Thursday, July 13, 2000

USA cable scuttles 'Schott' story

        PASADENA, Calif. — USA cable has struck out with The Marge Schott Story. The two-hour docudrama announced in December for the 2000-2001 TV season is essentially dead.

        Adam Shapiro, USA senior vice president for cable movies, says the network could not develop a satisfactory script about the controversial former Cincinnati Reds majority owner.

        “It's hard to make her a compelling character,” Mr. Shapiro told me during the Television Critics Association's summer press tour here.

        “I have been wrestling with whether there's truly an audience for this or not — except for the people in Cincinnati.”

        This is no surprise to those who read my Opening Day column. Mr. Shapiro then expressed second thoughts about the project based on Mike Bass' 1993 Marge Schott: Unleashed (Sagamore Publishing; $19.95).

        Mr. Shapiro had wanted to film the biography in May or June, so it could air during the September pennant races or the October World Series.

        USA's decision to bench Marge Schott means the script by writers Carolyn Shelby and Chris Ames likely will not be filmed. USA owns the script. If another network wants to produce that script, it would have to pay USA's development costs, Mr. Shapiro says.

        He spent USA's press conference promoting his next big bio picture, a four-hour miniseries about Attila the Hun. Gerry Butler (Trainspotting) and Powers Boothe (Joan of Arc) will star in the January telecast.

        Just for laughs: Robert Smigel is developing a new Comedy Central series to debut later this year. He's the comic genius behind those Saturday Night Live “TV Funhouse” cartoons featuring “The X-Presidents” and “The Ambiguously Gay Duo,” as well as “Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog” on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Mr. Smigel will continue contributing to NBC's SNL and Conan.

        Discovery news: The Discovery Channel repeats its record-setting Walking with Dinosaurs documentary at 8 p.m. Aug. 20, at the conclusion of the 13th annual “Shark Week” (Aug. 13-20). A sequel, Walking with Prehistoric Beasts, is being produced for fall of 2001.

        Spenser Breslin, the kid in The Kid with Bruce Willis, stars in a goofy Discovery children's comedy called Who Killed Kenny? premiering Aug. 19. He plays a child harboring a 6-foot tiger shark (voice of actor Paul Spencer) in his suburban home.

        Close to home: WEBN-FM (102.7) has received two nominations for National Association of Broadcasters' awards in September. The Clear Channel station is up for “legendary station of the year,” and veteran Jay Gilbert is up for large market personality of the year.

        WEBN-FM won the NAB's station of the year Marconi Award last September. Last month, program director Michael Walter was named program director of the year by Radio & Records magazine.


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