In late-night TV, studio audience applause is prompted by flashing signs, so its duration may tell as much about the host’s ego as about his popularity. That judgment aside, here’s what the applause meter registered when we clocked the cheers on a recent evening, and what the just-introduced hosts did to keep the cheers going:
Pat Sajak (nothing): 21 seconds
Johnny Carson (smiled, nodded): 33 seconds
David Letterman (grimaced): 1 minute, 15 seconds
Arsenio Hall (ran, jumped, touched the bandleader, kissed audience members, pumped fist in air, giggled, yelled, ”Give it up for my posse!”): 1 minute, 50 seconds
The Singing Detective
After six seasons as Sgt. Dee Dee McCall on the NBC series Hunter, Stepfanie Kramer, below, has decided to trade her gun for a microphone. Announcing her decision to leave the series after this season, she said, ”I need to expand creatively. I have to make some music. I can no longer not sing.” E Street Band veterans Roy Bittan and Nils Lofgren plan to produce Kramer’s first album.
With their first foray into television, the prime-time mystery/soap opera Twin Peaks, set to begin its run on ABC this spring, director David Lynch and his partner, Mark Frost, have turned to the Fox network for their next small-screen project. The pilot for The American Chronicles, a roving documentary series about regional eccentricities, will be completed in May.
Coming in From the Cold
Suspense novelist Frederick Forsyth, whose spy films for the USA Network use actual events as the jumping-off points for their plots, had no trouble coming up with stories for the series — the problem was finding new villains in the post-Cold War era. ”The old universal bad guy, the KGB, is going to be perceived as solid citizens doing the best they can for their country,” Forsyth laments. ”I don’t think you can use neo-Nazis any more — they’re coming out of the wallpaper. Even the Afrikaners are becoming half-human.” So whom does that leave? ”The Chinese, the ayatollahs, and the cocaine people.” The next film in the Forsyth series, A Casualty of War, airs March 14.
Tempest in a Tortoiseshell
Take Andy Rooney, add Public Enemy, combine their respective abilities to offend, and you get the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the popular cartoon characters that have come under fire for anti-Semitic and racist iconography in two incidents. In January, Random House pulled copies of a Turtles puzzle from stores after a swastika-like image was discovered in the background. More recently, the Turtles’ daily television series has drawn sharp criticism for its depiction of Rock Steady and Bebop, two slow-witted, villainous animals whose names and demeanor link them with aspects of black music and African culture. (The good-guy Turtles are named after Raphael, Michelangelo, and other Western artists.) The Turtles’ production company says the names were chosen for their sound, not their connotations.
The 20-year marriage of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh will be the subject of Vivien and Larry, a TV movie to be produced by Fries Entertainment for the 1990-91 season.
ABC’s thirtysomething is in only its third season, but a number of cast members already are making noises about leaving as soon as their five-year contracts are up. The latest: Ken Olin, who plays Michael Steadman, and his real-life wife, Patricia Wettig, who plays Nancy Weston. Both say they plan to depart in 1992, but Wettig may leave sooner, depending on the outcome of Nancy’s treatment for cancer. Reportedly she will survive at least until next fall.
When NBC announced a comedy series based on the 1988 hit movie Working Girl, the highly promotable series seemed destined to quickly find a spot on the prime-time schedule. But several months and a casting change later (Nancy McKeon’s out, newcomer Sandra Bullock’s in), Working Girl sounds more like a missed opportunity than a sure thing. This winter, programming chief Brandon Tartikoff did not include the series in seven new shows he touted as part of NBC’s ”quality wave,” many of which may now be closer to airing than Working Girl. NBC has ordered another movie-to-series adaptation for next fall: a comedy based on Parenthood, with Ed Begley Jr. as the star.