MASTERS STROKE NABS HUGE RATINGS

Ratings for CBS's coverage of the Masters golf tournament soared an average 24 percent from last year to an 8.3 rating and a 17 share versus 2004's 6.7/16, according to figures from Nielsen Research. The ratings peaked on Sunday with a one-hole playoff between Tiger Woods and Chris DeMarco which drew a 10.3/21, up 41 percent from the same day last year (with the final half hour, played during primetime, rising to a 15.5/27). The telecast also drew a huge audience in Britain, where the final showdown occurred past midnight. The Guardian newspaper reported that 2.8 million people were still tuned in to BBC2 at that time, representing 37 percent of the entire TV audience and 10 times the usual audience for BBC2 during that hour.

ANATOMY OF A HIT

Boston Legal may feel like suing following ABC's decision not to bring it back on April 24 as originally announced. Instead, the network has decided to leave Grey's Anatomy in the 10:00 p.m. Sunday time period, where in its first three weeks it has drawn ratings that were good enough to put it in Nielsen's weekly top ten. ABC said that the five episodes of Boston Legal that it has yanked from this season's schedule will be combined with those for next season, giving Legal the right to have 27 all-new episodes air beginning next fall. ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson described the situation as an "embarrassment of riches." Meanwhile, Grey's Anatomy continued to attract big audiences Sunday night. The show, which follows ABC's biggest hit, Desperate Housewives (which drew a 17.1 rating and a 24 share Sunday), nailed a 12.6/19 in overnight ratings, well ahead of the 7.7/13 that Boston Legal drew in its last outing on March 20.

CABLE NEWS NETWORKS' RATINGS RISE DURING WEEK BEFORE FUNERAL

Ratings for all cable news networks combined rose 15 percent last week as they focused attention on the death of Pope John Paul II and preparations for his funeral. For the week ending April 7 (the day before the funeral), the audience for Fox News increased 3 percent with an average of 929,000 viewers tuning in throughout the day. CNN rose 38 percent to 709,000, still well behind Fox News. MSNBC placed third with 321,000, up 33 percent.

FALLON UPDATES HIMSELF ON SNL

Jimmy Fallon, who was in New York to promote his latest movie, Fever Pitch, in which he co-stars with Drew Barrymore, made a surprise appearance on NBC's Saturday Night Live over the weekend. Fallon, who spent six years as a member of the cast of SNL, left the show last June to pursue a film career, becoming arguably the first in a line of recent network anchor departures. (He was co-anchor with Tina Fey of SNL's "Weekend Update.") In his appearance over the weekend, he staged a raucous argument with Fey over custody of their alleged "love child."

THE WIGGLES WIGGLE TO THE TOP

The Wiggles, an energetic quartet of four Australian song-and-dance men who focus their act on toddlers, have in a single year become the richest performers in Australia. The Australian business publication BRW reported that the quartet, Greg, Jeff, Murray and Anthony, earned $34 million last year, replacing Nicole Kidman at the top of the list, as she moved to second place with $30 million. Russell Crowe placed third with $21 million. BRW reported that The Wiggles earned 70 percent of their income in the U.S., where they are backed by an ever growing record, video and merchandising campaign.

CABLEVISION WEIGHING NEW BID FOR ADELPHIA

Although last week's decision by Adelphia Communications to accept a buyout offer from Time Warner Cable and Comcast was described as a done deal by most analysts, smaller Cablevision Systems is continuing to conduct due diligence on the company and may raise its $16.5 billion offer, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Monday), citing no sources. The newspaper observed that the earlier deal has yet to be approved by Adelphia's board, creditors and bankruptcy judge. While they are weighing the bid, Cablevision could very well come along and outbid them, the Journal observed.

YOU'VE SEEN THE WEDDING; NOW SEE THE ROMANCE

Only days after the wedding of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker Bowles on Saturday, the British network ITV said today (Monday) that it plans to produce a film, Whatever Love Means, about the couple's early romance. In a statement, Damien Timmer, head of drama, said: "As a nation we know very little about the early days of Charles and Camilla's love affair. Almost instantly they developed a loving and compelling relationship and it soon became apparent to Charles that he had met his soul mate," he said. This is a sensitive portrayal of their love and friendship prior to his meeting and marrying Diana." The title comes from a notorious quote made by the prince when he announced his marriage to Diana. When asked whether he was in love with her, he replied, "Of course," then added, "Whatever love means."

