IT'S THE BLUE NETWORK AGAIN
NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly did not present the usual upbeat demeanor to TV critics in Los Angeles on Sunday that most of them were familiar with. Instead he warned that the fall season, which begins in September, "may not see a turnaround for us." He expressed appreciation to his bosses at GE for not demanding massive cutbacks following the network's plunge from first to last place among the four major networks last season. In an interview with today's (Monday) New York Times, Reilly said, "I'm very heartened by the fact that there has not been this pouncing, coming in with a dull knife to start hacking away. ... We have thrown a lot of revenue to [G.E.] over the last decade and there's an acknowledgment that this is a down cycle." NBC executives indicated that they are placing great hopes for its recovery in the hands of the producers of My Name Is Earl, set to debut on Tuesday nights. The program features Jason Lee as a crook who uses the money he has just won in the lottery to do good deeds. NBC also said it intends to revitalize Joey, the Friends spinoff, by letting the character land a real acting job.
CRITICS GET LOST
Television critics have voted ABC's Lost the best new program of last season. At the critics' annual awards ceremony, the show received an additional award for achievement in the drama category. Another newcomer, ABC's Desperate Housewives, received the award for program of the year. Fox's Arrested Development, a favorite of critics, took its second trophy for comedy achievement.
IT'S NOT EASY BEING A WB LOGO
Daily Variety's lede was all too obvious. "Michael J. Frog has croaked," it said. The announcement that the frog logo was gonners was made Friday by David Janollari, entertainment president of The WB network. The top-hat-wearing amphibian, he told TV critics "perpetuated the young-teen feel of the network, and that is not the image we want to put to our audience." In a separate interview with Variety, WB chief Garth Ancier remarked, "I've hated the frog since day one. ... I think it's a dumb logo." Meanwhile, AOL founder Steve Case has decided to give his recently acquired cable channel a new name. His Wisdom channel, whose tag line is "healthy living with a twist," will now be known as the Lime Channel (twist=lime, get it?).
"ARAB AMERICAN" WRESTLER IS BANISHED FROM SMACKDOWN
"Arab-American" wrestler Muhammad Hassan has taken a forced leave of absence from UPN's Smackdown after his appearance on the show two weeks ago -- on the day of the London bombings -- drew hundreds of complaints. Joanna Massey, a spokeswoman for UPN, which airs SmackDown!, said that the network had asked World Wrestling Entertainment to remove episodes featuring Hassan "because it was the right thing to do." Hassan's real name is Mark Copani; he is an Italian-American Buddhist.
HOWARD STERN MAY MOVE TO VIDEO-ON-DEMAND
Howard Stern's move to Sirius satellite radio may be accompanied by a simultaneous move of the TV version of his show to Comcast Cable, where it would be available by subscription "on demand," TV Week reported today (Monday). The trade publication said that an uncensored version of Stern's radio show could attract about a million video-on-demand subscribers. It quoted Cathy Rasenberger, a cable distribution consultant, as saying, ""Having Howard Stern on subscription VOD is a killer application for the [video on demand] platform. ... It would draw a lot of viewership. It would be as big a coup for Comcast as it was for Sirius."
Fox has dumped T
he Princes of Malibu after airing only two episodes of the reality series. However, published reports indicated that the remaining four episodes of the summer series will likely soon turn up on the Fox Reality cable network.
