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BC Beat

With Marisa Guthrie and Alex Weprin

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In Eliot Mess, Pundits Aren't Untouchable

The worst thing about political jokes is that some of them get elected."

So stated a teenager named Eliot Spitzer in his high school yearbook quote at New York's exclusive Horace Mann School.

Clearly, the former governor always got high marks for hubris. And it's predictable that his tawdry infractions felt like manna to late-night comedians.

Less predictable was how cable networks went a little haywire in the wake. For instance, flesh-trade punch line Heidi Fleiss told Terry Moran on ABC's Nightline that she does not "have a problem with the governor getting laid. I'm all for that. He gets props from me."

On Fox News, political analyst Tammy Bruce luridly tied Spitzer's alleged preference for unprotected sex to his life in the slammer. "If he does go to jail, he'll get plenty of that," she told a flummoxed Bill Hemmer.

Former Florida U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey talked Spitzer on CNN. No mention was made of why Coffey resigned in 1996: He bit a dancer on the arm during a bender at a Miami strip club. A CNN spokesperson said the network regretted the commentary.

And CNBC's Charlie Gasparino skewered former New York Lieutenant Gov. Betsy McCaughey Ross for helping perpetuating the "dysfunction" in Albany. After the tongue-lashing, an aggrieved McCaughey Ross exclaimed, "That is the rudest person. What is going on?"

Must be something in the air.

Tooning In

Fox cancelled Futurama in 2003, and Comedy Central is bringing it back. The network acquired the rights to the animated series last year, after it had gained a cult following on Adult Swim, Cartoon's late-night programming block. Fox Studios is producing four straight-to-DVD movies of the show, which are being repurposed into 16 episodes for airing on Comedy Central, beginning March 23.

But the network's choice of scheduling new episodes Sunday nights at 8 p.m. is a bit odd. In its new time slot, Futurama will be going up against The Simpsons, its former lead-in on Fox, and a show from the same creative team.

The Comedy Central folks say Sunday night is when they normally premiere specials. The network adds that the new episodes will eventually find their way into the weekly strip, though no time frame was given.

Might this shape up into an animation grudge match? Comedy Central denied that notion. "It's really not a big deal," a spokesperson for the network said. "There's enough of an audience out there to support both shows."

Screen Saver

The Web has long been the bane of foot-in-mouth TV anchors and correspondents. If a slip of the tongue on live TV doesn't get you fired (Don Imus) or suspended (David Shuster), it can, at the very least, trail you for years.

Case in point: News footage of a testy exchange between anchor Jim Ryan and reporter Dick Oliver on WNYW, the Fox O&O in New York. In the clip, Ryan upbraids Oliver for failing to thoroughly question a source on a simple news story.

"If I have to teach you how to be a reporter, I'll do that later," says Ryan, and it gets uglier from there.

The clip dates back about seven years, but it's suddenly a hit in 2008. Since being posted on last week, the musty sequence has been viewed close to 300,000 times.

"It's the video equivalent of an old joke," says Steve Safran, senior VP of Media 2.0 at Audience Research & Development, a Boston-based new-media consultancy. "Where do old jokes go? They sort of slumber for a while, and then somebody retells it and it catches on again.

"There's so much more live television today," adds Safran, "and so many more people uploading it."