COSTAS NOT ONLY KEEPS JOB BUT GETS PAT ON THE BACK
CNN President Jonathan Klein has approved the decision by Bob Costas to bail out of the Larry King Show Wednesday night after producers declined to change the topic of the broadcast, the Natalee Holloway case in Aruba. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) New York Times, Klein remarked, "It's important that we never have an anchor doing a story he does not believe in." Klein suggested that he himself does not believe in the story. He told the Times that cable news outlets have covered it because "It's easy and it's brainless. ... They're looking for an ongoing drama" like Law & Order, "except Law & Order doesn't do the same plot every night." Klein particularly struck out at rival Fox News Channel, pointing out that on the day earlier this month when 14 marines were killed in Iraq, Fox News's Greta Van Susteren stuck with the Holloway case. "Fourteen Americans dead, and they have Natalee Holloway on," Klein told the Times, adding: "And they're supposedly America's news channel." A spokeswoman for Fox News Channel responded: "If Jon performed as well as he talks he wouldn't have to explain his network's dismal ratings." Meanwhile, the Wilmington, DE News-Journal in an editorial today praised Costas for his "principled refusal" to appear on the show and concluded: "Congratulations to Mr. Costas. You have our respect. You also have our hope that you continue to get work."

CAN TV TEACH TODDLERS TO HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR?

The head of the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has condemned the Cartoon Network's Tickle U, which launched on Monday, aimed at 2-5-year-olds. In particular, the group objects to the cable network's claim that the weekday programming block is intended to "help preschoolers learn to have a sense of humor about life." The group said that in reality the programming represents "a cynical ploy to get young children to watch more television." In a statement, the group quoted Wheelock College Professor, Dr. Diane Levin, author of Remote Control Childhood, as saying: "Children don't need TV to develop a sense of humor. It comes from play and their natural interactions with the world around them. This is a classic case of marketers trying to create a need where none exists and to dupe parents into thinking that watching more TV is good for their children." However, in an interview with Advertising Age, Alice Cahn, the Cartoon Network's vice president of development and programming, responded: "We know this is a special vulnerable audience, so not only is programming designed with children's developmental needs in [mind] but there are clear distinctions between programmatic material and commercial material." Cartoon Network said that commercial interruptions are brief and limited to the beginning and end of the programs.

THE TOP TEN ARE ALL RE-RUNS

CBS was able to claim eight of the top-10 television shows last week -- all of them reruns. In fact, not a single new show made the top 10, although Fox's So You Think You Can Dance came in at No. 11, and CBS's Big Brother took the 12th and 14th spots respectively. The debut of NBC's reality show Tommy Lee Goes To College flunked out, winding up in 54th place. Among the nightly news shows, NBC Nightly News returned to the top of the heap with an average 6.0 rating and a 13 share, edging out ABC's World News Tonight, which drew a 5.7/12. The CBS Evening News fell further behind with a 4.7/10. Overall, CBS led the week with an average 5.3/9. NBC remained in second place with a 4.1/7. ABC placed third with a 3.8/7 while Fox managed only a 4.1/7. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. Without a Trace, CBS, 9.1/16; 2. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 8.9/15; 4. CSI: Miami, CBS, 6.9/11; 4. NCIS, CBS, 6.9/12; 6. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 6.5/11; 7. Cold Case, CBS, 6.3/11; 8. Law and Order: Criminal Intent, NBC, 6.2/10; 8. Two and a Half Men (9:30 p.m.), CBS, 6.2/10; 10. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 6.1/10.

WAS "DEATH" OF ALIAS CHARACTER A PUBLICITY MOVE?

The Internet remained all ablog Tuesday over rumors that Alias star Michael Vartan's character will be killed off during the next season of the series. Vartan reportedly was once romantically involved with Alias star Jennifer Garner, who recently married Ben Affleck. Fans launched a website, www.mvcampaign.com, to post their concerns about the reported decision to dump Vartan. But some blog writers have now begun suggesting that the rumor was planted by the series' producers as a kind of "reverse spoiler," hoping that it would ignite just the kind of discussion about the series that it has before the new season begins.

