EYE LASHES RIVALS AGAIN
Not even an Apprentice finale on NBC and another strong finish by Desperate Housewives on ABC were enough to impede CBS's juggernaut last week. Once again, the network dominated primetime, placing seven shows in the top ten, five of which were produced by Jerry Bruckheimer: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, Without a Trace and Cold Case. CBS had even more to cheer about: for the first time since 1987 it won six consecutive weeks among adults 18-49, the demographic group most sought-after by advertisers. The network averaged an 8.3 rating and a 14 share for the week, lengths ahead of second-place NBC, which finished with a 6.5/11, edging out ABC with a 6.2/10. Fox trailed with a 3.7/6.
The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. CSI: Miami, CBS, 13.7/22; 2. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 13.1/20; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 13.0/20; 4. 60 Minutes, CBS, 11.7/19; 5. Without a Trace, CBS, 11.1/18; 6. Apprentice 2, NBC, 10.8/17; 7. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 10.5/16; 7. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 10.5/16; 9. CSI: NY, CBS, 10.4/17; 10. NFL Monday Night Football: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tennessee Titans, ABC, 9.5/16.
ABC'S VETERAN JENNINGS CLOSING IN ON NEWCOMER WILLIAMS
NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams at the helm for a second week, remained ahead of the Peter Jennings-anchored World News Tonight on ABC, but the Jennings program appeared to be gaining ground. NBC averaged 10.3 million viewers for its newscast each day last week, which ABC averaged 9.6 million. Dan Rather's CBS Evening News placed third with an average of 7.3 million viewers.
MARCH 1 TO MARK DEATH OF THE BLUES
After 12 seasons, ABC will finally lay NYPD Blue to rest with a two-hour series finale at the end of the February sweeps (actually, on March 1), the network announced Tuesday. The network also reaffirmed an earlier statement that it plans to air all 22 episodes of the current season without any repeats. Although several critics have noted a decided improvement in the scripts for the series during this season, the police drama has drawing disappointing ratings, generally placing third to CBS's Judging Amy and NBC's Law & Order: SVU.
OLYMPICS PROTESTS RELEASED BY THE FCC
In an unusual action, the FCC on Tuesday posted on its website the nine complaining letters it had earlier said that it had received about NBC's coverage of the summer Olympics. Most of the letters protested segments of the opening ceremonies, although one objected to coverage of the women's beach volleyball contest, during which some of the American competitors uttered obscenities. In her column in today's (Wednesday) Washington Post, TV writer Lisa de Moraes commented: "Ironically, technical advances have allowed networks to provide more 'ambient sound' at sporting events to help viewers feel more like they're actually there. Grievously, when you're actually there, you are made aware that all athletes appear to have been raised by truck drivers."
PRIZE SERIES SHELVED
Many television and theatrical documentaries that employed archival footage can no longer be shown, nor can they be released on DVD, because the makers of the films licensed the footage for relatively short periods, Wired magazine reported on its website today (Wednesday). The publication observed that among the documentaries that have had to be shelved is the multiple-award-winning Eye on the Prize series, about the civil rights movement, which aired on PBS. Jon Else, who produced the series and is now director of the documentary program at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, told Wired: "It's a scenario from hell. ... [Licensing agreements] are short because it's all we can afford. The funding for documentaries in this country [is] abysmal."
MOVIE REVIEWS: PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
It has been 81 years since the original silent version of The Phantom of the Opera appeared. What we have now is the loud version, critics suggest. "Relentless bombast afflicts this movie like a bad case of swollen lymph nodes," writes A.O. Scott in the New York Times. Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe observes that although the songs are credited to Andrew Lloyd Webber, "come crashing through the speakers with such punishing force that it wouldn't be wrong to think Jerry Bruckheimer might have written them." Bob Strauss in the Los Angeles Daily News remarks that it is "all crescendo for two relentless hours." Several critics, however, figure that the loudness may be necessary to keep audiences awake. Lou Lumenick in the New York Post observes that the famous falling chandelier "has been moved from the end of the first act to the climax of the movie -- by which point non-devotees may need to be roused from their sleep by their companions." Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times calls it "a slow-moving orgy of lowbrow grandiosity that's as tedious as it is overblown and pretentious." Yet several critics suggest that the original stage musical survived many of the critical barbs that are currently being directed at the movie. Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for example, notes that "Fans will swoon and weep; nonfans, should they accidentally find themselves in the same room with it, will snicker and snooze." And many critics agree that the movie looks a whole lot better than the music in it sounds. "The look is dazzling," writes Claudia Puig in USA Today. "Even the clutter is beautiful," adds Philip Wuntch in the Dallas Morning News. Indeed, Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times appears willing to give the movie a thumbs-up on looks alone. He concludes: "This has been, I realize, a nutty review. I am recommending a movie that I do not seem to like very much. But part of the pleasure of moviegoing is pure spectacle -- of just sitting there and looking at great stuff and knowing it looks terrific."
