for a strike since SAG's contract with the studios expired seven months ago. They've insisted SAG could get a better deal than writers and directors, who signed contracts last year, and demanded a strike authorization vote from the union membership. But as the American economy has gone south, more and more SAG members have backed away from the shrill rhetoric of the militants, and Monday they decisively broke with the union's hawkish leaders. Rosenberg certainly understood the significance of Monday's actions. "This is the darkest day within my memory," he told the trade journal Variety. Yeah, that 9/11 business was pretty trifling compared to not getting your way at a SAG board meeting.
The U.S. Senate Monday approved legislation that would delay the switchover from analog to digital television for four months. The bill changes the transition date from Feb. 17 to June 12. But the change won't be official until the House approves it too; that could happen as early as Tuesday. The Obama administration asked for the change because, depending on which figures you accept, somewhere between 8 and 10 percent of American households are unprepared for the switchover. Because most of those households watch little or no television (anybody with cable or satellite service is already prepared for digital signals), that figure is not going to decline much between now and June. It will be interesting to see if Obama and Congress blink again as the new date approaches.
Maybe I should be Matt Damon's agent. It seems he stands to make $100,000 from chatting with me last week for a Miami Herald story. (I know, small change compared to what he pulls in from a Bourne movie, but even my editors would say it's pretty decent pay for having to talk to me for a couple of hours.) During the interview, Damon was rating the New York Times' columnists. His least favorite, he said, was conservative William Kristol: ''He's an idiot -- he wrote that we should be grateful to George Bush because he won the Iraq war. We! Won! The! War!''
Turns out that Andrew Breitbart, the former Matt Drudge associate who now runs a conservative-leaning website on politics and show biz called Big Hollywood, was reading the Herald Sunday and thought it would be fun to see a debate between Kristol and Damon. He quickly got Kristol to agree, and now he's offered $100,000 to Damon to participate. (The money can also go "to the charity or carbon credit of his choice," adds Brietbart.) I'm just hoping I can get press credentials to cover it.
Matt Damon enters the Coconut Grove recording studio with a smile of obvious relief, notwithstanding the fact that in moments he will have to pronounce words like Kangerdlugssuaq. (You know, the glacier in Greenland.) Narrating a PBS show about the environment, no matter how tongue-torturous, is an easier gig than the one he just left, debating the moral implications of Santa Claus mythology with his 10-year-old daughter.
''We don't allow lying under any circumstances,'' Damon explains ruefully, 'and we've always taught her that. But now she's found out the real story on Santa Claus. `So you were lying!' she says. 'But it's like a great cultural lie,' we tell her. No. 'It's everyone,' we tell her. No. 'It's a fun lie.' No. . . . The argument is just not going well.''
Public policy and Santa Claus are not necessarily intertwined in most American households. But for Damon, a fiercely liberal activist who was one of Barack Obama's first and loudest Hollywood supporters (he compared Sarah Palin's vice presidential candidacy to ''a really bad Disney movie'' and suggested President Bush's twin daughters be packed off to Iraq), politics colors nearly everything.
''What we liked about Matt is that he's Harvard educated, so he's a very smart guy,'' says Hal Weiner, who with his wife Marilyn produces Journey to the Planet Earth, the PBS series Damon has narrated for the past eight years and was working on last week. ``But he's also a little political.''
Damon's intensely political take on life and art was on full view in the Cineart Group studio last week as he taped an episode of Journey to the Planet Earth for telecast on March 18. No chit-chat about cars or makeup or agents, and the only sexual discussion concerned the rampant promiscuity of the slutty fish lurking in the reefs off Belize. (Less weird than it sounds; the show was about the health of oceans.)
Instead, the small talk -- if that's the right phrase -- ranged from which New York Times columnist is the worst (conservative William Kristol, according to Damon: ''He's an idiot -- he wrote that we should be grateful to George Bush because he won the Iraq war. We! Won! The! War!'') to the proper place of torture in American foreign policy. ''Look, the best line about torture I've heard came from [retired CIA officer turned war-on-terrorism critic] Milt Beardon,'' Damon says. Whoops -- to find out what it was, you're gonna have to read my full story in Sunday''s Miami Herald.