Behind the Mike
CBS' 60 Minutes won its best ratings in months this summer by keeping its correspondents busy with up-to-the-minute reports on the crisis in the Persian Gulf, but as the new season begins, reporters are scrambling to finish their long feature pieces for the series. ''We're in a little trouble with new stuff,'' admits Mike Wallace, who begins his 23rd season on the broadcast this month. ''Each one of us should have banked half a dozen stories by now.'' Wallace, who joined CBS in 1951, will be saluted on Mike Wallace: Then and Now (airing Sept. 26), a career retrospective that includes the earliest Wallace send-up, a segment from Your Show of Shows in which Carl Reiner spoofs the reporter's trademark ambush- interview style. The occasional ambush will be evident in the coming 60 Minutes season as well, and after two decades with executive producer Don Hewitt, Wallace knows how to make sure his best work doesn't land on the cutting-room floor. ''We go in to Don with our segments 5 or 6 minutes [too] long,'' he says. ''Sometimes, we leave stuff in just so Don will take it out. It's wonderful when he spots it and says, 'That can go.' Then we just smile and say, 'Good cut, Don.'''
Jackie's Second Wind
Jackie Mason is getting another chance at his own TV series. The outspoken comedian, last seen as the star of ABC's short-lived 1989 sitcom Chicken Soup, is going to have his own cable talk show called, simply enough, Just Jackie (it debuts this December on the HA! comedy network). Last year, during the New York City mayoral race, Mason's racial comments about candidate David Dinkins attracted considerable criticism. But Mason promises that his new show-a half-hour kvetch-fest in which members of the studio audience will sound off on issues ranging from marriage to politics-won't offend a soul. ''Nobody will be attacked, nobody will be abused, nobody will be called names,'' Mason insists. ''It's just going to be a simple talk show. It'll be a place on the air for ordinary people to express themselves, where anybody can complain about anything they want.'' At the show's first taping earlier this month in New York, one woman complained about men who don't wear condoms. ''You shouldn't do it with people who aren't willing to wear condoms,'' Mason advised. ''I happen to be willing to wear a condom.''
Talk about teaching old dogs new tricks: In an upcoming episode of the syndicated series The New Lassie, America's brainiest pooch will learn to master a computer. Playing his teacher? None other than Tom Rettig, 48, the actor turned computer software writer who played young Jeff Miller in the original Lassie way back in 1954. ''When the producers asked me to be on the new show, I told them I hadn't performed in years,'' Rettig says. ''I told them I was a writer now, not an actor. So they offered to let me write the script.'' The script Rettig came up with has Lassie participating in a college study testing how animals interact with computers. ''He pushes a mouse [a computer control device] around with his nose to make selections,'' Rettig explains. ''I play the computer-science professor who helps train him. It's a pretty plausible script, I think. I mean, we don't have Lassie working with any complicated software or anything.'' Expect to see the episode in mid-November.
Saddam's Straight Man
Six weeks ago, he was virtually unknown outside the borders of Iraq; today he may be one of the most famous TV personalities in the world. His name is Miqdad Muradi, and he's the Iraqi ''newscaster'' who reads Saddam Hussein's official statements on Iraqi television. Because of CNN's coverage of the Gulf crisis, Muradi has become something of an international celebrity in recent weeks, with portions of his broadcasts beamed across the globe. ''I guess he's the best newscaster in Iraq,'' says Mahasin Yono, a spokeswoman for the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, D.C. ''That's why they chose him to read the statements, because he's so good. And also because he's so handsome. Don't you think he's handsome?'' Well, yeah, but he's not nearly as cute as Ted Koppel.