JOEY MAY NEED HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS

NBC's Joey is losing friends on a weekly basis. The Matt LeBlanc starrer fell to third place in the ratings Thursday night with a 6.8 rating and a 10 share, behind the second week of Survivor: Palau on CBS, which drew a 12.4/19, and a UFO documentary on ABC hosted by Peter Jennings, which captured an 8.3/12 (well above the 6.1/9 registered by the latest Michael Jackson exposé on the same network a week ago). At 9:00 p.m., CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation captured the highest ratings of the night, a 17.1/25, nearly twice the numbers of NBC's The Apprentice, which landed a 9.1/14. CBS completed its sweep of the night at 10:00 as Without a Trace scored a 13.7/22 against NBC's E.R., which drew a 10.6/17. ABC's Primetime Live continued to offer little competition in the same hour, posting a 4.8/8. Overall, CBS won the night with an average 14.4/22. NBC was far behind in second place with an 8.8/14. ABC followed with a 6.8/10.

ANOTHER FRIEND HEADS TO LONDON

David Schwimmer's first regular gig following the conclusion of Friends will be a starring role in playwright/director Neil LaBute's new stage play, Some Girls, set to open in London's West End in May. "I've always dreamed of doing a play in London," Schwimmer said Thursday.

ADELPHIA LAUNCHES, THEN SHUTS DOWN, PORN CHANNEL

Barely weeks after beginning to offer hard-core pornography from Playboy on its cable system in Southern California, Adelphia Communications has switched it off. Today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times reported that the decision came after the bankrupt cable operator received tens of thousands of complaints from anti-porn activists all over the country. The American Family Assn. boasted that it alone had sent 130,000 complaining emails to Adelphia and the Department of Justice. "[Hard-core porn] has always been a political hot potato for cable operators because it's a high-margin business, but you can also drive away customers if you're not careful," Kagan Research analyst Derek Baine told the newspaper. "They are in the middle of a sale and they really don't want to get into having bad press associated with this stuff."

MOVIE-STAR SMOKERS TO BE TARGETED AT OSCARS

Anti-smoking activists are planning to take their campaign directly to the Oscars Sunday night with three mobile billboards roaming the street outside the Kodak Theater, where the awards are being presented, and the hope that they'll be displayed on national TV. The billboards were reportedly funded by Los Angeles County's public health agency. In addition, the Associated Press reported that conservative groups have also purchased traditional billboards near the theater facetiously thanking Hollywood liberals for helping them reelect President Bush,

MUSLIM PSYCHIATRIST SAYS HE WAS DEFAMED BY BOSTON STATION

The chairman of the Islamic Society of Boston has sued a Boston television station, claiming that an investigative reporter defamed him by identifying him as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist extremist group. (The Egyptian based group, whose membership included Mohammed Atta, the ringleader of the 9/11 bombers, is not officially included on the U.S. government's terrorist list.) In an interview with the Boston Globe. Dr. Yousef Abou-Allaban, 41, a Syrian-born psychiatrist who is a U.S. citizen, said that he felt "victimized" by the TV report. "There have been many people in the Muslim community who have been demonized and lost their businesses. I felt my reputation had been tarnished. ... I felt I became a walking criminal associated with a criminal like Osama bin Laden." Neither the television station nor the reporter involved in the story would comment on the lawsuit.

AUSSI UPROAR OVER APPOINTMENT OF ABC CRITIC TO ABC BOARD

A political ruckus has erupted in Australia over the appointment of Janet Albrechtsen, a columnist for Rupert Murdoch's The Australian, as a member of the board of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. She has frequently accused the ABC of left-wing bias and accused the news media in general of inciting Arab violence by publishing the Abu Ghraib photos. She has censured the ABC for having an "anti-Bush agenda" and called it a "taxpayer-funded collective." Nevertheless, on Thursday, Albrechtsen, while acknowledging that she had been critical of the ABC, said that "by and large, the ABC does a great job." Nevertheless, the Community and Public Sector Union, which represents the ABC staff, charged today (Friday) that the government had selected Albrechtsen in order to stack the board with its supporters and noted that she had no previous experience in broadcasting or programming but had "consistently displayed antagonism towards the work that ABC staff perform."

