WILL & GRACE TO PRESENT "SURPRISE" LIVE EPISODE

For the first time since television's infancy, a sitcom will air live on Sept. 29, when Will & Grace airs its season premiere, Daily Variety reported today (Friday). (The trade paper expressed some skepticism about whether the show would actually air live, suggesting that it probably would implement a five-second time delay). The episode in fact will be produced live twice -- once for the Eastern part of the country, then, three hours later, for the Western. While such a scheme was common before tape recording was introduced on radio, two separate live broadcasts of an entertainment program have never aired on television, which in its early days broadcast "kinescope recordings" for the West Coast or aired them live (beginning at 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon). Series co-creator Max Mutchnick said that the purpose of the live broadcast was to include "some very topical material" and to introduce "a surprise element." He did not elaborate.

DANCE DANCES OFF WITH A WIN

The debut of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance may have received a drubbing from several critics, but it attracted more viewers than any other show Wednesday night. The two-hour dance contest drew a 5.5 rating and a 10 share in the 8:00 p.m. hour and a 7.0/12 in the 9:00. Not only did the show give Fox a lead in the overall ratings for the night, but it overwhelmed the competition in the 18-49-year-old demo. Meanwhile, CBS's summer reality series Rock Star: INXS tumbled to a new low, its 2.4/4 dropping the usual ratings leader into fourth place for the night. CBS staged a major comeback on Thursday, however, averaging a 7.9/14 for the night, more than second- and third-place finishers NBC and ABC produced combined.

BERNARD GOLDBERG SAYS HE WAS AMBUSHED BY CNBC

Former CBS newsman Bernard Goldberg, who in two books has accused the major broadcast networks of liberal bias, has claimed that producers of CNBC's The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch stacked a panel that questioned him about his latest book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken is No. 37). Goldberg told the "Inside the Beltway" column of the Washington Times: "I've been doing this a long, long time, and I have never, ever, ever, never -- I could say never and ever 10 more times -- experienced what I just went through. ... It was the most cynical, dishonest thing I have ever been lassoed into. They misled me." ... They wanted to kick my ass on national television -- six people, all basically calling me an idiot."

ONCE AGAIN: "WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM..."

For the second day in a row, the major broadcast networks and cable news channels broke into their regular programs with word of new violence in London this morning (Friday). CNN again displayed its superior overseas resources with its coverage of the fatal police shooting of a terrorist suspect at an underground station, augmenting its own footage, anchored in London by Christiane Amanpour, with reports from Britain's ITN.

OPPONENTS ATTEMPT TO BLOCK ADELPHIA ACQUISITION

Charging that Time Warner Cable and Comcast's $17.6-billion deal to buy bankrupt Adelphia Communications would give the two companies monopolistic powers, opponents of the deal asked regulators on Thursday to reject it or impose severe conditions on it. Among the opponents was satellite rival DirecTV, which demanded that the FCC impose the same conditions on Time Warner and Comcast that it did on News Corp when it took over DirecTV. Other groups asking the FCC to block the deal include the National Hispanic Media Coalition and a group of consumer advocacy organizations.

TV COMING TO PSP'S

Sony plans to introduce a software update for its PlayStation Portable devices in Japan next week that will allow users to download television shows and other video programming from a site created by SoNet, a Sony-affiliated Internet service provider in Japan. While it was assumed that a fee would be charged for the downloads, Sony did not indicate what it intends to charge. It said that the software update will also include a new browser that will allow users to access most Internet sites. There was no mention in the company announcement about when the software would be available to U.S. users of the device.

POLANSKI WINS LIBEL SUIT AGAINST VANITY FAIR

Director Roman Polanski has won a libel suit in London's High Court against Vanity Fair magazine, which published an article in 2002 claiming that Polanski made sexual advances towards a woman shortly after his wife Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson family in 1969. The magazine had claimed that while the article may have contained some minor inaccuracies, the general thrust of it was true. However, it did not call Beatte Telle, the Norwegian woman whom Polanski supposedly propositioned, to testify at the trial. Polanski, who testified by satellite from Paris at the London trial, said following the verdict that he was "obviously pleased" with the outcome. "Many untruths have been published about me, most of which I have ignored, but the allegations printed in the July 2002 edition of Vanity Fair could not go unchallenged." Polanski was awarded �50,000 ($87,000) in damages. In addition, Vanity Fair publisher Conde Naste faces a legal bill that could exceed $2.5 million. Polanski faces imprisonment in the U.S. if he should ever return, following his conviction in 1978 for having had sex with a 13-year-old girl.

