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"Chloe" and Rush: K-i-s-s-i-n-g

Planting a seed: Rush Limbaugh mostly just lips off. But this time not so much with Mary-Lynn Rajskub of 24. She has an explanation.

Pecks on the cheek or air kisses apparently aren't Rush Limbaugh's style. Instead he went whole-hog at a recent terrorism panel sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. The guns 'n' butter conservative hit actress Mary-Lynn Rajskub with his best shot in a moment captured by Getty Images. Rajskub, who plays ever-vexed counter-terrorism agent Chloe O'Brian on Fox's 24, says Limbaugh caught her unprepared.

"He said hello to everyone and kissed me on the lips," Rajskub tells FHM magazine. "I was like, 'Oh, that was odd.' Then the picture was on the Internet and people thought I was going out with him."

Not true. Limbaugh was moderating the panel and Rajskub, who only plays a counter-terrorism agent, was asked to be on it.

"He's brilliant and hilarious," she said. "But I wouldn't say I wanted to get it on with him."

Ed Bark

Fox dumps Simpson specials, book

Facing a firestorm of criticism and the prospect of no advertisers, Fox announced Monday it is dropping all ties to O.J. Simpson.

That includes two announced prime-time specials tied to his book If I Did It, which Fox now says it won't publish. News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, who presides over the Fox communications empire, took the unusual step of issuing a personal statement.

"I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," he said. "We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson.

Fox had planned to televise the Simpson specials on Monday and Wednesday of next week, with his book's publisher Judith Regan, doing the Q & A. Fox vice president of alternative programming Mike Darnell billed it as "an interview that no one thought would ever happen. It's the definitive last chapter in the Trial of the Century."

Simpson, in the words of a Fox press release, would be telling for the first time "how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible for the crimes."

Virtually no one thought this was a good idea, including prominent Fox personalities Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera, who denounced Simpson and Fox's partnership with him on their shows. Earlier Monday, before the announcement, unclebarky.com detailed why the specials likely wouldn't air -- and why they shouldn't. You can read that commentary next on this page.

Memo to Fox: Take the air out of O.J. interviews

Fox still has ample time to mercy-kill next week's planned O.J. Simpson specials.

Criminally scheduled for Monday and Wednesday, O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened has put the not always high-aiming network in an indefensible position. It's been wall-to-wall denouncement since last Tuesday's announcement. Leading the charge are two of Fox's biggest stars, Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera.

O'Reilly, the most-watched personality on cable's Fox News Channel, has urged viewers of The O'Reilly Factor to follow his lead in not watching the specials and shunning any products advertised during them.

"If any company sponsors the TV program, I will not buy anything that company sells -- ever," O'Reilly vowed. He also predicted, "I don't think they're going to be able to sell one spot on that program."

Rivera, opining on Fox's syndicated Geraldo At Large, called Simpson a "smug pig" and a "punk."

"I'm ashamed to say that Simpson is being paid $3.5 million by Regan Books and by Harper Collins, sister companies to the one that produces this program, for the book and related television interviews," he said.

On CNN's Reliable Sources Sunday, host Howard Kurtz kept wringing his hands over whether to even talk about Simpson's deal with Fox. But he did, of course, leading his program with withering criticism from four guests, including CNN's former O.J. trial commentator, Roger Cossack. He called the Simpson specials "true pornography" before urging rabbis, priests and ministers to tell their congregations "why you shouldn't watch this."

Then again, "I think we're all guilty in some way of promoting this," Cossack said.

Let's step back to look at the dollars and cents realities. The entire country could watch the Simpson specials without Fox profiting monetarily. No matter how large the audience, a network can't make money without advertisers on board.

Rivera should know this better than anyone. On October 25, 1988, he presented his first prime-time special under a new deal with NBC. But his grisly two-hour Devil Worship: Exploring Satan's Underground left advertisers cold. The program went almost entirely unsponsored, but had a big enough audience to rank among the top five programs for that week. This prompted NBC entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff to quickly sever ties with Rivera while ripping him in public as well. Without advertisers, a big Nielsen rating isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

NBC encountered a similar problem earlier this year with The Book of Daniel, a provocative drama series about a troubled Episcopal priest. When advertisers bailed, so did the Peacock. Immediately.

