- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2006

Oh my. It’s Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and he’s eating pizza, sipping red wine from a stubby glass and recalling that his grandson refers to him as a “Supreme Court jester.”

Political discourse has just gotten civil and chummy, the very antithesis of contentious caterwaul common to Washington and New York studios. “Beyond Politics” has arrived, a half-hour interview with the movers and shakers when they’re not moving and shaking — originating from Plum TV, the swankiest cable network on the planet.

And it is swanky. The channel is available only on the rarified airwaves of Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, the Hamptons and three high-end ski resorts in Colorado.

“It’s candid, comfortable. No sound bites. The viewer is a fly on the wall,” said network spokesman Graham Veysey.

Indeed, Justice Scalia is interviewed in his favorite little pizza parlor by Stan Pottinger, a former legal counsel in the Nixon and Ford administrations turned best-selling mystery writer. Blue-blazered and suave, he looks very much the dry martini man with a Mercedes, or at least a Cadillac. The pair chat quietly for the cameras; they probe the demands of Supreme Court life and competing ideologies as the waiter fiddles with the glasses.

Justice Scalia reveals that he has taken up hunting and fishing — and skinning and eating the kill, too — and that he spends every New Year’s Eve with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“We are all best friends,” he says of his peers on the bench, later confessing that most of what the mighty court does is “exceedingly dull.”

Justice Scalia admires the pizza crust then confesses, “I’m not a political animal,” and casts his final judgment on journalists.

“The press is very thin-skinned,” he says. “They can dish it out but not take it.”

The show, which first began airing on July 19, promises to casually plumb the souls of politicos, revealing their aspirations to “change the world,” said producer Jage Toba.

“In the pantomime of cable news and the ‘Punch and Judy’ show of politics in the media, it’s very easy to forget what inspired our public servants to spend their lives in the public arena,” said Mr. Toba, who included a few arty close-ups of gesticulating hands and discarded pizza crusts to ensure the audience understands they’re witnessing Justice Scalia, man behind the robes.

It is the same for Rep. Barney Frank. The Massachusetts Democrat was interviewed on the public square in Taunton, Mass., expounding on his sexuality as well as homophobia, homosexual rights and the coarsening of political relations between the parties — which he blames entirely on Newt Gingrich.

The low-key niche network — dubbed ” ‘Wayne’s World’ for the Rich” by Newsweek magazine — has attracted some heavyweights, showcasing the breezy side of Tim Russert, Tucker Carlson, Al Franken, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Gary Hart and Mike Wallace, among others — all happy to chitchat in someone’s living room while wearing Izods and Topsiders.

It is still a delicate dance between Plum TV and the political heavyweights, however. Mr. Veysey was reluctant to reveal who is next on the interview roster — though he hinted the future subjects were of the substantial variety. The attraction between such stars and this petite boite of a network is no secret, though.

“They trust us,” Mr. Veysey said. “We celebrate their intellect. We offer some honest TV. That’s all.”

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