CBS BOOTS ABC OUT OF FIRST PLACE

Unlike its glory days four years ago when it was riding atop the ratings week after week thanks to the success of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, ABC's return to No. 1 last week turned out to be shortlived. CBS grabbed the crown back again for the 15th time in 17 weeks, as it averaged a 9.0 rating and a 14 share. Moreover, NBC, thanks to the Golden Globes telecast and a new hit show, The Medium, moved back into second place with an average 8.2/13 rating. ABC settled for third place with a 6.8/11, while Fox, thanks to the NFL playoffs, remained a contender with a 6.0/9.

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

1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 17.0/26; 2. AFC Playoffs Postgame Show (Indianapolis at New England), CBS, 14.5/23; 3. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 14.4/21; 4. NFC Playoffs (St. Louis at Atlanta), Fox, 14.0/24; 5. Lost, ABC, 12.6/19; 6. NFC Playoffs Pregame Show (St. Louis at Atlanta), Fox, 12.5/22; 7. E.R., NBC, 12.2/20; 7. Without a Trace, CBS, 12.2/20; 9. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, ABC, 11.4/17; 10. Golden Globe Awards, NBC, 11.3/17.

IDOL IS MUSIC TO FOX'S EARS

Fox's American Idol dominated again on Wednesday, averaging a 15.0 rating and a 22 share and giving the heretofore languishing network a second consecutive win following Tuesday's debut. The talent contest, facing ABC's hit Lost in the 8:00 p.m. hour, posted a 17.0/25. Surprisingly, Lost was down only marginally from the prior week as it posted an 11.8/18 versus last week's 12.6/19. The biggest loser in the hour was NBC's Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Model Search, which drowned with a 3.0/4. ABC regained the lead at 9:00 with Alias, which pulled an 8.7/13, while at Fox, the series debut of Point Pleasant garnered a 7.0/11, less than half the ratings for Idol, which preceded it.NBC took over first place at 10:00 p.m. with Law & Order, well ahead of a repeat of CBS's CSI:NY, which drew a 7.3/12.

CBS NEWS EXECS REFUSE TO RESIGN

Josh Howard, the executive producer of 60 Minutes Wednesday, his top deputy Mary Murphy, and CBS News senior vice president Betsy West, who were each asked to resign following an independent investigation into the "memogate" scandal, have declined to submit their resignations and have consulted with lawyers about a possible lawsuit against CBS, New York Observer columnist Joe Hagan reported Wednesday. (The producer of the report, Mary Mapes, was fired outright.) Hagan noted that the investigators' findings portrayed Howard, who had been into his job just six days when the feature aired, as heroically warning those connected with the report against stonewalling and urging instead that CBS News acknowledge that it may have been duped. Instead, the news division, headed by Andrew Heyward, decided to defend the story on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and in the press for nearly a week. "There's only one thing that sits there on the record with someone having taken a stand [against stonewalling]," a CBS News staffer told Hagan,"which its existence alone puts everyone else in a horrible place."

JACKSON INTERVIEWER ASKS TO BE EXCUSED FROM TESTIFYING

Martin Bashir, currently a correspondent for the ABC news magazine 20/20, has formally asked the judge who will preside over the Michael Jackson child molestation trial in Santa Maria, CA to excuse him from testifying. Bashir, a producer of British TV documentaries in 2003, interviewed Jackson extensively at his Neverland ranch in Santa Barbara at the time, along with the boy who has accused the singer of molestation. In a statement to the court, Bashir cited California's shield law which protects journalists from being forced to testify about their reports. Judge Rodney Melville said that he will hold a hearing on the matter on Jan. 31. Meanwhile, Judge Melville has also allowed Jackson to respond to an ABC Primetime report last week that disclosed details of the young accuser's testimony before a grand jury. Jackson's statement was reportedly recorded for Fox television. The BBC reported that Jackson has also granted a TV interview to Genaro Casataldo, a spokesman for HMV, the record company that releases his music in the U.K., in which he discusses his "personal life and family relationships," but not the current case. (The Associated Press said that the interview was granted to Fox TV's Geraldo Rivera.)

