Film highlights threat to historic flag Team: History Channel, Smithsonian try to save Star-Spangled Banner

Radio and Television

June 24, 1998|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Realizing it's as important to preserve history as to chronicle it, The History Channel is working with the Smithsonian Institution to raise awareness about the deteriorating condition of the Star-Spangled Banner.

The cable channel is putting together a one-hour documentary on the flag, which flew over Baltimore's Fort McHenry and inspired Francis Scott Key to write what would become the National Anthem. The program is scheduled to air sometime this fall.

And the channel is developing education materials to be used in schools nationwide.

"The Star-Spangled Banner not only represents a fascinating story from our past, but a legacy that we at The History Channel believe will inspire Americans for generations to come," said Dan Davids, the channel's president and general manager.

The 185-year-old flag is scheduled to be temporarily removed from the Smithsonian's Museum of American History this fall, as preservationists struggle to combat the effects of decades of exposure to pollution, humidity and other environmental hazards.

CNBC on top in ratings

CNBC, the nine-year-old cable news network that's been challenging CNN's dominance in the field, overtook its rival for the first time this month among adults 25-54.

Ratings for the month, which extend through June 21, show CNBC with an average of 98,000 adult viewers, compared to 89,000 for CNN.

For the second quarter of 1998, CNN also averaged more adult viewers during the business day, from 5 a.m.-7: 30 p.m. Making the numbers even better, as far as CNBC is concerned: the network is available in 8 million fewer households than CNN.

'Ellen' co-star had doubts

Maybe ABC executives aren't the only ones who felt Ellen DeGeneres relied too much on gay themes in her sitcom, a reliance that may have contributed to the series' demise.

"Ellen constantly makes me laugh," cast member Joely Fisher told the New York Daily News. "I just think we got a little too much on the soap box at times."

Fisher, who played Ellen's friend Paige, says DeGeneres may have fallen victim to the ground-breaking success of last season's coming-out episode.

"Every week, I scanned the script to see where we were going to go with this [gay issue]," she said. "I think Ellen wanted to get away from the gay story lines, but as soon as you open up, you have to commit to this. We certainly lost some audience."

Since ABC's cancellation of "Ellen," Fisher has appeared in a series pilot for NBC and been offered several films.

How very X-citing

Newfound fans of "The X-Files" (perhaps the movie has converted you) can get all caught up in The Conspiracy and the people behind it (as much as we know, that is) beginning Monday.

At 8 p.m., the FX cable channel will broadcast the original pilot episode (which first aired Sept. 10, 1993). Then, through November, the channel will air the next 99 series episodes in order.

Wire reports contributed to this column

Pub Date: 6/24/98

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