BROOKE GLADSTONE: We're back with On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. Now the time has come to invite producer at large Mike Pesca into the studio. We're going to shake him upside down to see what falls out of his pockets in a segment that we call, cleverly enough, Mike's Pockets. Hi, Mike.
MIKE PESCA: Hi, Bob. I got a couple TV news items. Let's start with Nightline which we know now won't be replaced with Letterman.
BOB GARFIELD: Although ABC has offered what Ted Koppel described as only bland assurances that Nightline's going to stay on the air, the Disney-owned network apparently still wants a comedy show there!
MIKE PESCA: That's right, and I wanted to mention a reason that not too many people have talked about. People have been focusing on how advertisers like Letterman's younger audience and a comedy show would bring a younger audience, but another reason that a network wants a comedy show there is for promotional value. They could bring their own stars on the show and it helps them plug their prime time schedule.
BOB GARFIELD: So at the moment ABC has no place in late night to trot out Darma and Greg, but don't all these talk shows share the stars?
MIKE PESCA:Well they share the movie stars, certainly. They share the musical guests; but when you look at how a talk show books its guests, network affiliations have a lot to do with it, and I can actually back this up with hard evidence. OTM's crack staff, and by crack staff I mean Jim, investigated, and here's what he found. Members of the cast of NBC's Friends have appeared on NBC's Tonight Show 49 times over the years. They've been on Letterman's show a cumulative 26 times. Ray Romano who CBS would have you believe everybody loves is much less loved by Leno. He's only been on the Tonight Show twice. He's been on Letterman's show 16 times.
BOB GARFIELD:Hm. And I'm going to impress you now because I actually know something. Ray Romano's show, Everybody Loves Raymond, produced by Worldwide Pants, production company owned by David Letterman.
MIKE PESCA: Right. So let's not forget a late night talk show is a pretty good commercial for the network it's on. CNN on the other hand is willing to share one of its correspondents with another network. I know you've got a couple teenage daughters. Tell me if you recognize this voice.
WOMEN: Then I was offered some mountain hospitality.
WOMEN: What is it?
WOMEN: It's moonshine.
WOMEN: Take you a little taste. [LAUGHTER]
WOMEN: That's good.
BOB GARFIELD: Well I'm sorry to report to you I can identify that voice; it belongs to Serena Altschul [sp?]. What's she doing traipsing around Appalachia for CNN?
MIKE PESCA: Well she's still on MTV, but CNN shares her now. They first used her on the 6 month anniversary of September 11th. Aaron Brown who I like very much introduced her segment by reminding us that the heartland seems remote from D.C. and New York but it's still a part of America so attention must be paid. But then in using Serena's Altschul's somewhat un-illuminating travelogue of Osely County, [sp?] Kentucky they belie their very premise, because if it's so important, why throw in Serena Altschul who's in a little over her head and she spends her time marveling at the presence of chickens in a barn and informing viewers of the inner workings of a food bank.
SERENA ALTSCHUL: This is a food bank where people can come every week to pick up a, a box of food that they're just given to help them live.
BOB GARFIELD: All right, Mike -- you're 30 years old and you're already a curmudgeon. It's like what is the matter with the kids these days?!
MIKE PESCA: It has nothing to do with age; it just has to do with style! Allison Stewart [sp?] left MTV and she was really interesting when she was on CBS Sunday Morning, and it's because she was curious! She was youthfully exuberant. Serena Altschul was, while not terrible, it just seemed like something that could have aired on any campus cable channel.
BOB GARFIELD: Not terrible? It seemed pretty terrible to me!
MIKE PESCA:Well, you know, there was a quality of let's go look at the poor people - isn't that sad. I think this sense of detachment that plays well on MTV doesn't translate to CNN. And so it just wound up looking kind of lame.
BOB GARFIELD: You wouldn't be using that phrase to pander to the Gen X audience, would you?
MIKE PESCA: Dude, do not harsh my mellow.
BOB GARFIELD: All right, I won't. Mike, thanks very much.
MIKE PESCA: Thank you, Bob.
BOB GARFIELD: Producer at large Mike Pesca has just emptied his pockets. [SOUND OF CHICKEN CLUCKING]