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In Toronto, TNT Says Goodbye

TNT has decided to move production of its TV movie The Goodbye Girl,
set to begin in early June, from Toronto to Vancouver, citing concerns over the SARS outbreak in that city. Toronto, a popular setting for TV and film production, had reported 16 SARS-related deaths as of April 23, and the World Health Organization has discouraged unnecessary travel there.

By contrast, ESPN is sticking to its game plan for upcoming drama series Playmakers. The show, about the off-field life of a pro football team, is scheduled to shoot beginning next month in Toronto despite the SARS cases there, according to EVP of Programming Mark Shapiro. "Anyone doing business there has to raise their awareness," he said. "But it shouldn't stop the normal course of business."

Showtime, which is shooting Soul Food
and made-for DC/911
in Toronto, echoed the guarded concern. A spokesperson said the pay net will "continue to monitor [the SARS situation] responsibly."

About 25 TV and film projects are shooting in Toronto.—A.R.

ABC's Diary Does Double Duty

ABC's May 12 made-for-TV movie, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer
(right), took a circuitous route to the network. Last January, ABC aired miniseries Rose Red, penned by author Stephen King specifically for the network. The mini was so popular, scoring 18.5 million viewers and a 8.5 rating/20 share among adults 18-49, that the network decided to publish a book based on a part of the story. So Hyperion, a publishing house owned by ABC parent Disney, published The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer. As a "diary," the book listed no author, but the network hired Stephen King crony Ridley Pearson to ghost-write it. Since Rose Red
had been written by Stephen King, fans assumed that he wrote the diary, which helped it hit No. 1 on the New York Times
bestseller list. Noting that success, ABC decided to make it into a TV movie.—P.A.

What Is an In-Joke, Alex?

Syndicated quiz show Jeopardy, known for its clever categories, got seriously self-referential in a recent show. Four categories sharing the board April 21 were King World, Sony, Colombia Pictures and Try "Star." King World, of course, is the show's long-time distributor and Sony the show's owner, while Columbia
Pictures and Tri-Star are the former names of the show's producer (since changed to Sony Pictures Television). The categories actually dealt with 1) various monarchs, though not TV royals Roger and Michael; 2) facts about Sony, including founder Akio Morita and the introduction of videotape; 3) pictures of people from Colombia (Simon Bolivar, for example); and 4) star-related answers (starstruck, starfish).

As for Juan Valdez's picture, that was not a plug says Jeopardy producer Harry Friedman, adding that the show has been approached about product placement.—J.E.

Bayh Says Rock a Baby

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) wants Congress to create a $20 million grant program that would provide matching funds for donated broadcast ads promoting responsible fatherhood. The grants would equal ad time donated by broadcasters or paid for by state and local government or charities. The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), also would provide $50 million for responsible fatherhood programs issued as competitive grants to faith-based and nonprofit organizations. Bayh's initiative has received little attention since its introduction in March, but he pushed through a pilot version for his home state in 2001.—B.M.

International Digital TV?

New digital TV outlets have gone live in Athens and Moscow. OK, that's Athens, Ohio, and Moscow, Idaho. They are among the 20 towns and cities with new digital stations on the air. That's according to Decisionmark, which is tracking the digital conversion stick by stick. As of last week, the total was 857 stations.—J.E.