Thank God someone has shown a little restraint with the last crop of reality shows: Blue-chip advertisers have largely avoided buying time in cheesefests such as ABC's Are You Hot? -- leaving the nets scrounging for spots from the likes of Bowflex, Hair Club, and the E! channel, peddler of The Anna Nicole Show. Hot, which ranks third in its time slot and averages only 10.1 million viewers, gets upwards of $75,000 per 30-second commercial -- if the space sells at all. In fact, almost half the ''ads'' that ran during the Feb. 27 Hot were promos for ABC series and other Disney-owned ventures. The good news for ABC is that when a reality show pulls in decent numbers, advertisers dismount their high horses. Big companies flocked to The Bachelorette, for example, which was able to command a Friends-like rate of $400,000 for some spots. ''For many buyers, big ratings make a lot of concerns over content go away,'' says one rival network head. ''But Hot is pure and simple T&A. What redeeming value is there in that?'' Apparently not much -- unless you're hawking PastaPro.
Don't accuse the Friends gang of not recycling. An April 24 story arc, in which an attractive African-American woman (former Talk Soup host Aisha Tyler) becomes involved in a love triangle with Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Ross (David Schwimmer), seems strangely similar to a 2001 episode in which an attractive African-American neighbor (Gabrielle Union) became involved in a love triangle with -- you guessed it! -- Joey and Ross. The deja vu wouldn't be that notable except that Friends' depiction of New York City is notoriously lily-white. But exec producer David Crane insists the producers didn't set out to cast a black actress -- they just ''loved'' Tyler. ''The other story line [with Union] was quick and funny, where the two guys didn't realize they were dating the same girl,'' says Crane. ''Charlie Wheeler [Tyler] is a brilliant paleontologist who should be dating someone like Ross, but hooks up with Joey first. She really only dated paleontologists, but now she is with a soap star.'' How about at least changing the triangle? Newly single Phoebe could use some lovin'.
AND SO ON... According to Curb Your Enthusiasm star Cheryl Hines, Schwimmer (as well as Mel Brooks and Ben Stiller) will guest-star as himself next season on the comedy, tentatively set to return in Sept.... Verne ''Mini-Me'' Troyer will appear in two episodes of Boston Public starting March 31. He'll play a genius with an eye for Marla (Loretta Devine).