GILBERT WON'T SEEK REELECTION AS SAG PRESIDENT

Telling the Los Angeles Times that she found her situation as president of the polarized Screen Actors Guild "untenable," Melissa Gilbert said Thursday that she will not stand for reelection. In a separate statement, she remarked, "There are rifts [in the union] that may very well be irreparable." Her withdrawal leaves three actors seeking the unpaid post -- Morgan Fairchild, best known for her starring role in Falcon Crest, Alan Rosenberg, who has appeared on L.A. Law and the Guardian, and Robert Conrad, who co-starred in the TV series The Wild Wild West. Fairchild, viewed as a Gilbert ally, told the Times: "We have to quit fighting each other and fight for our members." But Rosenberg predicted a "dogfight," although, he added, "I will do my best to keep things civil." Conrad was not available for comment.

THEATERS TO OFFER PATRONS MOVIE TRAILERS ON THEIR PHONES

Film studios may be cracking down on theater patrons who use their camcorders or video cell phones while a movie is being presented, but 20th Century Fox announced Thursday that it will soon begin beaming movie trailers, ringtones and other software to bluetooth-equipped (wireless) devices from kiosks located in the lobbies of Loews Cineplex theaters. The studio said it will take less than 30 seconds to transmit a movie trailer to a compatible video cell phone. The kiosks are being installed by San Francisco-based WideRay.

EXHIBITORS PREDICT 2005 WILL BEAT 2004

Not only are movie exhibitors confident that the box-office slump is over, but some are now predicting that a strong fourth quarter will put the year's receipts ahead of 2004's. In interviews with Reuters, the exhibitors indicated that they have strong hopes for King Kong, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc., told the wire service: "It looks very, very good for the end of the year but again we have a lot of ground to make up." Thus far this year, the box office is down 7 percent from last year.

MOVIE REVIEWS: BAD NEWS BEARS

The question on the minds of many critics reviewing the remake of The Bad News Bears (the latest one drops the "The" in the title) is, "Why did they bother?" Most suggest that the film is entertaining enough, but Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Daily News remarks that it is "faithful to the point of irrelevancy," while across town at the Los Angeles Times, Carina Chocano comments: "Despite their similarities, the original still somehow feels like it was made for kids. The remake feels like it was made for people who were kids in 1976." Billy Bob Thornton, however, receives high praise for his performance in the role that originally was played by Walter Matthau. Writes Ty Burr in the Boston Globe: "Thornton is easily the best thing about the new Bears. Dangerous where Matthau was cuddly, his Buttermaker has nothing remotely lovable about him, and that's why we like him." And Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that Thornton's performance is downright "subversive." She explains: "Now, I don't much care for Bad News Bears, a relatively faithful update of the 1976 film where beer-guzzling Walter Matthau coaches a Little League team of misfits who swear like stevedores. But Thornton! Oh my badness! He swills the Matthau role with the unslakable thirst of W.C. Fields and idiosyncratic sexuality of Johnny Depp."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE ISLAND

Director Michael Bay has always taken some satisfaction in the fact that while his action flicks are often derided by critics, they perform like gangbusters at the box office. His latest movie, The Island, may be no exception. The film, which stars Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, is being subjected to a virtual tsunami of negative reviews (but it also receives a few favorable ones, too). Claudia Puig in USA Today describes it as "this loud, sometimes frenetic cinematic assault." Similarly, John Anderson in Newsday calls it "this loud, slick, pointless movie." Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal writes that it "comes on like an overproduced coma, and leaves you comatose by the end." And Ann Hornaday offers this advice in the Washington Post: "If you find yourself at The Island I have only three words of advice: Vote yourself off." Nevertheless, Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times bestows three stars on the film, even while writing that watching it was like watching a double feature. "The first half ... is a spare, creepy science fiction parable, and then it shifts into a high-tech action picture. Both halves work. Whether they work together is a good question. The more you like one, the less you may like the other. I liked them both, up to a point, but the movie seemed a little too much like surf & turf." And Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News seems to suggest it's simply a movie to eat popcorn by. He writes: "This is a summer movie that knows what it is -- and that that is all it is -- and acts accordingly. It's got a hot premise, some cool sets, attractive stars and action that lets up only when it thinks you're about to surrender."