- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 8, 2004

BET backs J.J.

Not everyone is ganging up on Janet Jackson.

The singer’s revealing production during last week’s Super Bowl halftime show may have cost her a slot on last night’s Grammy telecast, but Black Entertainment Television is standing by her.

Miss Jackson will be featured, as planned, in the District-based network’s 10-part series for Black History Month.

“Black History: Pass It On” profiles a variety of black leaders and reveals contributions made by both famous and not-so-famous black Americans.

The vignettes feature the singer dressed in classic black, a far cry from the image she cut with her infamous dance routine.

“We certainly hope that the work Ms. Jackson has done on these very uplifting and informing spots will get as much attention as anything else she’s done,” said BET President and Chief Operating Officer Debra Lee in a statement.

“Far too often, the media wants to paint folks with one brush. Yes, Ms. Jackson, like all great artists, pushes the envelope. But equal to those actions are her passion and dedication to getting positive messages out.”

Of course, if the public and the media had responded like Miss Jackson had hoped, the superstar would be silently praising scribes everywhere for invigorating her stagnant career.

The series will run on the network, owned by Viacom — which also owns MTV and CBS, the network that aired the Super Bowl — throughout the month.

Dave’s Beatles tribute

David Letterman has caught the same strain of Beatlemania Redux the rest of us have.

CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” will broadcast one of the Fab Four’s first performances from the very same theater the gap-toothed host today calls home.

Tonight’s telecast is part of our culture’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The clip features the quartet tearing into “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” footage which “has rarely been seen in its entirety since its first broadcast,” according to CBS.

The Beatles made their American television debut on CBS’ “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964, performing on the stage where Mr. Letterman’s show is produced.

Self-help guru Dr. Phil (Phil McGraw) also drops by the Ed Sullivan Theater to banter with Mr. Letterman.

“The Late Show With David Letterman” airs weeknights at 11:35 on CBS.

MTV show nixed

The Laguna Beach Unified School District doesn’t want its MTV.

The network got punk’d by school district officials who reneged on letting it film a reality show at an Orange County (California) high school, according to the Associated Press.

Officials pinned their reversal on the network’s Feb. 1 Super Bowl halftime show in which Janet Jackson pulled the aforementioned snafu.

Board members already had approved the deal, and shooting had begun off school grounds last week. Depending on the number of episodes aired, the district was to make $12,000 to $40,000, plus royalties, for college scholarships, the AP reports.

Board members said they made the shift after the MTV-produced halftime performance when Justin Timberlake ripped off part of Miss Jackson’s costume, revealing her right breast.

“The tenor of the landscape has changed in light of the events during the Super Bowl,” school board member Bob Whalen told AP.

Parents, some of whom bristled at the thought of students auditioning for MTV even before the halftime show, attended Wednesday’s special meeting and demanded the district nix the deal.

MTV spokeswoman Janet Hill said in a prepared statement that the network regretted the board’s decision. She said producers will discuss whether to continue with the program by filming the students off school grounds.

Sykes in charge

Wanda Sykes may have lost her Fox sitcom “Wanda at Large” but she still can call Comedy Central home.

The caustic comic has inked a six-episode commitment for a new weekly series for the network. Miss Sykes already appears on Comedy Central’s “Crank Yankers” program as well as in various stand-up comedy specials.

The new show will focus on her real-life attempt to do everyday jobs outside of show business, the network says.

“Comedy Central is like the boyfriend or girlfriend who’s always there,” Miss Sykes, a former District resident said in a statement. “You can go out and cheat on them with another network, and get jilted, and come back to them and they’ll still take you in … they’re my favorite co-dependent network.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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