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On the Air

The latest news from the TV beat

The Golden Age

Turns out television executives aren’t as age-phobic as we had thought. Even as a series of class-action age-discrimination suits filed by older writers against the studios and networks winds its way through Los Angeles Superior Court, 74-year-old Larry Gelbart of M*A*S*H fame is busy penning a prime-time soap for ABC this fall. Meanwhile, the fiftysomething Alan Zweibel, who cut his teeth on Saturday Night Live in the ’70s, has a multigenerational comedy in development at Fox, while Walon Green, the now-65-year-old scribe behind the 1969 movie The Wild Bunch, has a detective drama in the works at NBC. ”You would be surprised how little age matters in deciding what projects we make,” says David Nevins, exec vice president of programming at Fox. ”I can’t remember the last twentysomething writer to put a show on our network, and the majority of our creators are probably in their 40s. The two things we do care about are [whether] the writers have something fresh to say, and does it fit the broad sensibility of our network. If a writer of any age hits those criteria, we’re happy to buy it.”

Members Only

Move over, Sex and the City. An upcoming episode about circumcision on The WB’s comedy Off Centre found so many ways to refer to male genitalia that it spawned a so-serious-it’s-silly memo from the network’s standards and practices department: ”We are dealing with a tonnage issue with regard to the sexual/ suggestive material,” says the report, now making the industry e-mail rounds. ”It is essential to reduce and/or modify the significant number of uses of ‘penis’…as well as euphemisms for the same, such as ‘your thingie,’ ‘covered wagon’ and ‘unit,’ ‘turtleneck,’ ‘little fella,’ ‘anteater’…’hooded cobra,’ ‘cloaking device’ and ‘my pig is still snugly wrapped in his doughy blanket.’…” (There’s more, actually; we just ran out of space.) If that’s not an eye-opener, consider this: Most of the uses of penis, as well as the crude euphemisms, made it into the episode, which airs April 21 (but the ”pig” quip, for example, had to go). ”Odds were the episode would stand if we cut a few penises, much like the story,” says executive producer Danny Zuker. ”It’s far less dirty than a lot of things. No, wait. We’re just about as dirty. Look, this show is from the creators of American Pie [Paul and Chris Weitz]. So that’s what we’re giving them.” If only they could replicate some of the movie’s humor.

AND SO ON… Finally, someone’s figured out it’s pretty easy to laugh at Tori Spelling. The WB has cast the Beverly Hills, 90210 alum in Waydowntown, a comedy pilot in development for fall that features Spelling as a struggling writer trying to make it in the Big Apple.