RETURN OF THE SLUMP
The box office returned to its slump over the weekend as two new films produced disappointing results and last week's top attraction dropped 50 percent. The biggest washout was DreamWorks/Warner Bros.' The Island, a film that cost $125 million to make but earned only $12.1 million in its opening weekend. It was director Michael Bay's first box office flop. "We can only hope the film finds its audience in the coming weeks," DreamWorks distribution chief Jim Tharp told the Wall Street Journal. "As to the whys of it, I'm not going to comment." Another failure was Paramount's Bad News Bears, which took in an estimated $11.5 million. Since it reportedly cost only $35 million to make, it will not set the studio back much money, if any at all by the time the DVDs go out. Remaining at the top spot, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory drew about $28.3 million. Close behind was last week's No. 2 film, Wedding Crashers, with $26.2 million, a drop of only 23 percent. OK results were recorded for Paramount Classics' Hustle & Flow, which grossed $8.1 million in 1,013 theaters to place seventh, and Lions Gate's The Devil's Rejects, which took in $7 million at 1,757 screens to place eighth. Making the most impressive showing was the documentary March of the Penguins, which expanded to 695 theaters and took in $4.3 million, putting it into the top 10 for the first time. The film is expected to expand to 1,200 screens next weekend.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, $28.3 million; 2. Wedding Crashers, $26.2 million; 3. Fantastic Four, $12.3 million; 4. The Island, $12.1 million; 5. The Bad News Bears, $11.5 million; 6. War of the Worlds, $8.8 million; 7. Hustle & Flow, $8.1 million; 8. The Devil's Rejects, $7 million; 9. Batman Begins, $4.7 million; 10. March of the Penguins, $4.3 million.
KATZENBERG BLAMED FOR FALL IN DREAMWORKS ANIMATION STOCK
Jeffrey Katzenberg's previous talent as a "tireless cheerleader for his projects" has resulted in Wall Street viewing his forecasts as promotions for DreamWorks animation's stock, the New York Times observed today (Monday), citing entertainment analysts Jessica Reif Cohen of Merrill Lynch and Chris Dixon of investment firm GGCP. The newspaper also quoted Katherine Styponias of Prudential Equity Group as saying, "We believe [DreamWorks Animation] management's credibility has been compromised." Several analysts have expressed concern that Roger Enrico, the former Pepsi guru who had been selected as executive chairman of DreamWorks Animation, has not been the one commenting publicly on the potential of the company's releases. David Miller, an analyst at Sanders Morris Harris, told the Times: "The irony is this is why Roger Enrico was hired. ... But where has he been? He's been completely invisible." Shares in the company were trading at $23.05 at mid-morning -- nearly a third lower than when they went public last October.
GAY ACTIVISTS SAY OLIVER STONE SOLD OUT
Gay activists are up in arms over reports that director Oliver Stone has removed scenes in the DVD version of Alexander in which the title character appears to have a homosexual relationship. "You cannot associate homosexuality with the military in this country," Stone told today's (Monday) New York Post. "Audiences want their war films straight. From the day we opened, we did not do business in the South." But Damon Rome of GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, told the newspaper, "For someone known as a fearless, uncompromising filmmaker, Stone has really compromised his own artistic integrity."
PURPLE HEART IS NO FUNNY BUSINESS, SAYS FBI AGENT
An FBI agent is angry about New Line Cinema's promotional website for Wedding Crashers which features a picture of a Purple Heart medal to print and cut out. In the movie, the two wedding crashers, played by Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, wear Purple Hearts to attract the sympathy of women. The website says, "Carrying a Purple Heart in your jacket guarantees you attention, admiration and plenty of free booze." However, today's Chicago Tribune quotes G-man Thomas Cottone Jr. as saying, "I challenge the producer of that movie to go to Walter Reed Hospital and walk through the ward and see if he still wants to print out a fake Purple Heart." Ironically, on the Tribune's website in which Cottone's words are featured, there's an ad for Purple Heart replicas. Price: $38.95.
DOGS ROUNDED UP FOR KILLING AT DISNEY'S HONG KONG PARK
Raising the question what would Pluto and Goofy think?, Hong Kong Disneyland personnel have been rounding up stray dogs at the soon-to-open theme park and killing them. The South China Morning Post reported today (Monday) that about 40 dogs, which had been used as "unofficial guard dogs" by construction workers while the park was being built, had been abandoned once the workers left and posed a "safety threat." But animal rights activists in the city have protested that Disney should have made a greater effort to find homes for the dogs. Noting that the dogs were "friendly and healthy," Sally Anderson of Hong Kong Dog Rescue said in a letter to the editor: ""A company like Disney surely has some sort of moral obligation to take care of the dogs that have been used on their site as guard dogs. It's disgraceful that these dogs are simply thrown away like garbage."