ABC REPORTEDLY SET TO EXPOSE IDOL

ABC News is reportedly working on a Primetime Live feature about Fox's hit series American Idol that is "potentially explosive," according to Daily Variety, which cited unnamed insiders at Fox. The trade paper said that the special, presumably featuring the program's chief investigative reporter, Brian Ross, would likely air the special outside the show's usual Thursday-night time period at 10:00 p.m. Variety indicated that the show will examine the relationships between the judges on the show -- Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson -- and the contestants. The report emerged following a report in People magazine that Abdul, had attributed her seemingly erratic behavior on the show recently to her joy over conquering a painful medical disorder called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. "I want America to know that I have never been addicted to anything,'' she told the magazine. "I'm dancing for joy at the fact that not even a year ago I was in so much pain I could barely get up."

JUST(ICE) REWARDS?

Entertainment Tonight and "sister show" The Insider have paid $800,000 for the rights to air the wedding of former teacher Mary Kay Letourneau to Vili Fualaau, whom she was accused of raping when he was a sixth-grade student, the New York Daily News reported today (Friday), citing no sources. Columnist Lloyd Grove said that the couple have already taped interviews with ET's Jann Carl and The Insider's Lara Spencer and that a promotional blitz is expected during the May sweeps.

NBC FIGHTS PAXSON DIVORCE

NBC Universal said Thursday that it will contest Paxson Communications' plan to scrap its network programming and replace it primarily with infomercials, terminating its sales agreements with NBC Universal in the process. NBC holds a one-third stake in Paxson's PaxTV, has provided some of its programming, and has overseen ad sales. In a statement, NBC Universal said that Paxson's latest strategy would "jeopardize Paxson's long-term financial prospects in light of its highly leveraged balance sheet, and is not in the best interests of Paxson stakeholders." It called Paxson's effort to terminate the sales agreements with NBC Universal a breach of contract. Paxson declined comment.

PIRATES ATTACK TV

Online piracy of television shows have risen by as much as 400 percent in the past year, according to a study by the Magna Global advertising agency and reported in the online edition of Advertising Age. Moreover, the study indicated, commercials within the shows that are turning up online are routinely deleted. "As broadband access continues to grow and as access speeds continue to increase, we believe that we are only observing the beginning of these phenomena," the Magna Global report said. The report criticizes broadcasters for not attempting to exploit peer-to-peer networks as a source of revenue. It also observed that the rise of online downloading emphasizes the importance of product placement.

DEMAND SOARS FOR TV DVD'S

Sales of TV shows on DVDs are continuing to soar, with sales during the first quarter rising 20 percent above those for the same period a year ago, according to Nielsen VideoScan. Home Media Retailing magazine reported that total sales in the category are expected to reach nearly $3 billion this year versus $2.3 billion in 2004. Distributors, meanwhile, are rushing out new releases at a record rate -- 211 have either been released or announced so far this year, nearly half of them multiple sets, commanding far higher prices than single-disc releases.

FOOTBALL IS GREAT, BUT WHAT ABOUT NASCAR? WRITERS ASK

NBC's agreement with the NFL to air football beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday nights next fall has raised questions about how the deal could affect the network's relations with NASCAR. Several published reports noted today (Friday) that only a week earlier, Homestead-Miami Speedway announced that it would install lights to allow the Nextel Cup finale to finish in primetime on Nov. 20. The race was scheduled to begin at 4:00 Eastern Time and would likely take almost 4 hours. NBC clearly expects NASCAR to alter its schedule. "NASCAR, and all of our sports partners, have been very cooperative in the past with scheduling,'' NBC spokesman Mike McCarley told the Tampa Tribune. "Look at it this way: What better lineup could you have than a Nextel Cup race leading into a NFL game? We will have the two highest-rated sports back-to-back."