STAN LEE IS MIGHTY-MAN

Stan Lee, who created the Marvel comic book characters The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men, Silver Surfer, Iron Man, Thing, Dr. Strange, Mighty Thor, Captain America, Daredevil, and more, must have been feeling like one of his own superheroes on Wednesday as a judge ruled in favor of Lee's demand for 10 percent of Marvel's profits from the two Spider-Man movies. Lee had claimed in his lawsuit that Marvel had reneged on its agreement to give him 10 percent of the profits on movies, DVDs, merchandise and other items related to the characters he created. Following the ruling Lee said, "I am gratified by the judge's decision although, since I am deeply fond of Marvel and the people there, I sincerely regret that the situation had to come to this."

THE OVITZ-EISNER AFFAIR: IMAGINEERING?

Instead of sending Michael Ovitz out the door with $140 million in his pocket, the Walt Disney Co. could have "gone after him aggressively," firing him for cause, and suing him for "improper personal enrichment," John Donohue, a Yale University law professor and witness for Disney shareholders, said in Delaware Chancery Court Wednesday as testimony in the trial concluded. He accused Disney executives of "looking at this termination the way you might look at the termination of an assembly-line worker in a factory." In a Los Angeles Times article that summed up the trial, Marty Kaplan, a former Disney production executive who is now associate dean of USC's Annenberg School for Communication, indicated that the appearance of Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Ovitz on the Larry King show in 1996 where they both denied that there were any problems between them was telling. "My sense is that Hollywood is made up of people who spend their days trying to get other people to believe things that may or may not be true, including trying to get audiences to see a movie when you know it's the stinkiest bomb," Kaplan said. "After a while, your grip on reality is compromised."

THE INCREDIBLES TO MAKE AN INCREDIBLY FAST MOVE TO DVD

Marking the fastest move from screen to DVD ever for a Disney/Pixar movie, The Incredibles will make its debut in video stores on March 15, Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment announced Wednesday. As of last weekend, it was still playing in more than 1,000 theaters (and has grossed more than $257 million domestically.) Among a slew of extras, the video will sport a five-minute clip called Jack-Jack Attack featuring the youngest member of the Incredibles family, and a 20-minute alternate opening. In a statement, Gordon Ho, head of marketing for BVHE, said, "Our hope is to make this the biggest DVD release of the year."

FILM COMPANY GETS $5 MILLION FROM STATE; WILL MAKE MOVIES THERE

Even though it was not required to do so, Endgame Entertainment, whose credits range from Harold and Kumar to Beyond the Sea to Hotel Rwanda to White Noise, is planning to film several movies in Louisiana after receiving a $5-million investment from the state, the Baton Rouge Advocate reported today (Thursday). The Louisiana Economic Development Corp. recently came under fire from the state auditor for investing in venture capital funds without requiring them to invest in Louisiana projects. But Endgame COO Doug Hansen said Wednesday that the company plans to start shooting the horror film Stay Alive in New Orleans beginning next month, to be immediately followed by another horror flick, Solstice. "And we have a couple of other projects in the development stage that would be appropriate for Louisiana shooting," Hansen told the Advocate. "In effect, we will have already invested more money there than the state invested in us."

STALLONE'S MOM BOOSTS HIS DVD SALES

Sylvester Stallone, who once made a movie titled Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, has received a big boost from his mom following her appearance on the British reality show Celebrity Big Brother. (She was quickly booted off.) The British retail chain Woolworth's said today (Thursday) that sales of Sylvester Stallone's movies in its stores increased some 300 percent last week while Internet sales of the films rose 150 percent. A spokesman for the chain said, "The name Stallone has been big news for the past couple of weeks and that has affected sales of all Sly's films."

RAIDS ON FILM PIRATES STEPPED UP IN ASIA, AUSTRALIA

The MPAA on Wednesday praised recent crackdowns on film piracy in 11 Asian countries and Australia that it said resulted in the arrest of 277 people and the seizure of 5.9 million bootleg discs during 876 raids in the last two months. "We plan to continue to conduct aggressive enforcement action throughout the year with our local police, customs and other agency partners, and will initiate another ... anti-piracy push during the summer," MPAA Asia-Pacific chief Mike Ellis said in a statement. By far the largest number of bootlegs were confiscated in China, where about 4.3 million were discovered during raids in eight cities.

U.K. FILM PRODUCTION IN DOLDRUMS

Several major Hollywood films that were to have been produced in the U.K. last year were never made, as film production in the country plunged some 40 percent, according to the British trade publication Screen Daily. Tighter tax laws and reduced funding from the National Lottery resulted in only 27 British films being produced in the U.K. last year versus 45 in 2003; co-productions with the U.S. fell from 102 in 2003 to 81 in 2004 as the dollar declined against the British pound.