Why is this man smiling? Two weeks before the premiere of the syndicated television version of the corporate porn-pushing gossip site, insiders tell us that it's chaos behind the scenes at TMZ TV, as the biggest stories in the TMZ gutterworld dry up before the series goes to air. Lindsay Lohan's plea deal on her drunk- and drug-driving charges and Nicole Richie's in-and-out jail sentence are only two biggies that have robbed the show of stories that producers had hoped to ride to some kind of ratings and make the new series more than a retread of the failed Celebrity Justice.
As for TMZ editor and self described "main on-air personality" Harvey Levin: judging from his recent morning show appearances on the Fox station that will air TMZ TV, he's been tucked, pumped, primped and buffed in anticipation of his planned TV resurrection, but still comes off less like a high-Q-scoring McGrath-Steines-Seacrest type than the creepy kind of Pat O'Brien older guy you might catch staring at you in a West Hollywood gym. "Harvey is on his own with this one, and his ego is getting in the way," says one spy. "In the past, he was always joined at the hip with Lisa Gregorisch (executive producer of Extra, who originally sent exiled-off-air Harvey to start up the website), but they had a falling out over control of the (TMZ) show and don't talk any more.
"While he's swaying in the breeze, Lisa's taken her new BFFs on a cruise-ship vacation."
Insiders tell us they're already counting the days to when Harvey's on-air second banana, the young leftist, "serious journalist" and Hollywood royalty scion Ben Mankiewicz rebels against the sleaze factor and walks off the show-- though third-banana Teresa Strasser, who once had serious TV dating-show aspirations, has been getting extra TMZ conditioning in her role on the crapulous Adam Carolla radio show this week, as the monotonal host and other staffers make constant reference to "T's V," meaning her vagina.
(Meanwhile, TMZ has again taken our advice by cleaning up their crass, dirty headlines in the past few days, and is even trying to upscale its image by including an item on Amy Sedaris! We bet Ben had a hand in that one.)