ABC IS DANCING FOR JOY

For the second week in a row, ABC's summer series Dancing With the Stars danced away with top ratings honors. ABC also placed three games of the NBA Finals in the top ten, and while they were not enough to beat CBS in the overall ratings, the network was able to claim victory among the key demographic group, adults 18-49. The NBA showing was a particular disappointment for ABC, with this year's series between the San Antonio Spurs and the Detroit Pistons averaging 11.2 million viewers, down from 17.9 million a year ago, a decrease of more than 37 percent.

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

1. Dancing With the Stars, ABC, 10.6/17; 2. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 8.4/14; 2. (Tie) NBA Finals - San Antonio vs. Detroit (Game 5, Sunday), ABC, 8.4/15; 4. CSI: Miami, CBS, 7.8/13; 5. Without a Trace, CBS, 7.5/13; 6. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 7.3/11; 7. NBA Finals - San Antonio vs. Detroit (Game 3, Tuesday), ABC, 7.2/13; 7. (Tie) NBA Finals - San Antonio vs. Detroit (Game 4, Thursday), ABC, 7.2/13; 9. Law and Order, NBC, 7.1/12; 10. CBS Sunday Movie: Twelve-Mile Road, CBS, 6.7/11.

LIBERAL COMMENTATOR DEFENDS FOX NEWS

Susan Estrich, who served as campaign manager for the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign in 1988, has come to the defense of Fox News, where she currently appears as a liberal commentator. In an Op-Ed article appearing in the Christian Science Monitor, Estrich particularly takes exception to Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean's description of Fox News as "a propaganda outlet for the Republican Party." Estrich maintains that she sometimes has "disagreed with decisions made by young Fox producers" to tilt stories to the right, "but without exception, every time I raised an issue, I won." Everyone at the news channel, she said, "understood the commitment not to make decisions that would even give the appearance that Dean so cavalierly bandies about."

MSNBC CORRESPONDENT EXCORIATES BUSH OVER IRAQ

MSNBC correspondent David Shuster, who left Fox News Channel after six years in 1992, has written a blistering commentary on an MSNBC blog, charging that "the Bush administration is now in total panic mode over the erosion of public support for the occupation." Shuster, who led Fox News's coverage of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, then reported on the invasion of Iraq from US Central Command in Doha, Qatar for NBC News and MSNBC, cited several instances, which, he said, suggest that the administration has completely backtracked from statements it made at the beginning of the war about how quickly it could be won. "White House P.R. strategies seem to matter more than holding anybody accountable for the war's mistakes and mismanagement," Shuster concluded. Several bloggers have observed that it is highly unusual for any network correspondent to voice such harsh comments about administration policy so publicly.

FOX NEWS EMPLOYEES CLAIM THEY WERE EXPOSED TO DIAZINON POISON

The Web log TV Newser, citing "multiple Fox News employees" as its source, is reporting that the company ordered the insecticide diazinon be sprayed in its roach-infested New York newsroom, exposing numerous employees to a chemical that is banned by the EPA for indoor use. One Fox employee wrote that she and her colleagues had decided to go public with the matter because "diazinon -- which disrupts the nervous and endocrine systems -- is highly suspect in one of the female producers here having a child with Down's Syndrome. That is a major liability that no company, however noble their corporate mission may be, should be allowed to cover up and escape the liability for." TV Newser said today (Wednesday) that Fox News chief Roger Ailes addressed employees about the insecticide issue on Tuesday but that it had received no word on what he said.