O'Reilly almost surely is right in deducing that advertisers will stay well clear of the Simpson specials. Why would any company in its right mind want to be associated with them? Given that likelihood, what's the upside for Fox? Maybe a few more companion Simpson books will be sold. But that's hardly worth the huge hits Fox otherwise will take, both financially and to its image. A network that's about to put its best foot forward again with 24 and American Idol should be mindful of polluting its overall atmosphere.

It's hoped that Fox will reach these same conclusions. Write these Simpson specials off as a very bad idea and admit as much. You're already the network of The Simpsons. So why not substitute a few reruns of Homer and brood next week? You'll be glad you did.

Dale gets mad as hell

Readers keep asking about that Oct. 27 Dale Hansen meltdown on Belo8's 10 p.m. newscast. I didn't see it at the time, but the video since has made its way to you-know-where. Frankly, I can see why Hansen went off. Anchor John McCaa stole his thunder on a rare night when Hansen actually wanted to talk a little baseball. But what do you think? Have a look. Ed Bark

Britney gets an offer.

Flexing the savoir faire of a certain Mr. Dallas, Late Show sub-sidekick Alan Kalter tells Britney Spears just what he can do for her. Take a look. Ed Bark

Championship season: Sole mates Emmitt & Cheryl win it all

An athlete's foot is usually used for running, kicking or sticking in one's mouth.

Former Dallas Cowboys great Emmitt Smith found a fourth use Wednesday night. His amazing feet spurred him to an amazing feat. The three-time Super Bowl champ became the third celebrity winner of ABC's top-of-the-charts Dancing with the Stars. No one picked him at the start and few picked him down the stretch, save for unclebarky.com on Oct. 24th. Back-pat accomplished.

"It is awesome! It is awesome!" Emmitt exulted, hugging pro partner Cheryl Burke and hoisting the show's suitably gaudy mirror ball trophy while confetti fell and a live audience roared to the sound of -- what else -- Queen's "We Are the Champions."

Don't scoff. Emmitt threw himself into this competition, both taking it seriously and having a ball with it. He fought through nicknames such as Twinkletoes, The Big Easy and Sir Shimmy to eventually prevail over younger, quicker, slicker Mario Lopez. His high-beam smile and work ethic in the end counted for more than Mario's big divot dimples and flash-dance style. Yes, this is a dance competition. But it's also a personality contest, and in that respect Emmitt may have played his greatest game. He won on the strength of a final viewer vote-in after the two competitors tied with overall 89 scores in Tuesday's three-pronged dance-off.

None of his former Cowboys teammates or owner Jerry Jones could be seen in the audience for Wednesday's live finale. But Troy Aikman popped up in a videotape to tell America, "He may win this thing. And if that happens, I don't think any of us are going to give him a hard time."

Emmitt's biggest fan was his wife, Patricia, who sat in the peanut gallery week after week. On the last two shows, she was joined by the couple's two oldest daughters. They got to see Dad dance the samba and mambo Tuesday night before capping it off with an old-school freestyle turn to the tune of MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This."

His partner, Cheryl, also guided and glided Drew Lachey to victory on last season's Dancing. They seemed to form quite an attachment, with Cheryl telling Emmitt in a pre-taped segment, "No matter what happens tonight, you are my true champion. And you will always be No. 1."

Emmitt later told her, "I'm your big bull." She good-naturedly declined to be his "little bull," but let's not take it any further than that. This clearly was a platonic partnership that clicked whenever they had to floor it. She led the way, he followed. In an earlier arena, that was Daryl "Moose" Johnston's job.

No longer seen as just a jock, Emmitt now can reap the dividends of being America's newest huggy bear. Endorsement opportunities have opened wide -- at least for a while. Madison Avenue should be dancing in the streets. They've got a new go-to guy who's light on his feet and easy to like.

