IGER AND EISNER WOULD HAVE LOST LOST
According to the upcoming DisneyWar book by James Stewart, both Disney CEO Michael Eisner and President Robert Iger were dubious that the series Lost, which had been championed by ABC Entertainment Television Group Chairman Lloyd Braun, would draw an audience. Iger originally called the series "a waste of time," adding, "It might work as a miniseries, but not as a series." According to the book, Braun defied Iger's "clear invitation" to kill it. Later Eisner asked Braun, "What have you picked up," When he described Lost, Eisner reportedly frowned, then said, "That's never going to work." Even after its successful premiere (and after Braun had been fired), Lost continued to be damned by Eisner, who told Stewart, "Lost is terrible. ... The pilot was two hours; it was broken into two one-hour episodes. Then the show goes off a cliff. There's no more plane crash! Who cares about these people on a desert island?" Lost is currently ABC's second most popular TV series, behind Desperate Housewives. On Wednesday, it dominated the 8:00 p.m. hour, scoring an 11.6 rating and an 18 share, well above second-place CBS's 7.3/11 (60 Minutes Wednesday).

TRUMP PLANNING TO SUE PRODUCERS OF MOVIE ABOUT HIM

Donald Trump on Tuesday put ABC on notice that he is planning to sue the network if it goes ahead with its announced plans to produce a two-hour biopic about him. Trump, interviewed on the syndicated Access Hollywood, said that he "will definitely" sue ABC if he discovers any inaccuracies in the TV movie. However, he added, "But as long as it's accurate, I won't be suing them."

IDOL MOVES TO 9:00 -- REMAINS STRONT

American Idol switched from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Wednesday, but wasn't the worse for wear. The show drew a 15.5 rating and a 23 share at 9:00 p.m., nearly twice the numbers for its nearest competitor, ABC's Alias, which pulled 7.1/10.

LAWYERS ASK COURT TO LIFT BAN ON INTERVIEWS IN JACKSON CASE

A lawyer representing numerous broadcast and print news organizations charged Wednesday that the judge in the Michael Jackson trial had gone "against every principle of our democracy" when he ordered key documents in the case be kept secret in order not to prejudice the jury pool. The attorney, Theodore Boutrous, also asked an appeals court to lift the gag order that bars principals in the case from talking publicly about it. The court did not immediately rule on the matter, but news accounts indicated that their questions to Boutrous suggested that they were not sympathetic to his arguments. "By the very nature of the person involved, if Mr. Jackson clears his voice it's going to make the front page of the Karachi Times," one of the judges remarked.

WHERE DID THE GODADDY COMMERCIAL GO, DADDY?

The most TiVo'd commercial during Sunday's Super Bowl telecast was the one for GoDaddy.com, in which a buxom woman pops a bra strap at a "broadcast censorship hearing," TiVo said on Wednesday. The spot has touched off controversy following Fox's decision to yank a second showing of it later in the game. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday, that after the spot ran during the first quarter, NFL executives asked a Fox executive why the spot was allowed to run, unaware that it was scheduled to air again in the second half. An NFL spokesman said that NFL executives "did not want anything that looked back at [the Janet Jackson] incident." Bob Parsons, GoDaddy's founder and chief executive, told the Chronicle, "The NFL, without a doubt, used its influence to get that ad pulled. ... We certainly feel we have been defamed beyond the cost of the ad."

PRIMETIME LIVE EXPERIENCES RATINGS PLUNG

ABC's Primetime Live, which has seen its ratings plunge this season without the regular services of Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson, is being further rattled by staff unrest and displeasure over changes that have been introduced by producer Shelley Ross,USA Today reported today (Thursday). The newspaper reported that some of the program's staff have taken complaints about Ross to management; others have asked for transfers to other ABC news programs; and still others are looking for work outside of ABC News. Senior producer Jessica Velmans described working conditions at Primetime as "not the healthiest environment I've worked in." Ross, however, denied the claims.

