RATHER MAY LOSE HIS FINAL PLATFORM

The Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes -- on which Dan Rather had hoped to rebuild his reputation following the recent debacle over his report about George W. Bush's National Guard service -- may be canceled, leaving Rather with no base at the network, the New York Times reported today (Friday). CBS Chairman Les Moonves told the newspaper that Rather would continue to appear on 60 Minutes Wednesday after he steps down as anchor of the CBS Evening News in March "provided the show continues. Moonves noted that the program is "not exactly tearing it up in the ratings." (The show has lost ground opposite ABC's new hit series Lost.)

FCC COMMISSIONER DEMANDS PROBE OF GOVERNMENT "PAYOLA"

FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein has called upon the agency's Enforcement Bureau to investigate conservative commentator Armstrong Williams' deal with the Department of Education in which he received $240,000 to feature the education secretary on his radio and television programs and promote the administration's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program. Adelstein questioned whether Williams may have broken the FCC's payola regulations by failing to disclose the payment. "I certainly hope the FCC will take action and fully investigate whether any laws have been broken," Adelstein said. Separately, Republican Senator Arlen Specter and his Democratic colleague Tom Harkin, each key members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, demanded that the Department of Education turn over all of its records regarding the deal with Williams and with the Ketchum public relations agency, which produced and distributed what appeared to be a news clip about NCLB that presumably was included in TV news programs without its source being identified. Meanwhile, outgoing Education Secretary Rod Paige defended the payment to Williams and the Ketchum agency as "an outreach effort" to minorities who stand to gain from the program. Nevertheless, he said he had asked the department's inspector general to look into the issue so that it would not "sully the fine people and good name of this department."

GAY CHANNEL PUT ON HOLD

Suggesting that negotiations with cable companies had been moving more slowly than expected, MTV Networks exec Brian Graden announced Thursday that it had moved back the starting date of its planned gay-oriented channel Logo to June 30. It was originally scheduled to go on the air on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. Graden said that it could have made the scheduled launch date but would only have been available in about two million homes. If current talks with operators Comcast, Time Warner, RCN and Adelphia pan out, it could start out with 10 million homes on June 30, he said. In an interview with today's (Friday) New York Times Graden said there has to be "a conversation" with each of the cable operators over the channel. "We have to take the time to explain to some of them that there's really nothing to be afraid of."

QUEEN LATIFAH TO HOST GRAMMYS

The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences has tapped Queen Latifah to host the televised 47th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 13. Besides hosting the show, which will be carried by CBS, the actress-singer, best known for her role in the 2002 film Chicago (which earned her a supporting actress Oscar nomination), will also perform. Her latest CD, The Dana Owens Album (Dana Owens is her actual name), is nominated in the jazz vocal album category. In a statement, recording academy President Neil Portnow said Thursday: "Queen Latifah is an extraordinary renaissance artist with unparalleled style and substance, and her passion, talent and personality make her an excellent choice as host for our show."

JOEY RETURNS TO NO. 1 ON THURSDAYS

The lackluster performance of CBS's Wickedly Perfect in the Survivor spot at 8:00 p.m. has enabled NBC's Joey to pick up viewers on Thursday night. Perfect received wickedly poor ratings in its second week, scoring a 6.9 rating and an 11 share. NBC's Joey, on the other hand, rose to a 9.4/14 to win the hour. At 9:00 p.m., however, CBS came roaring back with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which averaged an overwhelming 19.5/28. Two back-to-back episodes of NBC's Will and Grace were well behind with an 8.1/12. At 10:00 p.m., NBC regained the lead with E.R. -- but just barely -- as the hospital drama, scoring a 14.5/24, edged out CBS's Without a Trace, which recorded a 13.6/20. ABC's Primetime Live, which had received considerable publicity for a report revealing details of Grand Jury testimony in the Michael Jackson case, failed to draw much of an audience, finishing in third place with a 5.3/8.

REPORT: DISNEY AND WEINSTEINS CLOSE TO DIVORCE

The Walt Disney Co. and Miramax partners Bob and Harvey Weinstein are reportedly close to an agreement that would terminate their relationship. Today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times, citing sources familiar with the negotiations,said that Disney had agreed in principle to pay the Weinstein's more than $100 million in severance compensation but that the two sides are still discussing how much the Weinsteins would pay Disney for the rights to projects that they initiated and want to take with them when they form a new production company. Disney would retain the Miramax name, although it may allow the Weinsteins to retain the Dimension Films banner, which produced low-budget "commercial" films like Scary Movie and Spy Kids, the Times said.