AL-JAZEERA RECRUITING BRITISH JOURNALISTS

Al-Jazeera, the controversial Arab all-news channel is offering top salaries to recruit British journalists for its English-language channel due to launch later this year, the London Sunday Observer reported. The news channel is creating a new newsroom in London, the newspaper said, and is likely to attract several of the more than 300 journalists that the BBC is expected to lay off as part of its current financial retrenchment.

SAHARA IS LUKEWARM

The weekend box office performed pretty much the way most analysts had predicted it would -- that is, lifelessly. Paramount's Sahara opened right on target with an estimated $18.5 million, not bad, except for the fact that the film reportedly cost $130 million to make. Close behind was Miramax/Dimension's Sin City, which dropped 52 percent from its opening week to $14.1 million, just edging out the debut of 20th Century Fox's Fever Pitch, which recorded $13 million. Two films tied for fourth in the estimates, MGM's Beauty Shop and Sony's Guess Who, with each taking in about $7.1 million. Making a big splash in limited release was Kung Fu Hustle, which opened on only seven screens in New York and Los Angeles with $293,025 -- an average of $41,861 on each screen. The film is due to expand to more than 2,000 screens on April 22. Overall, the box office was down 18 percent from the comparable weekend a year ago as it earned about $80.3 million. It was the seventh consecutive weekend of lower totals than last year.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. Sahara, $18.5 million; 2. Sin City, $14.1 million; 3. Fever Pitch, $13 million; 4 (tie). Beauty Shop, $7.1 million; 4 (tie). Guess Who, $7.1 million; 6. Robots, $4.65 million; 7. Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, $4.1 million; 8. The Pacifier, $3 million; 9. The Ring 2, $2.9 million; 10. The Upside of Anger, $2.6 million.

DISNEY PLAGUED BY AN INCREDIBLES MUDDLE

In yet another embarrassment for Disney management, the company acknowledged over the weekend that it has been unable to keep up with demand for merchandise based on the characters in its hit animated film The Incredibles and that the result has been a flood of counterfeit Incredibles toys, which has hit Asia particularly hard. The BBC reported today (Monday) that the shortage was recently highlighted in Hong Kong where Toys "R' Us said that it had been "kicking and screaming" for new supplies of the superhero characters. Clint Hayashi, spokesman for Disney Consumer Products, said in a turgid statement that the unit plans "to better adjust our forecasts and be more flexible to the market opportunity for our film merchandise so we can react faster to demand."

WASHINGTON MAY SHUT DOWN ITS FILM OFFICE

While several other states are boosting the budgets of film offices, which are assigned the duty of luring Hollywood production companies, the state of Washington, which hasn't seen a visit from a movie company in more than two years, is planning to shut down its film office for the next two years at a savings of $822,000. Instead it would spend $75,000 to study possible tax incentives for producers, according to Seattle's Puget Sound Business Journal. Hal Spencer, spokesperson for the Governor's Office of Financial Management, told the Journal: "We're losing out to [nearby Vancouver] B.C., and the biggest reasons are incentives and the exchange rate." But former Washington film office chief Christine Lewis told the publication, "If you don't have a film office, you send a message that you're not interested in the business. ... Everyone has a film office."

FINAL STAR WARS EPISODE IS REPORTEDLY RATED PG-13

Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith has become the first film in the franchise to be given a PG-13 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America's Classification and Ratings Administration, several websites reported Saturday, citing sources with the MPAA. According to the reports, the film received a PG-13 rather than the usual PG for the other Star Wars episodes because of "sci-fi violence and some intense images."

ARS GRATIA SONY

It's now "art for Sony's sake" at MGM as the 82-year-old studio with the slogan "Ars Gratia Artis" written over the head of its mascot, Leo the Lion, was officially absorbed by the Japanese media and electronics company. Sony recently purchased MGM, the last remaining major independent studio in Hollywood, from investor Kirk Kerkorian for $2.9 billion and $1.9 billion in debt.