RATINGS: EVERYBODY WINS
All of the major networks had something to cheer about in last week's ratings results. CBS was again able to claim the most number of viewers, thanks to Survivor: All-Stars and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Even the network's telecast of the NCAA basketball championship game between Connecticut and Georgia Tech, which drew the smallest audience in history for an NCAA championship telecast, ranked seventh for the week. NBC was able to boast that its reality show The Apprentice was able to beat CBS's Survivor: All-Stars (both of which are produced by Mark Burnett). ABC could bask in the glow of its Sunday-night victory of The Nick & Jessica Variety Hour. And Fox could exult over another first-place finish for American Idol. Overall, CBS won the week with a 7.2 rating and a 12 share. NBC was close behind with a 6.8/12. Fox remained in third place with a 5.3/9, a fraction ahead of ABC with a 5.0/9. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 13.7/23; 2. The Apprentice, NBC, 13.5/21; 3. E.R., NBC, 12.9/21; 4. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 12.6/20; 5. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 12.2/21; 6. Survivor: All-Stars, CBS, 12.1/21; 7. NCAA Basketball Championships, CBS, 110./18; 8. Law and Order, NBC, 9.3/15; 8. Without a Trace, CBS, 9.3/15; 10. The Swan, Fox, 9.2/14.

BUSH DRAWS A CROWD ON ALL NETWORKS

All four major TV networks drew respectable ratings Tuesday night for President Bush's primetime news conference. NBC attracted the most viewers with an average 7.8 rating and an 11 share. ABC drew a 6.7/10; CBS, a 6.0/9; and Fox, a 5.1/7. The ratings for the president were about the same as what the networks averaged for their entertainment programming for the night.

FLYING BROOMS FOR SWEEPS

Hoping no doubt that flying brooms are just what's needed during a sweeps period, ABC has scheduled an extended version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for Sunday, May 9. The network said that it will air during the entire four-hour primetime period between 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., concluding with a ten-minute preview of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which opens in theaters four weeks afterwards.

CONSERVATIVE GROUPS DECRY NICKELODEON SHOW ON GAY PARENTS

Pro-family activists, led by the Traditional Values Coalition, have denounced plans by the Nickelodeon channel to air a special on June 5 aimed at children of gay parents. Titled My Parents Are Different, the show will air without commercials, something the TVC considers "an attempt to stop the hemorrhage of negative press and to preempt losing sponsors." In a statement on Tuesday, TVC Executive Director Andrea Lafferty said, "The fact that they're willing to air this show even without sponsors is evidence that they're pursuing a homosexual agenda -- not providing wholesome entertainment for kids. It is my hope that advertisers will stop sponsoring programming on Nickelodeon until this network changes its ways." Although Nickelodeon has said that the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who disapproves of gay parenting, will also appear on the program, Lafferty maintained that the program is "badly skewed in favor of homosexuality."

TV WRISTWATCH DEBUTS IN JAPAN

Japanese manufacturer NHJ introduced the first all-in-one television wrist watch in Japan today (Wednesday), featuring a 1.5-inch TFT screen and weighing just 1.9 ounces. About 20 years ago, Seiko offered a similar watch, but the receiver portion was meant to be worn on a belt. The VTV-101 Wrist Watch TV has a suggested retail price of $185. No plans have yet been announced for distribution outside of Japan.

ARAB NEWS CHANNELS SQUARE OFF AGAINST U.S. MILITARY

Simmering antagonisms between the U.S. military and Arab news channels boiled over Tuesday as U.S. army spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt accused the Dubai-based al-Arabiya channel and the Qatar-based al-Jazeera of taking an "anti-coalition" position in reporting on recent operations in Fallujah. Both al-Arabiya and al-Jazeera have been showing images of women, children, and old people among the dead and injured in the city, while the U.S. military has contended that "95 percent of those [killed] were military age males." In a statement early today (Wednesday), al-Jazeera called General Kimmitt's comments "a threat to the right of the media to cover the reality in Iraq amid a difficult and complex situation on the ground."

