ATTACKS IN LONDON -- WHERE ARE THE NETWORKS?

Cutbacks in the overseas operations of the major networks seemed especially conspicuous this morning (Thursday) following the apparent terrorist attacks on the London transportation system as they were forced to rely on footage provided by the BBC. The identical loop of edited footage, lasting about two minutes, was repeated over and over on all three major U.S. networks for hours, including the Eastern feeds of the CBS Early Show, NBC's Today, and ABC's Good Morning America. With the networks' primary London crews assigned to the G8 conference in Scotland, skeleton crews in London were forced to improvise. In the early coverage, network reporters remaining in London, phoned in their reports from cell phones. (About four hours following the attacks, the networks began airing fuzzy images of people leaving a subway train that had been attacked, footage taken with a video cell phone by a person aboard the train.) The sparse London coverage appeared to be in sharp contrast to the over-the-top coverage in New York City, where local and network reporters at multiple locations described emergency precautions being rolled out there. All three networks stuck with their morning personalities (although several were on vacation, including NBC's Matt Lauer and ABC's Diane Sawyer) and appeared to be carrying their full advertising load. (London commercial TV outlets aired without ad breaks). NBC's primary news anchor, Brian Williams, made his first appearance with a special report at 11:40 a.m. Eastern time, preempting the last 20 minutes of the second hour of Today on the West Coast.

RATHER HELPING FIRED 60 MINUTES PRODUCER WITH BOOK, SAYS NY POST

Dan Rather has been helping fired CBS producer Mary Mapes write a book presenting her side of the story about the discredited 60 Minutes report that led to Rather's downfall at the network, the New York Post reported today (Thursday). "Dan is in constant contact with Mary," an insider told the newspaper. "We are all in shock. I mean, she [bleeped] him and put him on the National Guard story, and now he calls her every day and helps her with the book!" The Post's source also commented that Rather is being "marginalized" at 60 Minutes. "No [producer] at 60 Minutes wants him doing pieces for them because he's considered tainted. Everyone at CBS just wants him to leave the building but he won't. He's bored and Mary strokes his ego telling him, 'You're so great, Dan. You're still the best, Dan.' But still, no one can believe he's helping her with the book."

DANCING WITH STARS STAYS AT NO. 1

ABC's Dancing With the Stars showed once again that people will make appointments with their TV sets if the programs are compelling enough. The penultimate episode of the dancing contest drew 18.6 million viewers, making it the most-watched show of the week for the second consecutive week. Dragging down the network's ratings, however, was the poor performance of Saturday's Live 8 Worldwide Concert, which was the lowest-rated show broadcast by any of the four major networks. Nevertheless, CBS, which stuck with mostly reruns, captured the week among overall viewers, averaging a 4.9/9. NBC placed second with a 4.2/8. ABC was close behind with a 4.0/8, while Fox trailed with a 2.9/5.

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

1. Dancing With the Stars, ABC, 12.0/20; 2. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 9.1/16; 3. Without a Trace, CBS, 8.0/14; 4. CSI: Miami, CBS, 7.4/12; 5. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 7.1/11; 6. Law and Order, NBC, 6.7/12; 7. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 6.6/11; 8. Dancing With the Stars (repeat), ABC, 6.3/12; 9. Daytona 400, NBC, 5.5/13; 10. CSI: NY, CBS, 5.4/9.

DANCING FINALE PRODUCES HUGE SUMMER RATINGS

Wednesday night's season finale of ABC's Dancing with the Stars produced some of the highest summer ratings ever as it produced a 16.2 rating and a 25 share in the 9:00 p.m. hour. The show, in which General Hospital actress Kelly Monaco and her professional dancing partner Alec Mazo beat heavily favored actor John O'Hurley and partner Charlotte Jorgensen, easily outdrew its combined competition. A repeat of last week's penultimate episode of Dancing at 8:00 also won its time period with a 7.9/14, beating the debut of The Cut on CBS, which placed last with a 3.1/5. At 10:00 p.m., Tom Brokaw's interview with Bob Woodward for an NBC Dateline special placed second in the ratings with a 5.6/9, beaten by CBS's CSI: NY, which drew a 7.2/12.