SOLVING A HITCH IN HITCH: RACE

Will Smith has told reporters in Birmingham, England that the decision to cast a Cuban-American actress, Eva Mendes, as his romantic interest in Hitch was based on "an accepted myth." According to Smith, the prevalent assumption in Hollywood is that if both the male and female leads in a romantic comedy are black, "people around the world don't want to see it. ... So the idea of a black actor and a white actress comes up -- that'll work around the world, but it's a problem in the U.S." The compromise, in the case of Hitch, he said, was to select a Latina actress for the role. Smith, who has a producer credit on the film, suggested that he would have preferred to have worked with an African-American actress. However, he said, "we spend 50-something million dollars making this movie and the studio would think that was tough on their investment."

HITCH LIKELY TO POST THIRD STRAIGHT WIN

The movie industry, which will be competing with itself this weekend when the Oscar presentations are staged, is dumping three new films in theaters -- one of them utterly trashed by critics, the other two, withheld from them altogether. Most analysts predict that the lack of strong competition will enable Sony's Hitch to score a third box-office victory. But others figure that Wes Craven's werewolf movie Cursed, starring Christina Ricci and Jesse Eisenberg, could pull an upset win. (Horror films dominated the box office in January and the first part of February.) Not much hope is held for the other two films, Man of the House, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Cedric the Entertainer, and Diary of a Mad Black Woman, starring Tyler Perry, who also wrote the script.

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN

"I've been reviewing movies for a long time, and I can't think of one that more dramatically shoots itself in the foot," writes Roger Ebert about Diary of a Mad Black Woman. But most of the shooting is aimed by fellow critics. Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News calls it "an absolute mess with no coherent tone, story or point of view. It turns on a dime from scenes of maudlin sentimentality to manic slapstick, then turns on another dime to trite Christian moralizing." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post warns: "Stay clear of this mess." The film does receive a smattering of applause from critics. Tom Sime in the Dallas Morning News writes that it "will be a complete delight for fans of black gospel theater, and [writer/star Tyler] Perry's comic gifts may even prove a hook for mainstream audiences." And Claudia Puig comments in USA Today: "What Diary of a Mad Black Woman lacks in finesse and subtlety, it makes up for with sheer exuberance and charismatic performances."

TIVO SHARES UP ON NEWS OF POSSIBLE DEAL WITH NETFLIX

Shares in TiVo continued to climb today (Friday) to $5.10 at midday on word that Netflix, the online film renter, is considering offering to allow TiVo users to rent movies by downloading them directly onto the personal digital recorders. At a technology symposium in Phoenix, Netflix CFO Barry McCarthy said that the company, which previously had announced plans to offer a movie download service sometime this year, said that it was looking for the best system to provide a compelling service to consumers. "TiVo," he said, "may be one of those systems." Shares of Netflix also rose nearly 5 percent in midday trading to $11.00.

OVITS IS SUED BY ANOTHER EX-FRIEND

Michael Ovitz may yet again face an old friend in court when and if a lawsuit filed by billionaire Ron Burkle comes to trial. Burkle, whose friendship with Ovitz dates back to the early 1990's, claimed in a suit filed on Thursday that when he and Ovitz were investment partners, he agreed to invest in two Internet firms that Ovitz was touting -- CheckOut.com and TalkCity.com. But Ovitz, he said, reneged on an oral agreement to share the risks in investing in the two companies and failed to put "even one cent" into them. As a result, he said, when the two companies went broke in 1999, he was left on the hook for $33 million. Burkle's displeasure with Ovitz was highlighted in a statement that he issued on Thursday, in which he said, "Every day I wake up, knowing I'm still Ron Burkle, not Michael Ovitz, and every day Michael Ovitz wakes up knowing he's still Michael Ovitz." An attorney for Ovitz called Burkle's accusations "baseless and false."

MPAA FILES THIRD ROUND OF SUITS AGAINST INTERNET PIRATES

The MPAA on Thursday filed a new spate of lawsuits against unnamed Internet pirates, referring to them only as John Does and seeking up to $150,000 for each movie they have downloaded. Speaking to reporters in a telephone news conference, John Malcolm, the MPAA's director of worldwide antipiracy operations, declined to disclose the number of persons who were being sued, saying only "whether it is one or a thousand pirated movies, any number is unacceptable." MPAA officials also declined to name the films that had been downloaded, but they indicated that several Oscar-nominated films were among them. They specifically named only Fox Searchlight's Sideways.

LEGENDARY FRENCH ACTRESS SIMONE SIMON DIES IN PARIS

Simone Simon, who appeared in both French (La Ronde) and American (Cat People) film classics, died Tuesday night in Paris. Biographies disagree about her exact age, variously putting her birth date between 1910 and 1917. In a statement, France's Culture Minister, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, memorialized her as "one the most seductive, most radiant actresses of French cinema in the first part of the 20th century."