Jewish World Review Nov. 6, 2002 / 1 Kislev, 5763

Tresa McBee

Tresa McBee
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Consumer Reports

Ask the fake pros | To: CNN’s vice president of 24/7 creative news programming

From: CNN’s senior vice president of oversight of 24/7 creative news programming and key target demographics

It was a smashing idea. Really. Don’t let that mention in The

New York Times discourage. Desperate times call for innovative measures that don’t necessarily require the strictures of reality. Requesting the actors from "CSI" definitely scored points for inventiveness. Sure, the Times mentioned our request to CBS in terms of cable news networks’ "omnivorous coverage" of the sniper situation. Print gets testy when we’re out front. It’s not as though we wouldn’t have identified our guests as the actors from "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." I mean, we wouldn’t have brought them on as real-life investigators.

At least the Times got that right when they wrote that CNN execs discussed using "CSI" as a comparison between fictional crime fighting and actual methods used in the sniper investigation. General manager Teya Ryan here at CNN represented us well when she told the Times, "We cover stories in myriad different ways."

Absolutely! So in that vein, I’d like us to develop a running list of actors we could invite during the next crisis and unending coverage. Think variety. Bill O’Reilly is crazy loud, but he was correct that the footage of firefighters removing the tree stump in Tacoma, Wash., got old.

(And please copy this to wardrobe, as I don’t ever want to see any of our on-air talent appear neckless as former CNN host Greta V. did while swathed in a neck-swallowing coat during Tacoma).

Couldn’t we, for example, have gotten in touch with those folks on "Third Watch" for insight as to whether that’s really how firefighters would remove a tree stump and what steps should be taken to preserve evidence?

That’s what I’m talking about. Audiences — and let’s remember that mythical 18-34 demographic that has no relevance vis-āvis modern viewership — respond to people they invite into their homes every week.

Take Sydney on ABC’s "Alias." Jennifer Garner would be a super option for stories involving counterintelligence. Is an actual spy supplied with so many wigs and trained to disguise herself so stylishly? Would Sydney’s dysfunctional family impede her spying ability? And are those kickboxing moves really used? They sure look nifty. So does Garner for that matter. That gal looks great on screen. Oops. I’ll stop there. You remember the hot water we got into with Ms. Zahn and that sexy zipper ad right after we wooed her from the flag-waving network. We don’t want a repeat of having to pretend no one knew anything.

See where I’m going? Let’s get other suits in on this and ideate options. We don’t want to find ourselves without actors to provide commentary during the next breaking news onslaught that ceases to break after the 22 nd consecutive report.

Consider, for instance, Dennis Franz down in the 15 th Precinct on "NYPD Blue." That Andy Sipowicz knows how to shake ’em down. What’s his take on how law enforcement questions a suspect? What’s going on behind closed cop doors? Is the coffee really stale?

Don’t forget David Caruso’s Horatio Caine over on "CSI: Miami." Caine looks serious, talks serious, walks serious. What does he know about evidence analysis? What perspective might he provide about FBI forensics? Any tips?

Then there’s Anthony LaPaglia’s Jack Malone on CBS’ "Without a Trace" for commentary on suspects that haven’t been caught. Where are they? How do we find them? What would Malone do?

And to complete the arc, we’ve got that legal team on ABC’s "The Practice." Gosh, that group knows how to weave the personal and professional with some dynamite drama. What if their firm were charged with defending, say, John Muhammad? Would Dylan McDermott’s Bobby Donnell and Camryn Manheim’s Ellenor Frutt conflict, and what toll would it take on their friendship? Get the line here? Cop to crime-scene investigator to missingperson agent to defense attorneys. And I’ve just scratched the surface. We haven’t even discussed sitcoms. Insight into the effect dire situations fueled by no-new-news coverage have on relationships will resonate with our target group. Let’s get with Jennifer Aniston’s people.

Thanks for thinking outside the box. Our demographic will appreciate our resourcefulness. Soon they’ll be as fuzzy about reality as we are.

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JWR contributor Tresa McBee is a columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Times. Comment by clicking here.

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10/09/02: Little monsters
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09/25/02: America has no right to criticize any country
09/18/02: Hey, Bill: Time to enter the No Ego Zone
09/11/02: Reliving 9/11 again and again and ...
09/04/02: The price of success: When being a responsible father is not enough
08/28/02: When separate can be equal --- and better
08/22/02: Egypt and Saudi Arabia: Curious inconsistencies
08/15/02: Hey, fellas: Beware the fairer sex ain't always fair
08/08/02: Why women will remain the at-risk gender
08/01/02: Girl: The new four-letter word?

© 2002, Northwest Arkansas Times