Even better, he's a proven winner who hoofed and puffed and blew everybody away on dancing's biggest stage. That's called stepping up.

Toe-ing zone: Emmitt & Mario take their last steps

You think he might want to win this thing? Emmitt & Cheryl floor it.

It's all over but the ballot-stuffing. Emmitt Smith and Mario Lopez each fell one point shy of perfect Tuesday night, matching 89 scores on the high-voltage Dancing with the Stars performance finale.

That leaves Wednesday night's verdict up to viewers, with an audience in excess of 25 million expected to see whether the brawny lad or the dimpled Gumby dance off with the show's worthless yet priceless mirror ball trophy. Dancing schmancing. Who's got the bigger, more motivated fan base? Fingers don't fail them now.

Host Tom Bergeron downplayed the stakes at hand, telling viewers, "Forget what you thought about ballroom, because tonight it's all-out war!" Ok, he up-played it.

Then it was up to Emmitt and partner Cheryl Burke to safely but flashily navigate the samba, the mambo and a climactic freestyle. Said he: "Mario, you've set the bar very high, and I'm comin' after you."

But Mario and partner Karina Smirnoff scored the bigger finish. He can do what Emmitt can't -- break dance and flit. Emmitt in turn did some heavier lifting after promising to also do some "rockin' and shockin.' " But hyper judge Bruno Tonioli marked him down a point for allegedly shaking a bit during Lift 2. That left the ex-Cowboys great with a closing 29 while Mario rang up a 30 for what judge Carrie Ann Inaba called "the best dance that I have seen this whole season."

Finicky elder statesman Len Goodman gushed, too: "If that dance was a film, you'd win an Oscar."

Still, as predicted here three weeks ago, Emmitt will win. His great equalizer is something else that Inaba said after his first go-around Tuesday night: "You are the everyday man who became a dancer before our very eyes."

People respond to that, even if Emmitt also is an everyday millionaire. Tonioli had a reliably more colorful way of putting it: "You drive people crazy, just with the twinkles in your eyes," he told Emmitt. "And you've got the twinkles in your toes to go with it."

Then it got a little out of hand when co-host Samantha Harris gazed upon his bright green samba shoes and said, "Emmitt looks so magically delicious."

Two of his three young daughters were in the audience for the first time. But none of Emmitt's ex-Cowboys teammates or owner Jerry Jones could be seen cheering him on. Sorry, Jerry, the seating scheme doesn't include an owner's box. But you really should be there for a Cowboy who's had the balls to jump out of his comfort zone and onto a hardwood dance floor in an array of tuxedos, vests and glitter shirts.

"Now people see me as a ballroom dancer, which is --- strange," he said before mambo-ing. "But I'll always be a football player."

Wednesday will tell whether he'll be stopped just short of the goal line in dancing's version of the Super Bowl.

The Simpsons, now The Simpson

O.J. Simpson talks brutality with Judith Regan on a Fox special

Reprehensible or not, here it comes. Plugging his new book, If I Did It, O.J. Simpson will get two hours of Fox's prime-time to talk about the more than decade-old murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.

Simpson's interviewer, in one-hour doses on Nov. 27 and 29, will be publisher Judith Regan. She also happens to be putting out his book. The specials are tactlessly titled O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened.

Fox has presented some embarrasements in the past, including an icy, awkwardly staged 1998 reunion of figure skaters Tony Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. But this may be its all-time bottom-feeder, even though Fox executive vp of alternative programming Mike Darnell is primed to see it otherwise.

"This is an interview that no one thought would ever happen," he said in a statement Tuesday. "It's the definitive last chapter in the Trial of the Century."

Simpson was found not guilty of the murders in criminal court, but a civil court later ordered him to pay $33.5 million in restitution to the victims' families. Whatever he receives for his Fox appearances should go directly to them.

Ed Bark

Goal to go: Emmitt vs. Mario on Dancing's finale

Emmitt Smith & Cheryl Burke lit up the cha cha cha Tuesday night.

The pile driver vs. the heartthrob. Sir Shimmy against Super Mario. Manly Man takes on Boy Wonder.

