- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2007

‘Office’ perks

From the network that brought you “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you” comes the latest in TV-rerun technology: the “newpeat.”

NBC will offer up a pair of “Office” reruns on Thursday that will incorporate previously unaired material, reports Zap2it.com. The episodes “Traveling Salesmen” and “The Return,” which first aired in January, will be re-edited to include deleted scenes that have not been seen either on TV or in the deleted scenes NBC posts on the show’s official site, a network representative says.

“It’s about giving something extra to our wonderful fans,” Executive Producer Greg Daniels says. “Their loyalty must be rewarded somehow, and we don’t have the budget for 10 million muffin baskets.”

The network is no doubt hoping that the promise of new material in the “Office” repeats, which will air from 8 to 9 p.m., will draw curious fans of the show who might otherwise skip a rerun. A deleted scene from “The Return” that was available online, for instance, explains the absence of DunderMifflin employee Andy (Ed Helms) from subsequent episodes.

The Peacock also is planning an “Office” marathon for March 29, with five episodes of the show airing that night.

Surgery for Philbin

Regis Philbin, co-host of “Live With Regis and Kelly,” announced on yesterday’s show that he will have heart bypass surgery this week.

According to Associated Press, doctors recommended bypass surgery after a number of tests.

Mr. Philbin, 75, said he was hoping to have angioplasty because “you know, you get in — bang, bang, bang — they blow it open and you leave the next day.” But, he said, “there’s some plaque in some arteries and I’ve got to get it cleaned out.”

Burying the ‘Tomb’?

Discovery Channel’s controversial James Cameron-produced documentary “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” drew the largest audience for the network in more than a year for its March 4 premiere, but the network has taken several recent steps to downplay the project, notes TVWeek.com.

Departing from normal procedures, the cable network didn’t tout its big ratings win. The network also scheduled a last-minute special that harshly criticized its own documentary, and has yanked a planned repeat of “Tomb.”

“This is not one where you necessarily beat the drum, from a business perspective,” said David Leavy, executive vice president of corporate communications at Discovery. “It’s not necessarily about making money, or making ratings, or shouting from the highest office building. Sometimes having some maturity and perspective is more important than getting picked up in all the ratings highlights.”

The documentary, executive produced by Oscar-winning “Titanic” director Mr. Cameron, claims to have found the family tomb of Jesus Christ, unearthed in Jerusalem. The findings include circumstantial evidence suggesting Christ and Mary Magdalene were a couple, and that they had a son named Judah.

Discovery formally announced the special last month and quickly ignited a worldwide media frenzy. But much of the coverage was highly skeptical of the documentary’s findings. Prominent archaeologists disputed the program, while Christian groups criticized it for conflicting with the New Testament.

Although Mr. Leavy said the network stands by the documentary “100 percent,” the company took several unusual steps in the wake of the controversy that could be seen as distancing itself from the content.

Discovery abruptly scheduled a panel debate to air after the documentary, moderated by Discovery newsman Ted Koppel. Discovery’s announcement of the panel emphasized that Mr. Koppel “has no connection to the production of ‘The Lost Tomb of Jesus’” and that “the panel will explore the filmmakers’ profound assertions and challenge their assumptions and suggested conclusions.” When the panel discussion aired, guests criticized the documentary as “archaeo-porn” that played fast and loose with the facts.

The day after the March 4 airing, Discovery yanked a planned repeat of “Tomb” from its more hard-news-branded Discovery Times Channel.

When the Nielsen ratings revealed that “Tomb” averaged 4.1 million viewers — Discovery’s largest audience since September 2005 — the network declined to put out a press release touting the numbers, as would be standard practice for a highly successful premiere, notes TVWeek.com. The second-season premiere of Discovery Channel’s “Future Weapons,” for instance, earned a media announcement for its audience of 2.5 million. However, a network representative insisted Discovery was not trying to bury “Tomb.”

No press release on the ratings was sent out, Mr. Leavy said, because of the show’s subject matter. As for the yanked Discovery Times repeat, Mr. Leavy said that outlet wasn’t the best venue to repeat the special.

The network still plans to air a previously scheduled “Tomb” repeat on its Spanish network on Sunday, as well as an HD version on Discovery HD Theater on March 28, reports TVWeek.com.

‘Idol’ matters

Supremes diva Diana Ross appears on Fox’s “American Idol” (tonight at 8 and tomorrow at 9 p.m.) to coach the 12 aspiring finalists in their quest for stardom.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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