Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'60 Minutes II' Clocks In

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'60 Minutes II' Clocks In

Article excerpt

If you like steak on Sunday, why not on Wednesday, too? Thus runs the marketing logic of the newest kid on the newsmagazine block, "60 Minutes II." Offspring of the venerable original, the clone debuted Wednesday night amid questions about the need for yet another newsmagazine.

With its arrival, viewers now can choose from among 12 hours of prime-time newsmagazines each week. On Wednesdays, those who can't get enough of the format can watch it all evening: NBC's "Dateline" at 8 p.m. EST, CBS's "60 Minutes II" at 9, and ABC's "20/20" at 10.

Producer Jeff Fager, a 60 Minutes veteran (and the source of the steak analogy), suggests that the award-winning original has set a standard that will allow its offspring to stand out from the pack: "The goal {is} to try our best to copy and duplicate the best traditions, the highest quality storytelling available." But perhaps in an effort to prevent the show from being reduced to just more hamburger by the competition for talent and top stories, the producers of "60 Minutes II" are taking few chances. While the highly rated, long-running original, now more than a quarter-century old, took time to develop its talent, the new format immediately offers veteran, high-profile journalists in Dan Rather and Bob Simon, interviewer supreme Charlie Rose, and lesser-known but experienced Vicki Mabrey, fetched from the London bureau. Beyond that roster, the new show will also offer a nod to its progenitor each week by airing what producers are calling "classic" stories from the original "60 Minutes" in each show. Mr. Fager suggests this represents an opportunity rather than a safety net by saying that the correspondents can revisit important issues, "and the developments are sometimes so dramatic and fascinating, that's part of {the show} as well." While industry observers have adopted a wait-and-see attitude toward yet another newsmagazine (it even took some convincing to warm "60 Minutes" producer Don Hewitt to the idea), albeit one with such a stellar pedigree, they have been pointed in their questions about the newest voice to fill the traditional Andy Rooney commentator spot, comedian Jimmy Tingle. …

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