Whatever your take, Emmitt Smith is going to ballroom dancing's version of the Super Bowl, where he'll battle the favored Mario Lopez. Dancing with the Stars' top two sole men will floor it live next Tuesday before an audience that likely will top 25 million. It'll be one helluva hot ticket, lemme tell ya. Just don't let Paris Hilton in.

Cripes, Uncle Barky, towel off and stop delaying the inevitable. OK, I was wrong in predicting that Joey Lawrence would sneak past Mario into the finals. Had a hunch and it didn't pay off. But I've had Emmitt tabbed to win the whole thing since the Oct. 24th show, so let's see if the NFL's all-time leading rusher can juke Mario and make it to the show's end zone.

"This is why you enter a competition, so you can hopefully have a chance to fight for No. 1," Emmitt said Wednesday night.

His partner, Cheryl Burke, has been there before. She teamed with Drew Lachey to win last season's mirror ball trophy, symbolic of bad craftsmanship. Every trophy takes on an aura of its own, though, so they could be battling for a pair of fluffy wabbit slippers and it wouldn't matter. Emmitt's adrenalin pump will be primed to Super Bowl proportions when he goes against the show's double-dimpled Gumby doll.

He's got at least one big celebrity in his corner. Rachael Ray, who's been in the audience for at least one show, let it be known Wednesday night that "I want Emmitt to win. He's so smooth."

On the other hand, Jimmy Kimmel says uh-uh. Emmitt has as much a chance of going all the way as Joey does of rushing for 1,000 yards in the NFL, he said.

So there you have it. Longshot Emmitt goes toe to toe with hotshot Mario. Power vs. Speedo. Dallas against Southern Cal.

A big contingent of Emmitt's old Cowboys teammates should be man enough to be there for him. If not, at least send flowers.

Dancing does a three-way: Everybody gets a 30

Ok, let's do the equivalent of a minuet at a barn dance in predicting a shocking development on ABC's Dancing with the Stars.

As predicted two weeks ago, Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke (above doing the fox trot and rumba last week) will win the show's ridiculous but treasured mirror ball trophy. But they'll defeat Joey Lawrence and Edyta Sliwinska in next week's finale, not the favored Mario Lopez and Karina Smirnoff. Follow my lead if you would. I'll try not to step on your toes.

All three couples scored a combined 59 out of 60 Tuesday night, with each recording a perfect 30 for the first time. That renders the judges' scores inoperative and leaves it up to viewers' phone-in and online votes. That's where Mario may have made his big mistake while pal Joey played to the show's older crowd.

Look at it this way. More than one-quarter of the audience for Dancing is over 65 years of age, according to Nielsen Media Research. Which of these two performances do you think they might have preferred?

Joey dedicated the quick step to his World War II veteran grandfather. He wore a tricked-up U.S Navy outfit with SS Shaw on his sailor hat while dancing to "42nd Street." After a closing salute, he told co-host Samantha Harris that his uncle had died in WWII.

Mario on the other hand did a cha cha cha to Michael Jackson's "Bad." Let's just say that's not a particularly good association down the homestretch. Nor was it wise for Mario to then tell Harris, "I grew up loving Michael Jackson. I think every kid in my generation did." We pause now to ponder the ick factor.

The great unknown is whether the show's pivotal older viewer bloc is voting with the same zeal and dexterity as younger viewers. Maybe not. But I'm betting that Joey's golly gee demeanor and WWII gambit launched a groundswell for him. He says "awesome" too much, but you just know that he'd also walk your grandma across the street. Plus, Joey also had the line of the night, describing the semi-finals as a matchup of "two bald heads and a pair of dimples."

Meanwhile, Emmitt rose to two occasions --- the waltz and the cha cha cha. For the latter, he joined Cheryl in singing "Ride Sally Ride" while they both twirled their right arms overhead. It was the night's signature moment, with growingly tiresome judge Carrie Ann Inaba trilling and twirling "Ride, Emmitt, ride!" before joining the other judges in awarding a perfect 10.