'CAST AND MOUSE GAME OVER?
Analysts on Monday expressed skepticism that Comcast's February proposal to buy Disney for $54 billion will be revived. With investors displaying their wariness over the proposal by driving down Comcast's stock, some analysts have suggested that now would be a good time to buy shares in the company. On Tuesday, Banc of America Securities analyst Douglas Shapiro said, "The timing is tough to guess, but we believe that [Comcast] is waiting for a reason to walk away" from the Disney deal. He raised Comcast's rating from neutral to buy. The Denver Post quoted John Maloney, CEO of M&R Capital Management as saying that Comcast's continued inaction on moving forward will signal to investors that the odds of the deal happening are small "and Comcast's stock price will go up." Following Shapiro's report on Tuesday, shares of Comcast rose $1.10 to close at $30.34.

EISNER AND FUND MANAGERS TO HOLD SUMMIT CONFERENCE

Disney CEO Michael Eisner has agreed to meet with the managers of the six major state pension funds that withheld their votes from him at last month's annual shareholders meeting, Reuters reported Tuesday. The wire service said that Eisner proposed a May 21 meeting and indicated that it would be held in New York, although it could be reset if all the participants could not work the date into their schedule. Disney shares were hammered by investors on Monday and Tuesday as news reports about the failure of the company's $100-million epic The Alamo were front-paged in business sections of many newspapers.

DIRECTOR DISCLOSES PLANS FOR HELLBOY: THE DVD

Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro is planning two separate DVD versions of his movie, a double-disc edition to be released in August, and a "fan" edition containing a longer cut (by 20 minutes) to be released in December. "The first edition is going to be a double disc hopefully, and the second edition is going to be a long cut of the movie, 20 minutes added, and you add a third disc to it," del Toro told Video Store magazine. "I think you have the chance of the more casual fan just buying the first one, and the guy who really is hardcore going for the second one." Among other things, the longer cut will develop the relationship between Agent Myers (Rupert Evans) and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) -- which ignites the jealousy of Hellboy (Ron Perlman). The subplot, del Toro said, "couldn't be in the movie because the theatrical cut has to be a cut that moves to a pace that any casual fan or nonfan can enjoy, [while] the DVD is [for] hardcore [fans]."

NO SECOND COMING FOR PASSION IN AUSTRALIA

Australians failed to follow the lead of Americans and make Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ a mandated observance on Easter Sunday. "The theory that there would be a Jesus revival at the flicks at the weekend was a myth," the Sydney Morning Herald observed today (Wednesday). The film came in at No. 6 with just A$805,000, well behind the opening of Starsky & Hutch, which recorded A$3.5 million. The newspaper pointed out that although Passion now ranks as the eighth most successful movie ever, in Australia it is No. 120 on the all-time list.

DIRECTOR FROM SINGAPORE SLINGS BARBS AT CENSORS

A Singapore director who was forced by the city/state's censors to make 15 cuts to a film dealing with teenagers contending with crime and drugs in a public-housing development, has won approval of a short film in which he lampoons government censorship. The new film, titled Cut, from director Royston Tan, is scheduled to be screened Thursday at the Singapore International Film Festival. Only last month Arts Minister Dr. Lee Boon Yang denounced the short, maintaining that it was part of "unbecoming attempts to undermine the standing of a public institution [the Board of Film Censors]. ... It is unhealthy for public officers, who are carrying out their duties, to be subjected to unwarranted ridicule." Meanwhile, film festival officials are complaining that the censor board is continuing to drag its feet in rating two other films that they had planned to screen during the next week.

PIRACY RAVAGES HONG KONG FILM INDUSTRY

The rise in video piracy has devastated the Hong Kong film industry, reducing output from a peak of 234 films in 1993 to 56 ten years later and cutting the number of film industry jobs from 20,000 to half that number, the London Financial Times reported today (Wednesday). The newspaper, citing an unnamed government investigator, reported that crime syndicates have been able to buy high-quality master copies of films not only from industry insiders in Hong Kong but also from Hollywood studio sources, paying some $10-20,000 per title. In an effort to compete against the pirates, Hong Kong filmmakers now release their movies on DVD barely a month after they complete their theatrical run. But critics contend that the practice has accustomed moviegoers to watching movies at home rather than in theaters.