Fox, ABC: A Tale of Two Networks

Both ABC and Fox will meet with managers of their affiliated stations from around the country this week, as the two networks seemingly head in different directions. Fox executives should be in an upbeat mood when they begin sessions in Los Angeles Thursday, having recently achieved a network milestone by finishing the prime-time season in second place--edging ABC as well as CBS--in the key demographic groups that dictate advertising rates. By contrast, ABC station managers have cause to be grouchy as they assemble in Orlando, Fla., where the only June index that surpasses heat tends to be humidity. While ABC has used corporate parent Disney’s theme parks to wow its affiliates there in the past, ABC Inc. President Robert Iger will eventually have to provide some answers about the network’s disappointing ratings in prime time (including a third-place finish during the May sweeps), evening news and “Good Morning America.” Fox Group Chairman Peter Chernin, meanwhile, gets to trumpet a coming TV season that will include televising the Super Bowl and the World Series--events that will almost certainly give Fox an upward ratings spike. The only thing that might make Fox officials happier, in fact, is if the Fox-owned L.A. Dodgers find themselves playing in the latter.

The Master of His (Rap) Domain

Is there no limit to Master P’s appeal as a rap music force? That’s the question that will be tested once again this week as record retailers see if the public is ready to gobble up yet another collection by the artist-producer (real name: Percy Miller) whose No Limit label already has already placed five albums in the national Top 10 pop charts this year. Those No Limit hits include Master P’s own “Ghetto D,” which has sold more than 3 million copies since its release last fall, and the just-released soundtrack for “I Got the Hook-Up!,” the latest film by the actor-director-writer. Is the New Orleans-based company worried about a sales backlash? Apparently not. Barbara Pescosolido, vice president of marketing and public relations for No Limit, said advance orders on Master P’s new “MP Da Last Don” album, which will be released Tuesday, already total 2 million, and she confidently predicts it will enter the charts at No. 1.

Building a Movie Set to Die For


As any mystery fan knows, a perfect murder requires a perfect site for a murder. That was the challenge facing veteran production designer Philip Rosenberg as he set about creating sets for the new Warner Bros. movie “A Perfect Murder,” starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow (opening Friday). Now, Rosenberg’s sets--from a sumptuous Fifth Avenue penthouse apartment overlooking New York’s Central Park to a hiply downscale artist’s loft in Greenpoint--are drawing attention along with the film. What is startling about them is that the 10,000-square-foot penthouse was actually built inside an old armory in Jersey City, N.J., while the loft was fashioned out of an empty industrial loft in a Brooklyn warehouse. Based loosely on the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock film “Dial M for Murder,” the new movie directed by Andrew Davis tells the story of a millionaire currency speculator (Douglas) who plots the murder of his wife (Paltrow) for having an affair with a struggling artist (Viggo Mortensen). The murder is planned for the couple’s apartment. “We wanted a set that showed the wealth and stature of the Michael Douglas character as well as staging the various scenes of people coming and going and the murder,” Rosenberg said. “There are many studios we could have used, but we’d have to break up the apartment.” With eight draftsmen producing as many as 50 blueprints, Rosenberg and his crew built the set with input from Davis, who wanted to emphasize the international flavor of the couple’s careers. Each room reflects a design consistent with different countries. Yet all of it is fake. The expensive-looking marble, for instance, was created by photographing blocks of marble and then mounting the photos on boards. Many of the paintings were also photographically reproduced after the rights were acquired from such artists as Larry Rivers, Robert Natkin and Bjorn Rye. Actor Mortensen even created between 20 and 30 collages, which adorn the loft. Alas, once the film had wrapped, the walls had to come down. For New Yorker Rosenberg, who won an Academy Award for “All That Jazz,” it was all part of his job. “I’m getting used to it,” he said. “I’ve been doing this close to 30 years.”

Compiled by Times staff writers and contributors