SCHIEFFER WANTS TO LEAVE CBS ANCHOR'S DESK

CBS Evening News

interim anchor Bob Schieffer has indicated he's anxious to leave the anchor's desk and that he's told his bosses so. In an interview with today's (Thursday) Philadelphia Inquirer Schieffer said that when he initially signed on, he expected to remain at the anchor's desk for no more than a few months. "Clearly, we've run past that. I'm trying to be supportive."

NEW -- AND LEGAL -- MOVIES COMING TO YOUR PC?

Intel has formed a partnership with ClickStar, an entertainment firm co-founded by Morgan Freeman, to deliver first-run movies to Internet users before they are available on DVD and perhaps even while they're in theaters. Freeman announced the partnership at Allen & Co.'s annual media "retreat" in Sun Valley, ID, telling reporters, "Our goal is to deliver first-run premium entertainment to film fans around the world and to make film easier to buy than to pirate." He also indicated that ClickStar might provide a distribution outlet for films that are unable to get conventional theatrical distribution deals. However, media consultant Tom Adams told today's Los Angeles Times that he doubts that the studios will react favorably to ClickStar. "You're going to get resistance at every turn," he predicted. "It overturns an apple cart that's been doing good business for 50 years."

FEW TAKE UP EXHIBITORS ON REFUND OFFER

Exhibitors AMC and Cinemark said Wednesday that only a few people have taken up their offer to refund the price of admission to any patron who was disappointed with Ron Howard's Cinderella Man, starring Russell Crowe. AMC said that it had made refunds to about 100 people, while Cinemark said the number amounted to "a couple of dozen." Cinemark spokeswoman Terrell Falk told the A.P. on Wednesday: "The whole effort was to focus attention on what is a beautiful film that deserves an audience but just hasn't got one." It has taken in $54 million over the past five weeks, and fell out of the top-ten list last weekend.

WEINSTEINS SNUBBED AT SUN VALLEY

Bob and Harvey Weinstein were not invited to attend the annual Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, the New York Post reported today (Thursday). The newspaper said that the Miramax founders, who recently formed a separate independent company called The Weinstein Company, were snubbed because they had failed to bring any investment banking business to Allen. The Post said that Harvey Weinstein, who was on a business trip to London, has been trying to wrangle an invitation by calling on colleagues in the industry to use their influence with Allen. On the other hand, the newspaper said, Michael Ovitz has made his first appearance in five years at the Allen shindig. However, it claimed, guests "slinked away" when official photographers attempted to snap their picture with Ovitz.

PRODUCER KURTZ AUCTIONING STAR WARS COSTUMES, PROPS

Gary Kurtz, who produced the original Star Wars movie and the sequel The Empire Strikes Back, plans to auction memorabilia from those movies on July 29. The auction, which will be conducted by the Beverly Hills firm Profiles in History, will include Luke Skywalker's light saber, valued at $60,000 to $80,000 and Luke's flight suit from Empire, worth about the same amount. Kurtz reportedly clashed over content with George Lucas following Empire, then, after splitting with him, produced two flops, The Dark Crystal and Return to Oz, with his own money, sending him to the brink of bankruptcy.

OUTFEST COMES OUT TONIGHT

Outfest 05, the 23rd annual Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, is due to open tonight (Thursday) in Los Angeles with the premiere of the French film Côte d'Azur, co-directed by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau.

TAIWANESE MOVIE BEATS STAR WARS IN HONG KONG

The low-budget Taiwanese action flick Initial D, filmed in Japan, has startled distributors in Hong Kong by beating out Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith and Mr. and Mrs. Smith at the box office there. The Associated Press reported today (Thursday) that the film has grossed $3.6 million over its first 10 days, while the latest Star Wars installment has taken in only $2.4 million over 46 days. Mr. and Mrs. Smith has taken in $2.8 million over 25 days. The film, described by A.P. as "a testament to the far reach of Japanese popular culture," is based on a popular Japanese comic book by Shuichi Shigeno and stars Chinese singer-songwriter Jay Chou.