Monday, August 13, 2001

'Junkyard' builds a reputation

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's amazing what an Emmy nomination can do to folks.

        At the Learning Channel, the basic cable service reaching 78 million homes, an Emmy nod for its funky Junkyard Wars (8 p.m. today, TLC) show inspired TLC General Manager Jana Bennett to compare the series to CBS' Survivor, TV's No. 1 show last season.

        Both were nominated as outstanding non-fiction program, a new category this fall for the exploding reality TV genre. Also nominated were Eco-Challenge: Borneo from Survivor creator Mark Burnett (USA), Road Rules (MTV) and Bands on the Run (VH1).

        I figure you all know about Survivor. For those of you who haven't seen Junkyard Wars, here's the deal: Two mechanically-minded teams have 10 hours to build the biggest, fastest and strongest machine out of salvage parts from a junkyard.

        Here is why Junkyard Wars is better than Survivor, according to Ms. Bennett:

        • “On Survivor, you have to trust your alliance. On Junkyard Wars, you have to trust your duct tape.

        • “On Survivor, flames are snuffed out by coconut shells. On Junkyard Wars fires are snuffed out by the Hazmat team.”

        • On Survivor, “Naked Richard Hatch. On Junkyard Wars, workers' coveralls.”

        • “Our torches aren't from Pier One Imports. They're blow torches that can cut a car in half.

        • “Instead of the whims of that pesky tribal council, Junkyard fate is decided by the laws of physics.

        • “And the Junkyard trophy — made out of junk — makes contestants FEEL like a million dollars.”

        TLC, a sister service of the marketing savvy Discovery Channel, will launch a Junkyard Wars educational toy line this fall.

        “We've had so many kids wanting to take part in this series, and to participate and play at home with it, that those toys will be launched before Christmas,” Ms. Bennett says.

        TLC also is taping an international showdown episode, with teams from Russia, England and the United States, to air in the fall TV season.

        TV notes: Finneytown native Randall Einhorn has been nominated for a prime-time Emmy. He's part of the Survivor crew nominated for outstanding cinematography for non-fiction programming.

        Also nominated were Ken Burns' Jazz (PBS), Land of the Mammoth (Discovery), Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks (HBO) and Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen (HBO).

        Alan Brady update: Carl Reiner will reprise his role as Alan Brady, the legendary TV host on the 1960s Dick Van Dyke Show, in a cartoon series next year on TV Land.

        The Alan Brady Show will take viewers behind the scenes of the Alan Brady variety show, still on the air after 40 years. Mr. Reiner wrote the pilot script, which will become TV Land's first original series.

        “This series moves the action from Rob Petrie's office into Alan's office, where he interviews potential guests, and frets over the problems of putting on a weekly television talk variety show,” says Larry W. Jones, TV Land vice president and general manager.

        Kids stuff: Lizzie McGuire and Even Stevens will do double duty this fall, appearing on both the Disney Channel and ABC's Saturday morning lineup. Even Stevens (7 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Disney Channel) has been renewed for a third cable season, while Lizzie McGuire (6 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Disney Channel) has been renewed for a second.

        Night moves: Correspondent Aaron Brown, who joins CNN this fall, says he relished the editorial independence hosting ABC World News Now, the overnight newscast he launched with Lisa McRee in 1992.

        “There's a great freedom in going . . . on the air at 2 in the morning, because if you screw up, you go, "What are they going to do? Give you really bad hours?' ”

        Up a creek: Lourdes Benedicto, who played Noah Wyle's teen-age lover on ER last season, has joined Dawson's Creek for fall as Pacey's (Joshua Jackson) new girlfriend. She also has appeared on NYPD Blue and Nothing Sacred.

        Dawson's, shot in Wilmington, N.C., will travel to Duke University in nearby Durham, N.C., for college scenes. They can't shoot at Wilmington College, because that campus has been used as Capeside High School the past four seasons.

        TV notes: NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, who blasted TV networks for their lack of diversity two years ago, has filmed a TV talk show pilot to be syndicated by NBC.

        Election results: Showtime plans to make a movie about the Bush-Gore election and recount. The team which produced Strange Justice, the docudrama about Anita Hill's 1991 allegations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, is preparing the script.


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- 'Junkyard' builds a reputation