BC Beat

With Alex Weprin

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Found! NBC's Delayed Duds Turn a New Page

The NBC page has achieved a kind of mythic status in the popular culture. Long before 30 Rock and its peppy, earnest Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) established the caricature of the network's tour guides as a perpetually happy underclass of faithful servants, pages have been well known as the worker bees of NBC who sometimes rise to become TV stars (Regis Philbin) and captains of industry (Michael Eisner).

And for decades, pages at the New York and Burbank studios have been easily identifiable by their iconic—and archaic—uniforms: blue blazer, grey slacks, tacky tie.

All of that was supposed to change earlier this year. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the program, NBC held a fashion show on the Today show, allowing viewers to vote on new, updated page uniforms designed by upscale clothing house Brooks Brothers.

The winner was a sleek and stylish gray suit (skirts for the ladies). They have a tailored look and even sport hidden pockets in the forearms of the sleeves.

They're also apparently made of invisible thread because now, more than four months since they were unveiled, the pages are still sweating it out in their standard-issue blue-and-grays.

Though they were fitted back in April, one West Coast-based page told B&C, "We're still waiting."

So what happened? When B&C asked about the suits, still missing as of last Thursday, our timing was incredibly fortuitous. An NBC publicist reported that pages were to be receiving their new outfits the very next day.

Prior to that revelation, the pages had already formed their own theories for the delayed duds.

One was money. Given that a fitted Brooks Brothers suit typically runs around $1,000, and the turnover among pages is notoriously high, many simply assumed the network reconsidered the wisdom of spending so much in these challenged economic times.

But if you wander over to 30 Rock and see the pages sporting smart-looking gray this week, it would fly in the face of their favorite hypothesis: that the new uniforms never existed in the first place and were really part of an elaborately cruel joke.

After all, the day the winning design was featured on Today? April 1.

Sponge Torture

SpongeBob SquarePants has proven to be a durable little pitchman (or is it pitchsponge?) for a variety of retail products, lending his likeness to everything from Band-Aids to green beans—and earning billions in licensing dollars for the folks at Nickelodeon.

In recent years, the MTV Networks cable channel has caught some grief for allowing SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer and other Nick characters to hawk junk food and abet the scourge of childhood obesity.

So it was particularly ironic that the animated sea sponge turned up this week promoting a rather questionable attraction: torture.

These days, you can find SpongeBob's likeness on the Waterboard Thrill Ride, a new sideshow/art installation at New York's Coney Island that invites curiosity seekers to feed a dollar into the slot and watch animatronic figures demonstrate that interrogation technique you've been hearing so much about.

Painted on the exterior wall of the exhibit/interrogation room—below the money slot and the phrase "Thrill Ride"—is an image of a smiling SpongeBob shackled to a table. Standing over him, holding a watering can, is his irritable neighbor Squidward Tentacles.

In a reference to the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where enemy combatants are reportedly subjected to simulated drownings, a speech-bubble has SpongeBob exclaiming, "It don't Gitmo better!"

Nickelodeon declined to comment on the apparent unlicensed use of its character. According to a source at the company, there are no plans to pursue any legal action at this time.