Their waltz had judge Bruno Tonioli up on his hind legs. "You're turning into an American wonder! It's like the Grand Canyon!" he blurted.

Emmitt and Cheryl earlier "campaigned" for votes (the show had an election night motif) by visiting the Texas Motor Speedway over the weekend.

"We ask that you continue to vote for us," he urged the large crowd before commanding the drivers to "Start your engines."

He's in overdrive, too.

"This is like the NFC championship game," Emmitt said. "I don't like to lose. I don't like to lose."

He smiled when he said that. That's another part of his appeal.

YouTube shoots, scores(?)

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been firing away at the folly of YouTube on his blog. Now a YouTuber fires back in this "Who's the Moron?" short film. You probably won't see it on the big board at American Airlines Center, but you can see it here. Ed Bark

From Dan to Katie: No more cornpone

Katie Couric will make more history Tuesday by becoming the first woman to solo anchor prime-time election coverage. She'll have ample help on CBS from old hand Bob Schieffer.

Meanwhile, the deposed Dan Rather, is set to sit out his first election night since the Paleolithic period, although he will appear with fake news anchor Jon Stewart in the first half of Comedy Central's one-hour Indecision 2006 special (10 central, 11 eastern). Rather otherwise is waiting until Nov. 14 to debut the weekly Dan Rather Reports on Mark Cuban's HDNet.

Cuban hasn't returned an email inquiry as to why he didn't put Rather back in the saddle on election night instead. All he'd really need is a desk and a computer hookup. Dan then could take it from there with a fresh crop of all-purpose "Dan-isms," some of which he might be able to aim at Stewart. Greasing the skiddle, unclebarky.com has thrown together this Top 10 list of personal favorites from election nights past:

10. "His lead is as thin as turnip soup."
9. "We need Billy Crystal to Analyze This."
8. "This presidential race is still hotter than a Laredo parking lot."
7. "This situation in Ohio would give aspirin a headache."
6. "This race is as tight as the rusted lug nuts on a '55 Ford."
5. "The election is closer than Lassie and Timmy."
4. "This race is shakier than cafeteria Jell-O."
3. "If a frog had sidepockets, he'd carry a handgun."
2. "When the going gets weird, anchormen punt."
1. "Frankly, we don't know whether to wind the watch or to bark at the moon."

In with ease: Emmitt reaches semis

Kickin' it: Emmitt & Cheryl's fox trot missed some extra points.

Eight down, three couples to go, including Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke. They breezed to Dancing with the Stars' semi-finals Wednesday night, getting the word early in another ultra-padded results show.

Emmitt pronounced himself "extremely excited" to be on the precipice of going to Dancing's Super Bowl.

"It's nerve-wracking" waiting for the weekly verdicts, he said. "Performing is nothing. The results show is the toughest moment."

Eventually counted out was High School Musical co-star Monique Coleman, making it an all-male semi-final of Emmitt, Mario Lopez and Joey Lawrence. Jerry Jones, you need to be there -- in a special owner's box if that's what it takes.

Cheryl, on the winning team last season with Drew Lachey, said she'll keep her second partner loosey-goosey.

"For Emmitt, we have to keep having fun," she said. "Or else he has no chance of making it to the finals."

Their two Tuesday night dances received mixed reviews from Dancing's three judges. A fox trot got a modest 25 out of 30 points, but a smoother rumba nailed a 29. It's really all about viewers' votes, though, and Emmitt may well have a big enough fan base to survive just about anything but a rock-bottom judges' score. As predicted earlier, he's going to win this thing, in a final showdown with the Gumby-like Lopez.

"When you watch Emmitt Smith dance, the word that comes into my head is funky," said judge Len Goodman, the show's otherwise finicky elder statesman. "He is a true, cool dude."

Wow, next thing you know, Merv Griffin will be calling him a crazy cat. It goes with this new territory, Emmitt. But now there are just two more shows to go before you bring Dancing's oddly crafted silver trophy back home to Dallas for a ticker tape parade. Let's not announce a route ahead of time, though. That's been known to jinx things.