HOUSEWIVES RULE

Its rivals had to throw in the towel last week as ABC's Desperate Housewives drew the biggest ratings of the season, scoring a 16.1 rating and a 23 share overall and a 12.5/26 among adults 18-49 -- the best numbers since the series finale of Friends last May. They helped lift ABC to a solid second-place finish for the week. CBS, meanwhile, continued to dominate the ratings charts, placing seven shows in the overall top ten. NBC, meanwhile, was only able to land a single show in the top ten, Tuesday's Law & Order: SVU. NBC was able to boast about one of its best weeks for Nightly News. Tom Brokaw's final full week as anchor attracted an average of 11.3 million viewers (7.7/15), substantially ahead of ABC's World News Tonight, which drew 10.1 million viewers (6.9/13). During the week that Dan Rather announced he would be leaving Evening News in March, the CBS newscast averaged 7.9 million viewers (5.4/10).

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 16.1/23; 2. CSI: Miami, CBS, 14.3/23; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Thanksgiving Special, CBS, 13.5/24; 4. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 12.3/18; 5. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 12.2/18; 6. Without a Trace - Thanksgiving Special, CBS, 11.9/22; 7. 60 Minutes, CBS, 11.6/17; 8. Cold Case, CBS, 11.4/16; 9. NFL Monday Night Football, ABC, 10.6/17; 10. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 10.1/17.

CBS SAYS IT EXPECTS A CLEAN SWEEP

CBS said on Tuesday that it expects to win the No. 1 spot among all major demographic groups in the November sweeps, which end tonight (Wednesday), for the first time in 24 years. "CBS is at the doorstep of a watershed moment," CBS chief Les Moonves predicted during a conference call with reporters. He said that the victory will demonstrate the wisdom of the network's strategy of attempting to appeal to all demographic groups, rather than targeting 18-49 year-olds, the group most prized by advertisers. "We're broadcasters at CBS, and it's worked," he said. Meanwhile, ABC is also vaunting its success in attracting viewers with such new shows as Desperate Housewives and Lost, resulting in a strong second-place finish in the sweeps. (Moonves remarked at his news conference that Housewives was his "favorite show from an enemy. ... It's the one show I wish we had.") On the other hand, NBC is continuing to lose ground, finishing third in November -- a considerable fall from its top position a year ago. NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly remarked: "We're not where we want to be right now, but we are where we expected to be in the fall because of the loss of Friends and Frasier"

CBS MAY INSTALL DUAL ANCHORS TO REPLACE RATHER

CBS chief Les Moonves has suggested that Dan Rather may be replaced by a two-person anchor team when he leaves CBS News in March. Speaking to reporters during a conference call on Tuesday, Moonves remarked: "We're not going to mention any names. ... After the first of the year, we'll come to a decision about what we're going to do, and, by the way, it could be more than one person." All three networks have tried the dual-anchor format at least once over the years, but only the Chet Huntley/David Brinkley match-up appeared to produce an appealing chemistry. When Rather was paired with Connie Chung in 1993, it was more like a duel-anchor format, TV writers suggested. Somewhat surprisingly, Moonves did not mention CBS News chief Andrew Heyward in discussing the company's search for Rather's replacement, saying only that it "is certainly one of the biggest things on my plate right now."

CHURCH AD REJECTED BY NETWORKS

Viacom's CBS and UPN networks have rejected a paid public service announcement by the United Church of Christ in which an announcer says, "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we. ... No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here." In a statement, Viacom said: "Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations. .. and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the networks." NBC has also rejected the ad as "too controversial," the church said. In a statement, the Rev. John H. Thomas, the church's president said that it was ironic that "an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be deemed too controversial. What's going on here?" The ad was accepted by Viacom's black-oriented BET cable network and its Nick at Nite channel as well as by ABC Family, Fox, Hallmark, and many Turner Broadcasting channels.

SUPER-SIZE ME DIRECTOR IN DEAL WITH FX

Morgan Spurlock, whose Super Size Me became a rare documentary hit at the box office this year, has signed a deal with News Corp's FX cable network to produce a reality series, 30 Days, which will place an individual for 30 days into an environment that is completely at odds with his or her beliefs, upbringing, religion or profession. In the pilot episode, a Christian insurance salesman from West Virginia will move into the home of a Muslim family in Michigan, where he will learn to understand what it's like to be considered a security threat in one's own community. "I thought it would be great to create a television show that examined social issues without being preachy and didn't tell you what to do but deals with problems in a way that is palatable and entertaining," Spurlock told today's (Wednesday) Los AngelesTimes. "We literally take somebody and have them walk in someone else's shoes and question their own belief structure."

MCCARTNEY TO FIELD QUESTIONS ON MILLIONAIRE GAME SHOW

Paul McCartney, who would probably look quizzically at the title of the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, since he already is one many times over, has agreed to appear on the British version of the show during a Christmas Day special. McCartney and wife Heather reportedly will donate their winnings to her land mine charity. The show, hosted by Chris Tarrant, continues to draw respectable ratings in the U.K., long after the American version succumbed to overexposure.