ABC FAMILY CHANNEL CONDEMNS ROBERTSON BUT HAS TO KEEP HIM

The ABC Family Channel, which was once owned by televangelist Pat Robertson, has condemned remarks by Robertson on Monday in which he called on the U.S. to assassinate Venezuela President Hugo Chavez. Robertson's remarks prompted demands from several organizations that his program, The 700 Club, be canceled by the channel. However, under terms of Robertson's sale of the channel, the program can never be removed without Robertson's agreement. In a statement on Tuesday, the channel said that it "strongly rejects" Robertson's remarks and directed all callers to the televangelist's Christian Broadcasting Network.

TOWN THAT RENAMES ITSELF "DISH" WILL GET FREE SATELLITE SERVICE

Recalling game-show host Ralph Edwards' on-air remark in 1950 that he wished some American town "liked and respected our show so much that it would like to change it's name to 'Truth or Consequences,'" (the town of Hot Springs, New Mexico did so), EchoStar Communications Corp., which operates the Dish network, said Tuesday, that it would give free satellite receivers to every household in any town that permanently renamed itself Dish. Any interested town has until Nov. 1 to apply.

WHY THE SLUMP?

The summer movie season, which officially ends on Labor Day, Sept. 5, is expected to produce box-office results 9 percent below those of 2004 and attendance figures 11.5 percent below, according to box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. In separate interviews with today's (Wednesday) New York Times studio executives generally acknowledged that the downturn could be attributed to unexceptional and unexciting films. New Line Cinema Chairman Robert Shaye, whose studio produced Wedding Crashers, one of the summer's few blockbuster hits, told the Times that in previous years, "you could still count on enough people to come whether you failed at entertaining them or not, out of habit, or boredom, or a desire to get out of the house. You had a little bit of backstop." Universal Vice Chairman Marc Shmuger remarked similarly that "there's a cumulative wearing down effect. We're beginning to witness the results of that. People are just beginning to wake up that what used to pass as summer excitement isn't that exciting, or that entertaining." Michael Lynton, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, vowed that from now on, his studio will be making "only movies we hope will be really good." But Tim Rothman, co-chairman of 20th Century Fox, disagreed with his peers. ""Everybody keeps saying it's the worst of times; it seems fine to me," he said.

PIONEER ELECTRONICS EXEC DOUBTS FORMAT WAR WILL ARISE

Talk of a new format war over high-definition DVDs may be premature, according to an executive with Pioneer Electronics. On the heels of a report that negotiations have collapsed between Sony, which developed the Blu-ray format, and Toshiba, which co-developed the HD-DVD format, Pioneer's Andy Parsonsm in an interview Tuesday with Home Media Retailing magazine, pointed out that both software and hardware manufacturers will probably wait until the companies resolve their differences before they release any product. (Sony has said it plans to proceed to incorporate a Blu-ray player in its forthcoming PlayStation 3 game console and Toshiba said it will begin manufacturing HD-DVD players soon in order to begin marketing them in time for the holidays.) Parsons also noted that there are 130 members in the Blu-ray Disc Association alone and that any agreement would have to be approved by its members as well as those in the DVD Forum, which backs the HD-DVD format.

LUCASFILM T0 TAKE DELIVERY OF 1,000 SUPER HIGH-SPEED WORKSTATIONS

Lucasfilm today (Wednesday) announced a three-year, multimillion-dollar deal with Hewlett Packard to install more than 1,000 high-performance workstations at three principal plants in the U.S. and Singapore that it said will vastly speed up the processing of digital effects for live-action movies, animation and video games. "We are excited to partner with Lucasfilm to create the next generation of entertainment," Shane Robison, chief strategy and technology officer for HP, said in a statement. Cliff Plumer, chief technology officer for Lucasfilm, added: "With this agreement we will continue expanding the quality of our entertainment offerings and meet the constantly rising expectations of consumers when it comes to movies and video games."

ACTOR BROCK PETERS DIES AT 78

Brock Peters, best remembered by one generation for his performance as Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, in the 1962 movie To Kill a Mockingbird, and by another generation for his performances as Admiral Cartwright in the Star Trek movies, The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country and as Joseph Sisko in the TV series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles at age 78. He had been diagnosed earlier this year with pancreatic cancer.