- - Tuesday, August 7, 2012

NBC defended itself Monday against Sharon Osbourne’s claim the network discriminated against her son in casting a new reality show.

The “America’s Got Talent” judge told the New York Post that she’s quitting the show because NBC fired her son, Jack Osbourne, by email two days before he was to co-star on the reality show “Stars Earn Stripes.”

Mr. Osbourne, 26, recently was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

In a statement Monday, NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt said the network “does not discriminate on any basis.”

All potential contestants for “Stars Earn Stripes,” which puts celebrities through arduous military-style exercises, had to undergo medical vetting, Mr. Greenblatt said. He cited medical privacy in declining to discuss Mr. Osbourne specifically.

“Stars Earns Stripes,” which debuts Monday, requires “dangerous water stunts, strenuous physical activity, and uses live ammunition,” Mr. Greenblatt said.

Mr. Osbourne was offered two alternative roles on the show but declined both, said Mr. Greenblatt, who made an effort to smooth things over with the Osbourne clan, including patriarch-rocker Ozzy Osbourne.

“We have the deepest affection for Sharon Osbourne and consider her to be part of the NBC family,” Mr. Greenblatt said. “And our hearts go out to her, Ozzy, Jack and his family at this time.”

NBC declined further comment. Mrs. Osbourne’s publicist didn’t respond to a request for comment.

A person close to the production said, contrary to Mrs. Osbourne’s claim that Jack Osbourne was fired abruptly, NBC hadn’t signed him to a contract and had tried to call Mrs. Osbourne several weeks beforehand to discuss why her son wouldn’t be on the show.

An email was sent after she didn’t respond, said the person, who was not authorized to comment on the issue and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mrs. Osbourne had tweeted two weeks ago that she wanted to leave “America’s Got Talent,” but gave no explanation other than saying it wasn’t an issue of money. She remains under contract with the talent contest, the summer’s top-rated series.

Olympics give big boost to ratings for ‘Today’

NBC’s hopes that the London Olympics would boost the struggling “Today” show have been rewarded and then some.

The once-dominant morning news show beat ABC’s “Good Morning America” by an average of 1.6 million viewers each day last week, the Nielsen ratings company said Monday. That’s the most dominant week for “Today” since the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.

It meant some 2 million viewers switched channels in the morning from the previous week, a startling reversal for a time of day when habits are hard to break. “Good Morning America” had won each of the previous five weeks, and its margin of 543,000 viewers over “Today” the week before the Olympics was the ABC show’s largest in 17 years.

NBC has sent its morning show team to London for broadcasts heavy on Olympic content and has reaped the benefits with the games proving more popular in the United States than most observers expected.

NBC also is using the Olympic telecasts to introduce Savannah Guthrie to viewers. Ms. Guthrie took over from Ann Curry a month ago as co-host with Matt Lauer and, until London, viewers had been cold to the change.

Mr. Lauer called the Olympics, which have featured big medal hauls for U.S. swimmers Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin and gold for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team “a nice shot in the arm.”

“It’s been a little turbulent as of late,” he said. “I think that might be the understatement of the year, but I think on a daily basis we try not to concentrate on that day’s ratings. We try to concentrate on that day’s show. We can do a fantastic show, and if the next day we wake up and the ratings don’t quite correspond, it doesn’t make us feel worse about the show we did. And the opposite is true.”

Mr. Lauer said he expected that ratings improvement would come.

“At the moment, we’ve got a brand new team, we’re getting to know each other and we’re not looking at tomorrow, we’re looking down the road,” he said.

On the “Today” set people still joke around about flubbing Ms. Guthrie’s name as Stephanie or Susannah, Al Roker said. But Ms. Guthrie is a good sport about it, he said.

Ms. Guthrie said the London experience has exceeded her expectations.

“It’s been full of energy, full of enthusiasm,” she said. “It’s impossible not to get caught up in the sports that are going on, the athletes’ stories, and it’s a great time for all of us to be together, too.”

Ms. Curry’s predecessor, Meredith Vieira, has accompanied the “Today” team to London. Ms. Curry is expected Thursday to make her first reappearance on the show since her tearful departure.

Last Friday, when the guests included Olympic gymnastics champion Gabby Douglas, “Today” had 6.5 million viewers to the 4.1 million people who watched “Good Morning America.” That was the largest single-day margin of victory for “Today” since the Beijing Olympics four years ago, Nielsen said.

“Good Morning America” noted that despite last week’s viewership switch, its show still had more viewers than it did four years ago during the Beijing Olympics.

Anderson has new strategy for ‘Dancing With the Stars’

When Pamela Anderson competed on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2010, the blonde bombshell was eliminated in the seventh week of the competition. Now that she’s been invited back to compete on show’s upcoming all-star edition, she said she’ll approach things a little differently.

For starters, according to People, Miss Anderson, 45, said she only has room for one person on her dance card — her professional dance partner.

“I’ve sworn off men until November,” Miss Anderson said of her self-imposed, season-long celibacy.

And while many celebrities actively engage with their fans via social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, Miss Anderson said, “Last time I didn’t ask a lot of people to vote for me.”

This time, however, she said she is enlisting the help of her sons Brandon Lee, 16, and Dylan Jagger Lee, 14, with social media strategy because “they are technically savvy and I’m not.”

While her sons help out in cyberspace, Miss Anderson said she will do her part on the dance floor, vowing to “rehearse a lot more and try to stay out of trouble because I’m a self-sabotager.”

The new season of “Dancing With the Stars” premieres Sept. 24 on ABC.

• Compiled from Web and wire reports

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