PRODUCER CLAIMS HE WAS STIFFED BY MIRAMAX

Producer Marty Richards is claiming that Miramax's Bob and Harvey Weinstein have falsely claimed that the musical Chicago has not made any profits and are therefore refusing to pay him his cut. Richards' company, The Producer Circle, sent a statement to the New York Post on Thursday claiming that Richards "is seeing red because he hasn't received a penny in the film's profits." A spokesman for the film company told the newspaper, "We never claimed the film lost money. As per industry practices, there's a lag time between the expenditure of production and marketing costs and when the cash receipts come in."

WRITERS NAME NOMINEES FOR BEST SCREENPLAY

Except for a conspicuous exception, nominations by the Writers Guild of America for best screenplay went to the writers of those films that have garnered the most nominations and awards from other groups for best movie. Nominated for best original screenplay were Keir Pearson and Terry George for Hotel Rwanda; Bill Condon for Kinsey; John Logan for The Aviator; Charlie Kaufman for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; and Zach Braff for Garden State. Those nominated in the adapted screenplay category were Paul Haggis for Million Dollar Baby; Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for Sideways; José Rivera for The Motorcycle Diaries; Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and Kim Krizan for Before Sunset; and Tina Fey for Mean Girls. The nomination of Fey was regarded as a surprise since the movie's only previous awards mention had been limited to the Teen Choice Awards.

MAGAZINE ARTICLE BECOMES CENTRAL ISSUE AT DISNEY TRIAL

An article that appeared in the New Yorker magazine last week referring to Disney documents and letters that shareholders' lawyers said they had never seen became the flashpoint at the Delaware trial of their lawsuit Thursday. In particular, the lawyers wanted to know about a letter that Eisner allegedly sent to Ovitz in which he laughed off the notion that the Disney board might oppose Ovitz's hiring. Writer James B. Stewart said in the article, titled "Partners: Eisner, Ovitz and the Disney Wars," that Eisner ticked off "the various ways that board members were beholden to him, and assuring Ovitz that they would do what he wanted." The shareholders' lawyers also asked about a note from Eisner to Ovitz dated January 1996 and a seven-page letter that Ovitz wrote to Eisner shortly before he was fired, one that Stewart said so incensed Eisner that he burst into Ovitz's office brandishing the letter.

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: COACH CARTER

Critics have a name for movies like Coach Carter, A.O. Scott in the New York Times indicates. It's the "inspirational coach drama," and they pretty much follow the same formula. "It's amazing how many games are decided by a dramatic shot at the final buzzer," Scott observes at one point in his review of what he calls a "solid, unsurprising film." "You know how this story goes," remarks Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News. Although she writes that the script is "preachy, predictable and glistening with Hollywood sheen" the movie itself "is by turns funny touching and genuinely inspiring." "Stop me if you've heard this one before," is the way Debra Birnbaum opens her review of the movie. (We'll stop there.) Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe refers to the movie as a "by-the-numbers basketball drama." But he, like his colleagues, gives high marks to Samuel L. Jackson, who plays the title role. "He obviously believes in this story, which plays like a public service announcement for at-risk kids," Morris writes.

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: ELEKTRA

Hollywood continues to mine the comics business with the Frank Miller-created Elektra, starring Jennifer Garner (of TV's Alias) as the Marvel Comics superheroine. The movie itself is receiving a lousy reception from critics, but Garner has obviously wowed them. Chris Kaltenbach of the Baltimore Sun writes that she brings "such unbridled energy and sexuality to her performance, one barely notices the movie itself." Peter Howell in the Toronto Star, while calling the film "a dreary mess," notes that nevertheless, it "bears the promise of Garner's brief excitement in the otherwise stultifying Daredevil, and she's an actress of impressive range." Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribune says that the movie "is as bad as they come" and doesn't even have a complimentary word for the star. "Devotees of awful filmmaking can't go wrong with this one," he writes. And Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal concludes: "Jennifer Garner deserves better than this."

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: IN GOOD COMPANY

Reviews of In Good Company are of the a-star-is-born sort, with most critics discovering the acting abilities of Topher Graceof TV's That '70s Show. Jami Bernard remarks that Grace "pulls his character up from what could have been a cliché." Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post calls the performance "a promising big-movie turn." Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times observes that with the movie, "Grace has the chance to display what looks to be one of the most persuasive comic touches of his generation. There is a lightness to the actor that wears surprisingly well, plus the ability to be pleasant without being sappy and gloat without being irritating. Careers have been built on considerably less." Other critics write glowingly of the chemistry between Grace and co-star Dennis Quaid. Allison Benedikt in the Chicago Tribune comments that "Grace and Quaid imbue what could have been caricatures ... with heart, intelligence and great comic timing." And Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Daily News focuses his attention on Quaid. The film, he says, "belongs to Quaid, masterful in his comic timing, reaction shots and scenes of physical comedy. It's one of the year's great acting turns." The movie itself receives only so-so notices. Writes Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal: "As satire or even insightful social commentary, the movie is a bust. Luckily, there's good work by both Grace and Quaid."