Saturday, February 10, 2001
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Posted on: Saturday, February 10, 2001

Letterman may be pushing the limit

By David Bauder
AP Television Writer

NEW YORK — David Letterman is doing what all good talk show hosts do from time to time — ruffling a few feathers.

The New York Post reported yesterday that a Letterman Top 10 list that poked fun at his network was scrapped this week. The list referred to a lawsuit filed by a former "Survivor'' participant who claimed the reality show was rigged.

The initial taping of Letterman's show on Tuesday featured a comedic list of the Top 10 reasons people are suing CBS. After the taping was concluded, however, Letterman asked the audience to stay as a substitute list was filmed regarding Jennifer Lopez.

The Post quoted an actress attending the taping, Paulette Osborne, as saying Letterman seemed "very upset'' that the CBS list wasn't used.

CBS spokeswoman Rosemary Keenan said no pressure was applied to Letterman, and that he and his producers decided on the change themselves.

"It didn't get a good reaction from the audience and they felt it wasn't funny enough,'' she said.

Letterman's long history of mocking the networks that air him, first NBC and now CBS, would seem to indicate that he doesn't get pushed around. Keenan said the only time CBS waves a red flag on Letterman's material is if it appears to be libelous.

"It's classic Dave,'' Keenan said. "We expect Dave to have fun with us. We would never censor him.''

Meanwhile, a Letterman joke in December at the expense of Dr Pepper wasn't deemed too funny by the company that makes the soft drink, a CBS advertiser.

After a representative of Dr Pepper complained, CBS agreed not to rerun the Dec. 20 episode, although Keenan said shows that originally aired near a holiday are rarely repeated anyway because they appear dated.

Letterman's joke referred to Dr Pepper as "liquid manure.'' He repeatedly said afterward — even joined by guest George Clooney — that he was only joking.

This week, the trade publication Mediaweek reported, using anonymous sources, that in return Dr Pepper was given a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl either for free or at a deep discount. Super Bowl commercials cost companies an average of $2.3 million for a half-minute this year, although the price is lower in the fourth quarter, when the Dr Pepper ad ran.

CBS would not comment Friday on its relationship with Dr Pepper. A network executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, denied that the company received a Super Bowl discount.

Asked if Dr Pepper received anything from CBS other than a promise not to run the Letterman episode again, company spokesman Mike Martin said: "Not that I'm aware of.'' He would not discuss terms of Dr Pepper's Super Bowl ads.

"We certainly were not happy about the comments that were made and made that known,'' Martin said.

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