The 51st annual Emmy Awards this Sunday (Fox, 8-11 p.m.) will offer plenty of stargazing as TV bestows honors on the best of its sitcoms, dramas, and special-event programs. Jenna Elfman ("Dharma and Greg") and David Hyde Pierce ("Frasier") host. A tag team of other well-known faces at the podium will include Sarah Michelle Gellar, Michael J. Fox, Halle Berry, Jay Leno, Calista Flockhart, and Dennis Franz.
Some observers are predicting multiple awards for HBO's drama "The Sopranos," a series loved by critics but seen only by subscribers to that premium cable channel. Most of the series' nominees aren't exactly household names, though some viewers may remember Nancy Marchand, nominated for Best Supporting Actress, for her fine work as the patrician newspaper publisher on "Lou Grant" (1977-82).
The stars at the Emmys had better shine brightly: At the same time, opposing networks will be offering viewers bored with all the envelope-opening the Oscar-winning movie "Braveheart" (NBC), the powerful mobster film "Goodfellas" (CBS), and a celebrity-filled Barbara Walters special (ABC). What's more, PBS will begin its daring series "An American Love Story" and TNT will debut a new TV movie, "P.T. Barnum" (see our reviews, page 19).
For an innovative awards show, you have to give last night's MTV Music Video Awards credit (it aired after the deadline for this column). MTV staged the event at New York's Metropolitan Opera House and invited conductor Robert Bass and his 100-voice Collegiate Chorale to perform Carl Orff's cantata "Carmina Burana" on the same stage with pop acts like the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and Ricky Martin. "I presume millions of TV viewers will think Carl Orff is a hip-hop artist and Bob Bass and the Collegiate Chorale is a rap group," Bass told the AP. "What a great way to reach a new audience!"
Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain planned to attend with his 14-year-old daughter. A Baltimore Sun reporter asked him what he expected. His answer: "An assault on the senses that I've seldom experienced since leaving prison" - when he was a POW during the Vietnam War.
This week's Viacom-CBS merger has the eyes of investors and market analysts riveted on it, trying to assess the financial implications of that mega media merger.
Though CBS has country-music cable channels and more than 160 radio stations, it's famous "eye" logo marks it mainly as a distributor of TV programs. Viacom owns Paramount Pictures (as well as Blockbuster, MTV, Nickelodeon, Showtime, Simon & Schuster, and theme parks) and is a major producer of programs. As a business strategy, it makes sense to integrate "vertically," from producing the programs to distributing them.
The issue is whether a conglomerate this size will squelch competition and eventually hurt consumers. The proposed union is expected to get scrutiny in Congress and from the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission.
"We've been bludgeoned with one merger after another in this field," University of California, San Diego, communications Prof. Dan Schiller told the Los Angeles Times. "This group is cementing its control over production and distribution globally. What we need to have is a full-scale inquiry into whether this kind of concentration serves the national interest."
The deal is really a reunion: The federal government forced CBS to calve off Viacom in 1971 in an era of divestment. It outgrew CBS and now, in a looser regulatory environment, it wants to absorb its smaller onetime parent.
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