MOVIE REVIEWS: MEET THE FOCKERS
Meet the Fockers is not being taken to task for being unfunny -- just not as funny as it should have been, given its award-winning cast, including Robert DeNiro, Barbra Streisand, and Dustin Hoffman. Comments Manohla Dargis in the Los Angeles Times: "If Raging Bull, Funny Girl and Ratso Rizzo all crowding the same movie sounds too good to be true, it is." Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post remarks: "Meet the Fockers isn't a disgrace, a travesty, an abomination. But it's nothing that merits the spectacular talents of its cast and, given the intermittence of its humor and its reliance on bad puns and gross physical comedy, it would have worked just as well with television-scale stars." Ty Burr in the Boston Globe calls it simply "a waste." For Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, "the movie is pleasant enough, but never quite reaches critical mass as a comedy." And Claudia Puig in USA Today, writes that, all in all, the movie "may be a welcome antidote to the crop of serious, awards-caliber movies released during December. It's a silly good time, and that's something these days."
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU
What appears on the screen in Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou may seem as odd as its title to critics, but they seem to agree that its star, Bill Murray, counterbalances the oddities with a subtle, beguiling performance that lifts it into Oscar contention. A.O. Scott writes of his performance in the New York Times: "His doughy face fringed by a grizzled Ernest Hemingway beard and topped by a red watch cap, Mr. Murray turns tiny gestures and sly, off-beat line readings into a deadpan tour-de-force, at once utterly ridiculous and curiously touching." Carina Chocana in the Los Angeles Times remarks that "if you've already glued a statuette of Bill Murray, patron saint of inchoate yearning and exquisite disappointment, to your dashboard, nothing about The Life Aquatic will disappoint." Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution clearly has mixed feelings about the film. Her conclusion: "Sometimes sinks, but mostly goes along swimmingly." Quite a number of critics, however, are not so generous. Christy Lemire of the Associated Press writes that writer-director "Anderson is drowning in superficial details. He's too obsessed with minutiae at the expense of substantive character development." Jan Stuart in Newsday comments that the movie "launches with enormous promise, then sinks into a quagmire of misfired humor and misbegotten characters." And under the heading "Deep Letdown," Jack Matthews of the New York Daily News writes that the movie "launches with enormous promise, then sinks into a quagmire of misfired humor and misbegotten characters."
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES
After spending months traveling the festival circuit and weeks in a handful of art houses, Brazilian director Walter Salles's The Motorcycle Diaries about Che Guevara's 1952 motorcycle sojourn in South America is receiving a wider release today, and generally wider praise from critics. Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer describes Diaries as "a steady, soulful film experience. It's got poetry to it -- the poetry of humanity." Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail describes it as "beautifully crafted and heartfelt." And while Guevara himself has become an icon of the left for two generations, Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune observes that the movie "despite its incendiary subject, never seems like propaganda or special pleading." In fact, he goes on to say, "It's not a work that will please any kind of extremist." Indeed, what concerns Bob Strauss in the Los Angeles Daily News is that Diaries seems to him to be "a feel-good movie about a guy who helped to establish the Castro dictatorship in Cuba, for which he killed many and ordered the executions of many more." Likewise, Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times comments that had not the young man described in the film not gone on to become a Cuban revolutionary, his story wouldn't have seen the light of a movie screen. "He said he loved the people but he did not love their freedom of speech, their freedom to dissent, or their civil liberties," Ebert writes. But Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post counters: "Whatever you think of the politics of Che Guevara or the bullet that ended his life at the age of 39 in a Bolivian hut, you'll probably be charmed by The Motorcycle Diaries. That's because it's less an evocation of Che the man than of Youth the experience."