MSNBC'S STICKY SITUATION
In what appeared to several analysts to be an attempt to put a good face on a bad situation, MSNBC has moved the low-rated The Situation with Tucker Carlson to 11:00 p.m., announcing as it did so that will thereby be offering viewers the only first-run live cable news program at that hour in the East, and simultaneously, the only live news program at 8:00 p.m. for West Coast viewers. In a statement, MSNBC President Rick Kaplan said that he was "thrilled" with the programming change and added, "the fast-paced style of The Situation is best suited for a late-night audience" (raising the question of how well suited it might be for the West-coast audience in the earlier hour). Additionally, Kaplan announced that Rita Cosby: Live and Direct will take over the 9:00 p.m. time period, a program that MSNBC described as "a hard-hitting, no-nonsense news program that brings viewers stories they won't see anywhere else." Reporters were skeptical about the changes. The Associated Press headline its report about them "MSNBC Dumps Carlson From Primetime Slot," noting that since its June 13 debut, Carlson's show had been averaging 25 percent fewer viewers than the show it replaced, The Abrams Report. Broadcasting and Cable observed "The move had all the earmarks of a downgrade, but Kaplan and Carlson saw it differently." (The blog TVNewser.com noted that in its initial report, B&C had remarked that the moved appeared "to be a vote of low-confidence for Tucker Carlson," but that the publication removed that remark later.
COURIC TO ANCHOR CBS NEWS?
Katie Couric has acknowledged that she has met twice with CBS Chairman Les Moonves, presumably to discuss the possibility of anchoring the CBS Evening News. "Everybody need recharging," Couric told The New Yorker media writer Ken Auletta. Couric's $13-million-a-year NBC contract is due to expire next spring. In a sidebar interviewed published on the magazine's website, Auletta was asked whether he believes Couric would be able to make the transition from the fluff of a morning news program to become a hard-hitting anchor. He replied, "Couric is smart and informed. Tom Brokaw's stint at Today didn't hinder his career. Live television is hard, and takes skills that most journalists don't have. She has the talent. The question might be whether her definition of what is news has been warped by her fifteen years on Today."
BLACKS EXCLUSDED FROM SUNDAY TALK SHOWS, STUDY FINDS
African-Americans accounted for only 8 percent of the guests on the major Sunday-morning talk shows over the past 18 months, according to a study by the National Urban League. The study also indicated that just three people accounted for most of those appearances, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Juan Williams the reporter-panelist on Fox News Sunday. Together, they represented 122 of 176 appearances by African-Americans on the Sunday news shows. The study, titled "Sunday Morning Apartheid: A Diversity Study of the Sunday Morning Talk Shows," found that no black guests had appeared on 86 percent of Meet the Press editions. Responding to the study, an NBC spokeswoman said that Meet the Press attempts to book "the same newsmakers who dominate the front pages and Op-Ed pages of every newspaper in America.."
TV NEWS REDUCING IRAQ WAR TO NUMBERS, SAYS CNN'S SESNO
CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno has complained that television coverage has reduced the war in Iraq to "news by the numbers: how many are dead; how many bombs there were; how many years before American troops pull out; how many American troops are doing what." Left out of the equation, he said on CNN's Reliable Sources Sunday, is what is happening to the political process in that country and how its reconstruction is moving along -- in other words, the information on which viewers "are going to make decisions about whether it's worth it to stay [in Iraq] or not."
FOX EXEC TEACHES GAY PRODUCER "SENSITIVITY" TOWARDS GAYS
Concerned that the upcoming season premiere of the Fox sitcom The War at Home contains language that may offend gay people, Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori has ordered one line to be rewritten and is considering having another line changed, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported today (Monday). The sitcom was created and exec produced by Rob Lotterstein, an openly gay man, who has written for Will & Grace and Ellen. Liguori ordered the word "fag" removed from a scene in which the teenage daughter of the principal couple in the show defends her brother by remarking, "He's not gay, he's just a fag." Another line that might end up on the cutting room floor comes in a scene in which the mother remarks, "He's not gay. He's a normal kid. ... Well, he's not normal, but he's not gay." Liguori told the Inquirer that he intends to discuss the line with Lotterstein. "There needs to be some sensitivity to that kind of phraseology," he remarked. Lotterstein replied that critics are examining such lines "under the microscope. ... It certainly wasn't my intention to imply that gay people are not normal. ... My boyfriend of five years didn't have a problem with that line."