JENNINGS LOSES!

Ken Jennings, who had spent five months accumulating more than $2.5 million on Jeopardy!, was defeated Tuesday by Nancy Zerg, a real estate agent and former actress. Jennings' run on the show had boosted its ratings 22 percent. He has now signed with talent agency UTA, which indicated that it hopes to develop him into a possible game show host.

OVITZ: INEPT BUT NOT CROOKED, SAYS LAWYER

Disney's onetime chief counsel painted a loathsome portrait of former president Michael Ovitz on the witness stand Tuesday, but insisted that there was no way that he could have been fired without the company's having to pay him $140 million in severance. "He was not guilty of malfeasance. He was not guilty of negligence. He was guilty of not being able to do his job ... but he had never done anything wrong," Sanford Litvack told the Delaware court hearing a shareholders' lawsuit against the company. "If there was a way not to pay him, I would have loved not to pay him," he said. "I didn't like him. He didn't like me." Asked if he had ever discussed the matter with an outside law firm, Litvack said that it would not have made much sense. "I knew the facts. I had lived with the facts. If I went to someone else, they'd have to come to me to learn the facts."

TOP 2004 FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILMS INELIGIBLE FOR OSCAR

Since Oscar submissions for foreign-language films may only be made by the country in which they are made -- and only one film per country -- several of the top foreign language movies of 2004 have already been eliminated. They include Maria Full of Grace, A Very Long Engagement, The Motorcycle Diaries, and Bad Education, the Los Angeles Times observed today (Thursday). Also eliminated: Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, in which Aramaic was the principal spoken language. "This system doesn't work," producer and academy member Samuel Goldwyn Jr. told the Times. "The academy's job is to pick the best foreign-language picture of the year. But what happens when two of the best pictures of the year are both made in France? Or suppose you had Italy's The Bicycle Thief and La Dolce Vita in the same year. It would be criminal if you could only pick one."

HANKS TO STAR IN THE DA VINCI CODE

Ending rampant speculation and betting on the Internet over who will play Harvard professor Robert Langdon in the movie adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, Sony's Columbia Pictures announced Tuesday that it had signed Tom Hanks for the role. Hanks' hiring was originally disclosed in last week's edition of Newsweek, but was not confirmed by the studio. Newsweek quoted producer-director Ron Howard as saying, "Tom is an exciting actor to watch thinking. ... We probably don't need his status from a box-office standpoint [the book has spent 87 weeks atop the New York Times' best-seller list] but he gives Langdon instant legitimacy."

DVD KIOSKS HEADED FOR 300 COLLEGES

DVD Station, which installs kiosks in "non-video locations" where customers can rent or buy videos with a credit card, has signed a deal to place their kiosks in 300 Barnes and Noble college stores beginning next year, Video Store magazine reported Tuesday. Using a touchscreen on the kiosk, customers have a choice of some 5,000 titles. The company has already signed deals with the Pathmark grocery chains in Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania and has also installed kiosks in Sony's Metreon Entertainment Center in San Francisco, Grand Central Station in New York, and independent coffee shops. Rental rates are about $1 per day. The company boasts that it takes a customer, on average, five minutes to rent a movie at one of its kiosks compared to 27 minutes at Blockbuster or Hollywood Video.

OLIVER STONE SLAMS DVD'S

Although Oliver Stone's 19-year-old son Sean has shot the behind-the-scenes documentary for Alexander and while the video package is likely to include an examination of the actual life of the Greek conqueror and other informative material, Stone himself has indicated that he is not at all enthusiastic about the coming of age of DVDs. Video Store magazine quotes him as saying during a recent press event, "It's the end of movie-movies the way we know them. ... If you walk into a room with 5,000 DVDs, how are you going to respect movies? How do you know the good ones?," Stone asked. "It's going to the LCD -- the lowest common denominator. It's making movies into supermarket-shelf items, which is probably the best you can get at Wal-Mart. ... It's hopeless."

VERA DRAKE SWEEPS BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS

Mike Leigh's controversial Vera Drake, about about a woman who is both a homemaker and abortionist in post WWII London, swept the British Independent Film Awards Tuesday, receiving six awards, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress (Imelda Staunton) and Best Actor (Phil Davis). Touching the Void, which tells the harrowing story of two mountain climbers, received the Best Documentary award. The trophy for Best Foreign Film went to Korea's Oldboy.

FOX SEARCHLIGHT DOMINATES INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS

Fox Searchlight has garnered 14 nominations for the annual Independent Spirit Awards, independent films' equivalent of the Oscars. Topping the nominees was the studio's Sideways, which was named in six of the major categories. Fine Line's Maria Full of Grace received five nominations. The nominees for Best Feature were: Baadasssss!, produced by Mario Van Peebles; Kinsey, produced by Gail Mutrux; Maria Full of Grace, produced by Paul Mezey; Primer, produced by Shane Carruth; and Sideways, produced by Michael London.