COURT SAYS DOCUMENTARY DEFAMES CHILD KILLER

An Australian court has barred the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from airing a documentary about a convicted child killer after a lawyer for the prisoner argued that parts of it were defamatory. The man, James O'Neill, was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a nine-year-old boy in 1975. He had been interviewed for the documentary, The Fisherman, which the ABC had scheduled to air next week. But Justice Euan Crawford of the Tasmanian Supreme Court ruled that O'Neill's lawyer had demonstrated that some of the allegations contained in the documentary were defamatory and that no public benefit would result from airing them.

FORMER BBC HEAD SAYS JOB CUTS WILL HARM THE BROADCASTER

Former BBC Director General Greg Dyke has lashed out at his successor's decision to cut 4,000 jobs as part of an effort to reduce the overall budget by 15 percent. In an interview on an independent digital radio station, Dyke said that the cutbacks were unnecessary "and therefore I wouldn't have done it. I also think it creates a climate of fear." He also maintained that the cuts will affect morale and thereby affect performance. Britain's leading broadcasting unions are considering strike action, and some analysts are predicting a walkout could take place as early as next month.

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: THE INTERPRETER

Film critics have found much to admire about Sydney Pollack's The Interpreter, starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, but their overall reaction is one of reserved dissatisfaction. Mostly the film is criticized for its apparent effort not to offend. A. O. Scott in the New York Times observes that such a movie "is conventionally described as a political thriller, but The Interpreter is as apolitical as it is unthrilling. A handsome-looking blue-chip production with a singularly impressive Oscar pedigree, it disdains anything so crude, or so risky to its commercial prospects, as a point of view." Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times reacts similarly. "While it would be a mistake to devalue the qualities director Sydney Pollack and stars Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn bring to this complex political thriller, that's not the same as saying it is completely successful," he writes. Wesley Morris in the Boston Globes observes that the movie is supposed to be about "the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of black Africans, whose murders [Kidman's character] is forced, alas, to interpret. Kidman becomes the face of genocide, and I'm dismayed to report that atrocity has never looked so lovely." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post takes note of the fact that the script was reworked by five writers (apparently not collaboratively). "While superficially intelligent, this Hitchcock-inflected thriller ultimately plays out like a series of half-hearted compromises," he writes. In the end, writes Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post, "You're left with admirable, even noble, wreckage, but wreckage it is." Nevertheless, several critics, while finding fault with the film's script, conclude that there's a great deal to appreciate about the film -- particularly its use of the United Nations as a backdrop -- the first time the U.N. has ever permitted itself to be used for such a purpose. The location, writes Robert Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, "adds an unstated level of authenticity to everything that happens." Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun adds: "The U.N. presence keeps the movie energized. ... The most enticing part of the structure may be how it opens up a city that embodies internationalism organically: Its vast picture windows showcase the miracle of New York." And Peter Howell in the Toronto Star suggests that the U.N. ought to have received star credit along with Kidman and Penn. "There is more to moviemaking than just the casting and directing," he comments. "Sometimes where you make a film is as important as who you put in it."

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: A LOT LIKE LOVE

Several Critics are suggesting that the target audience for Nigel Cole's A Lot Like Love, starring Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet, are the characters in Dumb and Dumber. "The movie is 95 minutes long, and neither character says a single memorable thing," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. "You've heard of being too clever by half? [The two lead characters} are not clever enough by three-quarters." Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe allows that the movie is not targeted at him -- or his colleagues. "The producers of this stillborn romantic comedy are betting there are many more college girls than there are testy movie critics, and they're doubtless correct. That doesn't change the cold, hard fact that their movie is a dog, with fleas." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News calls the movie "ditsy" and remarks, "Any movie starring Ashton Kutcher requires our suspension of disbelief, but extra forgiveness is required for Nigel Cole's A Lot Like Love." Indeed, Kutcher provides a wide target for several critics, with Peter Howell in the Toronto Star landing a K.O. To wit: "Ashton Kutcher continues to be a punch line for which no satisfactory joke has yet been written."