Rapper Chuck D to the rescue

BEVERLY HILLS _ Public Enemy turns out to be public TV’s friend.
Rapper Chuck D, formerly of the hard core rap group Public Enemy, popped up at press tour this week for a PBS panel on the September documentary “Get Up, Stand up: The Story of Pop and Protest.”

Part of the two-hour film chronicles the history of politics and protest in black music, from the civil rights movement and pacifism to black separatism, gangsta rap and the L.A. riots.
In the film, Chuck D says “when we heard `Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud’ by James Brown, we turned from colored to black and black was beautiful.”

And he didn’t mince words with critics gathered here for the annual summer tour about his dedication to public broadcasting.

“PBS is my favorite network. I don’t think Viacom (CBS, MTV, VH-1, etc.) is my favorite network. MTV you spell MTV E-M-P-T-Y-V. And they turned BET into the bootie and thug network,” the outspoken artist told critics. “BET is such a bad mark on black folks in this country.
“PBS and Viacom are diametrically opposed, and we need to figure out more ways to get the documentaries and public broadcasts into the schools and into society.”

Chuck D says he knows that cable and broadcast networks draw in many more people than PBS, with their sensational news to exploitative series programming.
He says that TV outlets other than PBS have no interest in the good work he and others have been doing.

“But let it be known that I walked out of a gas station with a Reese’s bar and said I wasn’t paying for it, then my news would be splashed all over,” he says. “So we know that the worst of us gets around like gas. Of course you’re going to pick up an audience, but the question is, what audience? Do you measure the quality of an audience or the quantity of an audience?”

Chuck D says he’d rather be part of a quality program on PBS than a show like “Survivor” that garners millions of viewers.

“To me, that’s Pavlovic, people come in front of the TV slobbering; PBS, to me, it fights some of that off,” Chuck D says. “We need balance in television programming. So I’m the balance to (former Public Enemy bandmate) Flavor Flav’s ‘Surreal Life.’ ”

Bob Newart to get “Desperate”

Comic legend Bob Newhart came in to promote “American Masters: Bob Newhart: Unbuttoned,” which airs Wednesday July 20 on PBS (9 p.m. on KQED-Channel 9).

A late bloomer, Newhart was a 30-year-old accountant still living at home with his parents when he exploded on the comedy scene. He starred in two self-titled sitcom staples and appeared in 16 movies. Most recently, Newhart co-starred with Will Ferrell in “Elf” and guest-starred on “Desperate Housewives” as the boyfriend of Susan’s mom.
Keeping him grounded is Virginia, his wife of 42 years and mother of their four children.

“My wife will say, ‘Oh, the garbage guys are coming by tomorrow, so you want to take this out and put it in the recyclables,’ ” Newhart says. “I’ll say to her, ‘Well, do you think Joanne Woodward asks Paul Newman to take out the recyclables?’ and she said, ‘If you were Paul Newman, I wouldn’t ask you to take them out.’ ”

Newhart says he likes to hang out with comics, because they are always good for a laugh.

“I was out with Tim Conway the other night and we were having dinner. I don’t know, the subject of Viagra came up,” Newhart deadpans. “Tim said, ‘You know, they say if you get an erection for more than four hours you should call a doctor. If I get an erection longer than four hours, I’m calling everybody I know.’ “

Although he says he’s not interested in doing a series again, Newhart is looking forward to more appearances on “Desperate Housewives” next season.

“I don’t know if I’ll be doing two or eight. It’s whenever they feel like writing me in,” he says, adding that it was a compliment to be asked to do the multi-Emmy-nominated series. “I think if they’d gone to Schwarzenegger, he would have given up the governorship and accepted a recurring role.”

Check back on the blog to hear more from Newhart and Chuck D, as well as an early assessment of Martin Scorcese’s new 3 1/2-hour documentary on Bob Dylan. PBS claims that the chance of bootlegging this baby is so high, they won’t be able to ship it out in time for critics to review it before it airs in September.

The ambitious piece uses previously unreleased footage from Dylan’s live concerts. And for those out there unfamiliar with the man, he’s the cadaverous guy singing in the Victoria’s Secret ad and father of twentysomething couple-of-hits wonder Jakob Dylan. Oh yes, and a hugely important folk-rock pioneer.
PBS bids a fond adieu to the critics, making way for cable networks to present their wares.

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