"THE INCOMPARABLE HILDEGARDE" DIES AT 99
Before there was Prince, Madonna, Sting, Cher, or Liberace, there was Hildegarde, the first of the one-name celebrities. Billed as "The Incomparable Hildegarde," her career spanned more than 70 years and included cabaret, the legitimate stage, radio and television. The Associated Press reported Sunday that the entertainer, who was born Hildegarde Loretta Sell in Adell, WI, died Sunday in New York at age 99. In her obituary, AP quoted Liberace as having once said, "Hildegarde was perhaps the most famous supper-club entertainer who ever lived. ... I used to absorb all the things she was doing, all the showmanship she created."
WEDDING GRABS THE RING
As several analysts had predicted, New Line's Wedding Crashers crashed the winner's circle over the weekend, rising to No. 1 in its third week with an estimated $20.5 million in ticket sales. It took over the top spot from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which had held that position during the previous two weekends and which ended up this weekend with $16.4 million. Disney's low-budget Sky High, about a high school for superheroes, got satisfactory marks in its debut, placing third with $14.6 million. But Sony's premiere of the big-budget Stealth was barely visible on the radar as it tanked with $13.5 million, gliding just above another newcomer, Warner Bros.' Must Love Dogs with $13.05 million. Continuing to impress was the Warner Independent Pictures documentary March of the Penguins, which took in $4.2 million on fewer than 800 screens, to bring its total to $14.6 million. It is due to widen to about 1500 screens next weekend. Also impressing was The Aristocrats, a film in which several comedians give their take on a single dirty joke. The film earned $260,000 in just four theaters in Los Angeles and New York, or a sensational $65,000 per screen. Overall, the box office continued to decline compared with a year ago. The top 12 movies took in $112.1 million, 21 percent below the figure for the comparable weekend a year ago, according to Exhibitor Relations. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Wedding Crashers, $20.5 million; 2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, $16.4 million; 3. Sky High, $14.6 million; 4. Stealth, $13.5 million; 5. Must Love Dogs, $13.05 million; 6. Fantastic Four, $6.8 million; 7. The Island, $5.6 million; 8. War of the Worlds, $5.44 million; 9. Bad News Bears, $5.43 million; 10. March of the Penguins, $4.2 million.
TURMOIL IN THE MURDOCH FAMILY
Last week's surprising resignation of Lachlan Murdoch as deputy COO of News Corporation has been attributed to a growing rift between him and his father, Rupert Murdoch. Today's (Monday) New York Times reported that the younger Murdoch had complained to several people close to him that his father interfered in his business dealings and undermined him. The newspaper quoted four personal acquaintances of both men and two high-ranking News Corp execs as saying that the bond between father and son had become frayed, particularly after his father gave him a dressing down in a meeting with other top company executives, then held a series of meetings with Jack Abernathy, president of Fox Stations, a unit that reports to Lachlan, without including Lachlan. The Times and other newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, suggested that a secondary reason for Lachlan's split was the elder Murdoch's decision to include his two infant children with Wendi Deng in the family trust that will control News Corp after he dies or steps down. Meanwhile, former newspaper editor Andrew Neil, a onetime Murdoch lieutenant, has predicted that News Corp is unlikely to survive intact beyond Murdoch's lifetime. Neil, who edited the London Sunday Times, a Murdoch-owned newspaper, told Britain's Guardian newspaper, ""The genius of Rupert Murdoch is his ability to keep [all of the realms of his media empire] together. ... Murdoch's genius dies with him."
UNIVERSAL, DREAMWORKS IN EXCLUSIVE ACQUISITION TALKS
At a board meeting on Friday, GE directors agreed to allow NBC Universal to pursue the acquisition of the live-action unit of DreamWorks, the Wall Street Journal reported today, citing several people familiar with the matter. Separately, the New York Times reported that the GE board agreed to allow NBC to negotiate exclusively with DreamWorks, while DreamWorks, which is held privately, did the same. The Times said that the central players in the negotiations are Universal Studios President Ron Meyer and DreamWorks principal David Geffen, who have been close friends for many years and talk to each other nearly every day.
Mumbai, India, formerly known as Bombay, was drenched with 26 inches of rain on Tuesday, the heaviest single day's rainfall in Indian history, causing millions of dollars of damage to outdoor film sets and shutting down the Bollywood movie industry, which produces more features than any place else in the world, including Hollywood. Production was halted for three days, the BBC reported. The downpour also hit the Indian box office hard as moviegoers decided to remain at home rather than attempt to brave the deluge.
CONNERY SAYS HE WON'T WORK FOR HOLLYWOOD'S "IDIOTS"
Sean Connery, who has not made a film in nearly three years, said over the weekend that he is not likely to make another one. In an interview in New Zealand, Connery remarked, "I'm fed up with the idiots ... the ever-widening gap between people who know how to make movies and the people who green-light the movies." The 74-year-old Connery, who remains Britain's highest-paid actor added: "It would almost need a Mafia-like offer I couldn't refuse to do another movie."