Whitney Lands in Net: In hopes of developing a competitive morning talk-show franchise, NBC will begin airing “The Jane Whitney Show” on Jan. 17, replacing the game shows “Caesar’s Challenge” and “Concentration.” All the top talkers--Oprah, Donahue and Geraldo--are now in the crowded syndication market, where Whitney was airing during the day and late at night. The show was averaging a poor 2 rating nationally but was pulling in some big numbers on individual stations. “We are thrilled to find a network home for Jane Whitney so that the growth of her audience can flourish in one (time period),” said Dick Robertson, president of Warner Bros.’ domestic television distribution.
* Stupid Promo Tricks: The cable channel E! Entertainment, which recently bought 509 episodes of David Letterman’s old “Late Night” show on NBC, will give fans a chance to tape their own on-air promos for the Dec. 27 premiere of the reruns. Next Friday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., underneath a 30-foot image of Letterman, E! will tape anyone who shows up in front of its headquarters at 5670 Wilshire Blvd. and tells the world in 10 seconds why he or she loves Letterman. Participants will be competing for a trip to New York and a chance to be on TV.
* Ready for Prime Time?: The debut of the science-fiction series “Babylon 5" and the second-season premiere of “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues” on Jan. 26 will headline the new season of the nationally syndicated Prime Time Entertainment Network, which airs locally on KCOP-TV Channel 13. PTEN has stepped up its production of TV movies this season with the January broadcast of “Pointman,” a thriller starring Jack Scalia as a Wall Street executive sent to prison, and the February airing of “Haven,” a futuristic drama about genetic experimentation.
What He Meant Was . . . : Pop singer Phil Collins denied Thursday on “The Arsenio Hall Show” that he made racist remarks after an acceptance speech by rapper Dr. Dre the previous night on the Billboard Music Awards. Upset viewers called some radio stations Thursday morning complaining about the British singer’s comment, “It suddenly got very dark in here,” after Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg and several cohorts took the stage. Collins, who hosted the awards show, told Hall he was talking about the atmosphere in the arena, not skin color, after what he thought were violent allusions by Dre. Collins said his musical influences and the members of his band have mostly been black and added: “There’s not an ounce of racism in my body. What I meant was it was just getting (to be) a very dark mood.”
* Cheez Whiz: Joey Cheezhee is rolling on. The roller-blading lounge performer has presided over a surreal clash of ‘50s supper club entertainment and performance art in the Coco-Bowl at Kelbo’s restaurant in West L.A. for more than two years, but Wednesday will mark his last appearance at the club. Fans of the offbeat show will gather for a “last supper” on Monday to be videotaped for later cable broadcast (the show is open to the public). “It is sort of the end of me doing Joey Cheezhee in a nightclub setting, but I’m looking forward to moving on,” said Joe Sehee, the man behind Cheezhee. Sehee, who once led a band called the Velveeta Underground, hopes to move a variation of his show to a more traditional stage space.
* Judds Reunion: The Judds are back together--just for the holidays. The mother-daughter country duo disbanded two years ago but will perform on a Bob Hope TV special Wednesday on NBC. Mother Naomi and daughter Wynonna will sing “Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” “This was a one-time performance,” said Judds spokesman Chuck Thompson. After Naomi stopped performing because of hepatitis, now in remission, Wynonna continued her own career. Together, they recorded such hits as “Love Can Build a Bridge” and “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Ol’ Days).”
Forman Flies Coop: Warner Bros. cited creative differences in director Milos Forman’s withdrawal as the director of “Disclosure,” based on “Jurassic Park” author Michael Crichton’s anticipated novel about a man who is sexually harassed by his female boss. “Milos just had a completely different direction for the screenplay,” said Bruce Berman, president of worldwide production for Warner Bros. Pictures, which has not named a new director. Crichton received a record $2.5 million for the film rights to “Disclosure,” which he also adapted into the screenplay. The book is due next month. Forman won Oscars as best director for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) and “Amadeus” (1984).
Talk-show host and amateur pugilist Geraldo Rivera will open his own boxing club in Manhattan in February. . . . Comedian Stephanie Hodge will become the first performer to make use of the unoccupied Chevy Chase Theater, renamed the Sunset Theater, when she tapes a Showtime comedy special tonight. . . . Oscar-winning lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman will collaborate with Barbra Streisand on her New Year’s concerts at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.