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“Populist” Moonves Disses Showtime

You could almost hear the collective gulp at Showtime. It's not every day that a network's new boss disparages its programming in public and on the record.

Speaking at Morgan Stanley's annual media investor conference last week, CBS Corp. chief Leslie Moonves shared his thoughts about the premium cable channel his company acquired last January in its divorce from Viacom.

After praising Showtime's financial position, he then panned its approach to original programming as pandering to highbrow TV critics rather than mass TV viewers.

Moonves believes Showtime ought to have shows that are every bit as popular as HBO's The Sopranos, despite having half its subscriber base (14 million, versus 28 million).

The problem, he says, is that “Showtime was a bit too much of an off-off-Broadway play. They were interested in critics more than audiences. Anybody who knows me knows audiences are the thing. I am a populist, and you can take your reviews and stick them. Just give me big audiences.”

Although insiders say that Moonves has said as much in private, there's no reason to think he isn't happy to have a respectable cable sandbox to play in. Still, he isn't one to speak off-the-cuff. So, Showtime, let's dumb it down, a little, huh?

The boss didn't elaborate on which shows he considers beyond the fringe (Fat Actress?), but apparently he likes the drug-dealing soccer mom from Weeds and the terrorists-next-door on Sleeper Cell. Says one insider, Moonves considers those shows “really commercial.” Of course, they're no Mamma Mia.

Spoiler or Foiler?

WARNING! This item discusses plot details about the fate of Vito Spatafore (Joseph R. Gannascoli) that were not revealed in the May 21 episode of The Sopranos. If you haven't seen the episode, continue reading. We won't spoil a thing.

In the weeks before the episode resolved the tale of the capo affectionately known as “Gay Vito,” fan sites were atwitter with speculation and rumor.

In April, the venerable Web site Ain't It Cool News, which offers “spoilers” about movies and TV series, posted a Vito spoiler from an “untested source,” revealing that the show had filmed “a violent rape scene” between Vito and Finn, Meadow Soprano's fiancé and the first character to discover that Vito is gay.

Well, things didn't turn out that way for Vito. Not even remotely.

Ain't It Cool's “coaxial” maven, Hercules the Strong, told us the site's spoilers “almost never” turn out to be bogus, “which is why everybody took it as gospel—despite our warning that it derived from an untested source!”

Before Vito's fate had been sealed, Gannascoli told the New York Observer that he filmed four alternate endings for his character, saying the show's producers “wanted to keep it a secret, even from me.”

The producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation were not above planting fake scripts in the dumpsters at Paramount to throw people off. So did HBO float a “foiler?”

HBO would not comment on the spoiler or Gannascoli's alternate-ending claim. “We prefer to let viewers discover the show on their own,” a spokesperson says. Although the last episode would suggest otherwise (again, no spoilers here), one Ain't It Cool poster theorized that the scene could still unfold in next Sunday's season finale—in a flashback.

We, however, do not subscribe to this theory.

Woody Gets Around

Like time travel, reshuffling a fall schedule can have un­intended consequences.

So NBC learned when last week's shake-up put Crossing Jordan and Las Vegas back to back on Fridays.

The problem concerns the Jordan character Det. Woody Hoyt and his recurring appearances on Vegas, most recently in its season finale.

A little synergy between shows never hurt, especially for fans of actor Jerry O'Connell. But when he appears on both shows' season premieres this fall, NBC will have to find a way to explain how Woody can be in Jordan's Boston setting at 8 p.m. and in Vegas at 9.

“No one actually thought of it until I brought it up,” says Vegas executive producer Gary Scott Thompson. “I said to the network, 'That's not a reason not to move the show, obviously. I'm just pointing it out.' The network said, 'We'll figure it out later.'”

SPOILER ALERT! Woody has an evil robot twin. You heard it here first.