Nancy Grace(less) at Headline News

Anyone who witnessed legal analyst Nancy Grace's combative performance at the recent Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles won't be surprised by the behind-the-scenes reports coming from CNN Headline News' new show, Nancy Grace. The diva act continues. But CNN may be inclined to take the bad with the good, because Grace is lifting the beleaguered channel in the ratings.

Just one week into the prime time show (which got off to a rocky start with a glitch-filled premiere), Grace has already had her makeup person reassigned, and laced into a production staffer so mercilessly that he quit the show. (A CNN spokesperson dismissed any talk of problems, saying every new show has growing pains.) In a departure for the traditionally low-glitz CNN, Grace has commanded a room of her own for makeup. But it's not as if she wants privacy; the host calls her staff in for meetings while she's being spruced up.

As the show enters its second week, CNN staffers expect more tension. “This is cable, honey. Skip the diva business,” says one. It was an echo of reactions to Grace's grande dame manner during the TCA gathering in January.

The good news: “Nancy Grace Premiere Week” goosed the longtime ratings laggard Headline News by 81% in the 8 p.m. (ET) time slot and outpaced Keith Olbermann's Countdown on MSNBC.

Translation In 'Lost' Lost

Remember when snow on the screen could ruin a TV show? Those days were back, sort of, last week for some Lost viewers. Fans of the ABC hit learned about the mysterious past of Korean couple Sun and Jin early in the Feb. 23 episode during a flashback scene, where the conversation in Korean was translated in subtitles on the bottom of the screen. In New York, however, Lost viewers were simply lost. WABC ran a crawl across the lower part of the screen announcing a winter-weather advisory, blocking the subtitles.

Annoyed viewers called WABC to complain, but President/GM Dave Davis says that the number of calls—though he declined to be specific—was not significant. And the calls didn't just come into the switchboard; Davis says he heard directly from some viewers, and he apologized for the inconvenience. But, he adds, “it was done for the right reason, to give emergency weather information.”

The snowed-in viewers didn't miss any earthshaking revelations. Though it would have been nice to see the dialogue, the gist of the scene was that Jin asks Sun's father for her hand in marriage. The father demands to know how Jin will support her and suggests he come to work for him. When the episode repeats, this summer, fans in New York planning to recapture the Lost lines had better hope there aren't any severe thunderstorms tracking their direction.

Dr. Thompson's Twisted Quote

After Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide on Feb. 20, tributes to the godfather of gonzo journalism began to pour in. Many of them quoted liberally from Thompson's work, including this classic:

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.”

If you're the kind of person who still reads newspapers, you might have encountered this quote in the Chicago Tribune, the UK Guardian, the Orange County Register, the Toronto Star, the UK Evening Standard, and many other inky news outlets.

It's a wonderful, vivid, typically Thompsonian journalistic hand grenade. Except he didn't say it. Or write it. At least not about the music business.

No, Dr. Thompson was describing something dear to B&C: the television business. And delete the line about “There's also a negative side, too.” It's also wrong.

In 2001, About.com's urban folklorist, David Emery, researched the origin of Thompson's famous quote. He found that a line from a Thompson column for the San Francisco Examiner in 1985 had been widely misquoted, applied to a variety of industries, including music, radio and public relations. [To its credit, the Chicago Tribune ran a correction last week.]

For the record, here's the real quote, bird-dogged by Emery, which you can find in Thompson's Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the '80s:

“The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.”