EASTWOOD BAFFLED BY ATTACKS

Clint Eastwood has expressed bafflement over the partisan controversy that has developed over his Oscar-nominated Million Dollar Baby. Interviewed by New York Times media critic Frank Rich for his column in Sunday's edition, Eastwood indicated that he had not suspected that a scene in the film in which a paralyzed character is removed from life-support would be characterized as an endorsement of euthanasia by such conservative commentators as Rush Limbaugh, Michael Medved and Debbie Schlussel. "What do you have to give these people to make them happy?" Eastwood, a former Republican mayor of Carmel, CA, remarked, noting that he had not considered "the political side of this" while making the film. ""You used to be able to disagree with people and still be friends. Now you hear these talk shows, and everyone who believes differently from you is a moron and an idiot -- both on the right and the left." He pointed out that the film presents a heroine who is "willing to pull herself up by the bootstraps, to work hard and persevere no matter what" to realize her dream. "That all sounds like Americana to me, like something out of Wendell Willkie," he told Rich. "And the villains in the movie include people who are participating in welfare fraud." Eastwood denied that efforts to give away the plot device in the film will wind up harming it, and Rich himself wrote: "My own experience is that knowing the ultimate direction of Million Dollar Baby ... only deepened my second viewing of it."

EISNER WOULD LIKE TO RETURN AS DISNEY CHAIRMAN

Michael Eisner hinted last September that after he steps down as CEO of the Walt Disney Co. he'd like to stay on as chairman. The New York Times, one of the newspapers that have obtained a pre-publication copy of James B. Stewart's DisneyWar in recent days, said that Eisner told the author last Sept. 29, "I don't want to be irrelevant. I'm not going to ask the board to be named chairman. I'm not going to beg for it. But the board might come to me." According to the Times, the book "paints Mr. Eisner as a man unwilling to cede power even as he was slowly losing favor among supporters."

SEE THE MOVIE, THEN BUY THE DVD -- FOUR DAYS LATER

In a dramatic departure from Hollywood's past distribution practices, the National Lampoon has decided to release a DVD version of National Lampoon's Blackball starring Vince Vaughn, just four days after its U.S. opening on Friday. Reuters reported Wednesday that the producers of the film hope to take advantage of the movie marketing connected with it to drive DVD sales. (Some analysts have suggested that theater chains ought to offer DVDs of the movies they are showing.) Barry Layne, executive vice president of National Lampoon, told Reuters, "The economics of the industry are changing." Giving a boost to producers who have urged the studios to back more movie musicals, the film biography of Ray Charles, Ray, raked in $80 million during its first week on home video -- $6 million more than it has taken in during its entire theatrical run. Some analysts have observed that musicals have generated higher-than-expected sales, often because consumers regard them as a combination CD album and DVD movie.

JAPANESE ANIMATOR MIYAZAKI TO BE HONORED AT VENICE

Hayao Miyazaki, often described as the Walt Disney of Japan, has been selected to receive the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement this year. Miyazaki, whose films include My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and the recent hit Howl's Moving Castle, will be the first animation director ever to be so honored by the festival. Previous directors who have been honored with the award include Federico Fellini and Stanley Kubrick.

LONDON CRITICS NAME SIDEWAYS BEST FILM OF 2004

The London Film Critics' Circle on Wednesday named Sideways the best film of 2004. Mike Leigh's Vera Drake won for best British movie of the year. The Motorcycle Diaries was named best foreign-language film. Martin Scorsese was named director of the year, while Leigh received the award for best British director.

BRITISH CENSORS REFUSE TO ALLOW SMOKING ON SCREEN

Britain's movie watchdog, the British Board of Film Classification, has refused to issue tougher ratings to films in which stars are seen smoking. Anti-smoking organizations in the country had urged the BBFC to crack down on such films as Die Another Day, in which Pierce Brosnan -- as James Bond -- lights up a Cuban cigar. On Wednesday, a BBCF spokeswoman told the French wire service Agence France Presse, "We showed the [focus] groups clips including Die Another Day where James Bond is smoking a cigar. ... They were quite happy with it and thought a junior audience were unlikely to take it up." However, BBFC director David Cooke told AFP: "As with drug and alcohol misuse, we will be looking at the issue of glamourization -- at junior levels, in particular. It may influence us in which classification level to go for."