Bryant Gumbel is swimming in deep gumbo at NBC.
Again.No, he hasn't accused Notre Dame of winning the national football championship by picking on "Bo Diddley Tech." Nor is he escalating his much-publicized feud with David Letterman.
In fact, he hasn't actually said anything this time. But he did write in an in-house memo that "Today" show weatherman Willard Scott "holds the show hostage to his assortment of whims, wishes, birthdays and bad taste." And that movie critic Gene Shalit's reviews "are often late and his interviews aren't very good." And that consumer reporter David Horowitz "is a walking cliche."
Gumbel also had a few things to say about "Today" show executive producer Marty Ryan, who had asked the $7 million dollar man to submit a written critique of the show. According to Gumbel, Ryan's weakness is a "lack of guidance and a lack of willingness to stand on folks and make sure they do what's necessary. Nice guys may not finish last, but it's hard for them to stay in first."
Indeed, the only person who escaped Gumbel's harsh review is co-anchor Jane Pauley, who wasn't even mentioned in the four-page memo.
The memo, which was written last fall, is obviously embarrassing to the folks at NBC and especially the "Today" show team. But the thing that really has Ryan steamed is how the New York newspaper Newsday was able to obtain a copy of it for publication.
"It's a memo that was stolen, and you have to question anyone's motive in stealing it from a computer," Ryan said. And he defended Gumbel's observations, adding that "Bryan and I always have candid exchanges about the show."
NBC News President Michael G. Gartner told Newsday that he hadn't seen the memo "and I don't want to see it."
And who can blame him? Forget that Newsday probably went too far in publishing an in-house memo that has more to do with gossip than serving the public's "right to know." The fact is, Scott is victimized by his own bad taste from time to time, Shalit's interviews aren't very good and Horowitz is prone to a lot of cliches.
And if there's something wrong with Gumbel calling his producer a "nice guy," then maybe we'd ought to just turn the world over to the Ayatollah and be done with it.
-SPEAKING OF LETTERMAN (well, we did mention his name up there in the second paragraph), "Late Night" viewers won't want to miss tonight's installment (that's at 12:05 a.m. on Ch. 2) in which the world's youngest curmudgeon (Letterman) hosts the entire town of Bolan, Iowa (population 16).
-YOU HAD TO FIGURE that KSTU would do well with their sweeps month coverage of Utah Jazz home games against the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. But would you have thought the games would absolutely blow away network competition like "L.A. Law," "Knots Landing" and "The Grammy Awards"?
I wouldn't. And yet, while the Jazz were pounding on the Celtics and the Lakers, Ch. 13 was doing likewise to shows on KUTV, KSL and KTVX. According to Arbitron ratings numbers secured and released by KSTU, the Utah-Boston game averaged a 20 percent rating from 7:30-10 p.m. on Feb. 16, as opposed to KTVX's 13 rating average for the same hours. KSL and KUTV were even further behind, pulling in 9 and 8 ratings averages, respectively.
The Laker game on Feb. 22 proved to be even more dominant for KSTU, with Ch. 13 attracting more than twice as many viewers as any other station in town from 7:30-10 p.m. - and coming awfully close to equaling the total audience of Chs. 2, 4 and 5 combined (KSTU's share of the actual viewing audience that night was 38 percent; the combined total for the three network affiliates was 43 percent).
No wonder KSTU officials say they are looking forward to the future as the television home of the Jazz.
-THE MOST AGGRAVATING COMMERCIAL on TV these days has to be Diet Pepsi's new spot promoting an upcoming ad featuring Madonna. Come on - a commercial for a commercial? Get real. (And no, that last remark is not a thinly veiled plug for Ch. 14.)
-NO, I TAKE THAT BACK. As aggravating as the "Here comes Madonna" ad is, it isn't anywhere near as hard to watch as the Diet Dr. Pepper spot featuring comedian (and I use that term loosely) Judy Tenuta doing her obnoxious "love goddess" schtick. Of course, anything with Tenuta in it is tough watching - especially if you have a quick trigger on the ol' gag reflex.
-CHEERS to KUTV News for a couple of well-produced, informative news series: Charlene Brown's "Utah in Black & White" and Michael Rawson's "Crazy or Criminal." Both took sensitive issues and handled them skillfully without exploiting them.
-VIDBITS: Jake and the Fatman will return to CBS's Wednesday night line-up at 8 p.m. on March 15 . . . NBC has started production on another The Incredible Hulk movie with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno . . . Former NBC wunderkind Garth Ancier has resigned as president of Fox Entertainment. He is replaced by former Lorimar president Peter Chernin . . . ABC has ordered six more episodes from Warner Brothers for A Man Called Hawk . . . Colleen Dewhurst will appear as Murphy's mother in next Monday's episode of Murphy Brown . . . NBC has renewed Later with Bob Costas for a second season . . .