- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

Rather replacement

The “Today” show’s Matt Lauer and “Meet the Press’” Tim Russert are reportedly among those being heavily wooed by CBS to replace Dan Rather when he exits the “CBS Evening News” next spring, Newsweek magazine reports.

The conventional wisdom had CBS’ own White House correspondent John Roberts as a finalist for the gig. But with possible outsourcing afoot (and the reported courting of two popular NBC personalities) it now appears that the Tiffany Network has faith in its nightly newscast — despite the fact that it, along with similar network news broadcasts, has been losing viewers in dramatic numbers for the past 20 years.

Mr. Rather, who took over the CBS anchor chair from legendary newsman Walter Cronkite 24 years ago, last week announced his plans to step down in the spring. The Texas-born Mr. Rather has been under heavy fire from conservatives and media watchdog groups for a recent “60 Minutes II” report alleging President George W. Bush had dodged his required duties with the National Guard in the early 1970s.

The documents the news report were based upon were subsequently debunked by various experts and several Internet blog sites.

Safe ‘Source’ on BET

Although the Source Awards celebrate the year in hip-hop, the night, unfortunately, may remind fans of another ceremony — the Vibe Awards — and the underlying tensions among the music genre’s artists. A man was stabbed and a melee ensued at the latter awards show earlier this month.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case for the Source presentation, held Oct. 10 at the James L. Knight Center in Miami. Black Entertainment Television will rebroadcast the annual event at 9 tonight, with the network’s Big Tigger, Trina and comic Kevin Hart serving as hosts.

The program will also feature performances by such artists as Mase, Juvenile, Ciara, Trick Daddy and Ja Rule, among others.

The real ‘Gilligan’

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…

No, it’s not the refrain of the familiar “Gilligan’s Island” theme song introducing a rerun from the beloved ‘60s sitcom.

TBS is going one better, connecting viewers to “The Real Gilligan’s Island,” a reality show take on the silly series debuting at 8 tonight.

The original “Gilligan,” which first aired in 1964, became a cult classic for its slapstick humor and culture clashes between the snobbish Howells (portrayed by Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer), the put-upon Gilligan (Bob Denver) and the rest of the castaways.

The new program will pit two sets of castaways (two Gilligans, two skippers, two professors, etc.) against one another as they compete for spots in the final cast of seven characters. Former “Baywatch” beauty Nicole Eggert and Rachel Hunter, the supermodel and ex-Mrs. Rod Stewart, for instance, will square off to portray Ginger — the spoiled movie star played by actress Tina Louise in the original series.

Less familiar faces flesh out the rest of the show, which centers on seven “abandoned” strangers as they plot their rescue from an island. The participants must work together for both their release and survival, Scripps Howard News Service reports. Among their challenges: building a raft and shaking coconuts from a tree to get milk.

Bridges for tolerance

The creator of Bridges TV, a new Muslim lifestyle network for American audiences which debuts today, says his inspiration for the project came in the days following the September 11 terrorists attacks.

Muzzammil Hassan, Bridges’ founder and chief executive, said the idea came from his wife as she listened to the radio during a road trip in December 2001.

“Some derogatory comments were being made about Muslims that offended her,” Mr. Hassan told Reuters News Agency. “She was seven months pregnant, and she thought she didn’t want her kids growing up in this environment.”

Based in Buffalo, N.Y., Bridges — named for the hope of bringing two cultures together — will be the first U.S. Muslim lifestyle network with English broadcasts, said Mr. Hassan. The new channel will have 50,000 initial cable and satellite subscribers, he notes. Planned programming includes Muslim cartoons, educational shows and animated stories based on the teachings of the Quran, the holy book of Islam.

Bridges also will broadcast daily news and current events which promise more objectivity than its competitors.

“Our target audience has told us some of the foreign channels are pretty one-sided and some of the domestic channels are pretty one-sided the other way,” said Mr. Hassan, who came to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1979.

The station will differ from popular Arabic satellite channels such as Al Jazeera in that it’s focused on life in America and backed by U.S. dollars, he said.

Mr. Hassan hopes Bridges will be watched by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. But, he stresses, the station’s target audience — some 8 million Americans of Muslim heritage — is an affluent and well-educated group that should be attractive to advertisers.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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