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TELEVISION

Leno Joke Has NBC In Damage Control

Fresh on the heels of its Olympics ratings triumph, NBC is engaging in some damage control--defending the “irreverent comedy” of “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno, who incurred the wrath of South Korean officials with a joke in a recent monologue.

South Korean short-track skater Kim Dong Sung, the comedian quipped, “was so mad over being disqualified that he went home and kicked the dog, and then ate him"--a reference to the often-ridiculed Korean practice of eating dog meat. Former Prime Minister Kim Jong Pil called Leno “ill-mannered” and said, “We should not let a man, one without common sense, host a TV program.” He vowed to send a letter of protest to NBC.

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As of Thursday, there was no sign of the letter at the network--which explained, in its statement, that “by its nature, comedy can be impolite, and the humor on ‘The Tonight Show’ is no exception.”

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A Decline in African American Faces

For the first time in five years, no black reporter was among the top 25 on the network evening news programs in 2001, as measured by the number of stories they reported.

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According to a study released Thursday by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, Byron Pitts of CBS and Pierre Thomas of ABC were tied for 28th place, with 72 appearances on their news programs. Only one other black reporter, Randall Pinkston of CBS, was in the top 50, the center said. A year earlier, two black reporters made the top 10.

Overall, the study found that the number of stories reported by all minorities and women was up slightly over 2000. Eighty-eight percent of the stories were reported by whites and 75% by men, the report said.

The most visible network news reporter last year was John Roberts on CBS, who reported 177 stories. Robert Hager was the leader at NBC with 159 stories, followed by Terry Moran’s 138 stories on ABC.

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‘Survivor’ Premiere Topped by ‘Friends’

“Survivor: Marquesas,” CBS’ fourth edition of the unscripted series franchise, premiered Thursday to an estimated 23.2 million viewers, slightly below the debut for the third installment in October.

The program lost to “Friends” (27.5 million viewers) in its first half-hour, but beat the premiere of NBC’s heavily promoted new 8:30 p.m. show, “Leap of Faith,” which, at 20.8 million viewers, fell a respectable 25% off its “Friends” lead-in audience.

The big story of the night, actually, may have been CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” which rose to a record 28.8 million viewers following “Survivor,” dominating NBC’s comedies in its time slot and drawing a bigger audience than “ER” did at 10 p.m.

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CBS will repeat the first episode of “Survivor” this Wednesday.

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POP/ROCK

Security Questioned in Limp Bizkit Fan Death

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Limp Bizkit’s tour manager testified Friday that a Sydney concert where a teenage girl was killed was understaffed and poorly managed. Safety, he said, was compromised in an effort to cut costs.

Alexander Murdoch MacLeod, the first associate of the band to appear at the Sydney inquest into the death of 15-year-old Jessica Michalik, said that security guards and medical personnel were poorly trained--and insufficient for the number of people in the mosh pit. He said he expressed his concerns to concert organizers that day--and a week before the performance.

“My state of mind prior to them starting the performance was one of fear,” he said.

Michalik was caught in a crowd crush and suffered a heart attack at the concert on Jan. 26, 2001. She died five days later. Six other people were hospitalized after the multi-band event, called the Big Day Out, which drew a crowd of 65,000. Limp Bizkit pulled out of its Australian tour afterward and criticized concert organizers for providing inadequate security and safety measures, a claim organizers denied.

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The case, in which two band members will give evidence, was adjourned until June 6.

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Elvis to Appear

On Some Quarters

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The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll will soon resurface--and in mint condition, it seems.

Elvis Presley Enterprises has licensed a company to have him replace George Washington on some of Tennessee’s 2002 quarters--souvenirs honoring the singer on the 25th anniversary of his death.

The coins, in which a color portrait of Elvis is fused over the face of the nation’s first president, went into production this month through the International Collectors Society.

Though the British colony of Gibraltar mints Elvis coins as part of its currency, the refaced quarter is the only option in U.S. currency, according to Pete Davidson, senior licensing manager for Presley Enterprises.

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Defacing U.S. currency is a misdemeanor crime, said Secret Service agent Tim Viertel. Still, the Elvis quarters are in a gray area because they are not part of a deceptive scheme. “I don’t know of a U.S. Attorney’s office around who would prosecute it,” Viertel said.

Meanwhile, a developer has indicated interest in building a $500-million Elvis-themed resort, “Elvis Presley Ranch,” on the spot in Memphis where the King and Priscilla Presley spent their honeymoon, USA Today reports. The singer sold the land, then known as the Circle G Ranch, in 1974 when the marriage fell apart.

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THE ARTS

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S.F. Museum Design Is Under Criticism

Comparing the design of the proposed new $185-million M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to a “1960’s motel in Las Vegas,” a citizens group has filed a suit to block construction on the project, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The venue, badly damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, was finally closed to the public a year ago. Plans call for the demolition of the old museum and the opening of a new structure in 2005. For seven years, the project has been shrouded in controversy--the subject of City Hall hearings and previous legal action.

The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, said the design--a sleek glass-faced affair with a 144-foot tower--was too bold and not “park-friendly.” People for a New de Young contend that the new museum, designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, will urbanize the park, hurt its historical value, increase traffic and cast shadows on a nearby children’s play area. It also charges that the project violates the California Environmental Quality Act.

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“We believe the lawsuit is without merit,” museum spokeswoman Caroline Macmillan said. “The Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 that the revised [environmental impact report] was adequate, accurate, and complete, and we believe the court will find that to be the case.”

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QUICK TAKES

Tickets for Paul McCartney’s upcoming tour appearance at the Arrowhead Pond will go on sale March 24--a day later than previously announced.... The launch trailer for “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” will premiere on Fox TV in prime time on March 10. The movie opens May 16.... Cirque du Soleil’s “Dralion,” opening next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach on Wednesday, has extended its run to April 7.... After eight years of hosting Univision’s popular investigative show “Primer Impacto,” Maria Celeste Arraras has departed the program, deciding not to renew her contract with the network.... The Directors Guild of America is documenting 47 years of DGA award-winning movies for television. The exhibition goes up this weekend in its lobby at 7920 Sunset Blvd.

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