BOOKING WARS GROW "UGLY" AMONG MORNING NEWS SHOWS

Following the Michael Jackson verdict, representatives of ABC's Good Morning America "blocked and tackled six jurors, put them in a private charter, and flew them to New York to get their two friggin' seconds on GMA," NBC's Today show exec producer Jim Bell has complained in an interview in today's (Wednesday) Philadelphia Inquirer. Bell said that the booking wars between the two morning shows have become "ugly." He added, "We considered flying, but when we looked at the money, it just didn't seem worth it. Where's the payoff in the end? We all have so many resources dedicated to these 'gets.' It's like we're pursuing the Ark of the Covenant. At some point, I have to shrug my shoulders and say, 'Guys, let them have that.'" GMA boss Ben Sherwood responded, "It shows we're getting closer [to overtaking the Today show in the ratings], and the stakes are getting higher, especially for NBC."

STERN COULD STAY WITH VIACOM AFTER RADIO SPLIT

Howard Stern could remain in the Viacom fold even after he leaves its radio division, published reports indicated today (Wednesday). Viacom's Spike TV reportedly hopes to pick up Stern's radio show after it moves to Sirius Satellite Radio. The likelihood of that happening increased Tuesday when Comcast-controlled E! Entertainment Channel announced that it would not renew its contract with Stern and that his final original episode on the channel will air on July 8. Stern acknowledged the split with E! on his radio show Tuesday and said that a plan was in the works to move to another channel, but he did not provide details.

AMC AND LOEWS CINEPLEX TO MERGE

The consolidation of the motion picture exhibition industry squeezed tighter Tuesday as AMC Entertainment and Loews Cineplex agreed to merge. If approved, the merger would give the new company, which will retain the AMC name, 13 percent of the nation's movie screens. Only Regal Entertainment, with 17 percent, is bigger, but many of its theaters are located in rural areas; the merged company would therefore account for the largest slice of the box-office pie. Analysts noted that since most of AMC's theaters are on the West Coast and Loews's are in the East, there will be little if any overlap of theater outlets. However, today's (Wednesday) Boston Globe pointed out that the merger would leave Boston "pretty much a one-movie theater-chain town." It quoted Perry Lowe, a professor of marketing at Bentley College in Waltham and a former theater operator himself, as saying, "'They may almost be monopolistic in the Boston market."Today's Los Angeles Times pointed out that both chains are controlled by venture capitalists, Regal by billionaire Philip Anschutz, and AMC/Loews by J.P. Morgan Partners, Apollo Management, Bain Capital, the Carlyle Group, and Spectrum Equity Investors. Paul del Rossi, former CEO of General Cinemas, which was recently acquired by AMC, told the Times: "I think the exhibition business is at a crossroads. ... The major players in the exhibition business are now controlled by venture capitalists, and they have different long-term views than traditional theater owners."

FOX SAYS SONY RIPPED OFF X-MEN PLOT

Twentieth Century Fox and Marvel Enterprises have sued Sony Pictures and Revolution Studios, claiming that their film, Zoom's Academy, is a rip-off of their own X-Men series. Both films concern a group of children with special powers who are shunned by their normal peers and are sent to a school to learn how to cope with their super abilities. Fox and Marvel also claim that the rival studios deliberately moved up the release of Zoom Academy so that it would debut on May 12, 2006 two weeks before the release of X-Men 3, which is set for May 26, 2006. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief and unspecified monetary damages.

SAG REJECTS VOICE-OVER CONTRACT WITH GAME PRODUCERS

The Screen Actors Guild's national executive committee on Tuesday rejected a contract covering voice-over actors on video games, even though the deal had been unanimously approved by a SAG negotiating committee composed entirely of voice-over actors. SAG's sister union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, has approved the contract. One member of SAG's board, who asked not to be identified, told today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Times that the rejection represented a slap in the face to actors working in the video game industry. "We are now perceived in our own industry as an organization that does not bargain in good faith," the board member said. Daily Variety pointed out today that the vote now leaves union jurisdiction over the video game industry entirely to AFTRA with all pension and health contributions going to that union. The fact that the contract does not provide residual payments to voice-over actors appeared to be the divisive issue. The industry had maintained that the actors contribute little to the success of their games and that if they were to make residual payments to them, they would certainly have to do the same for all the other creative talent responsible for the games.

COMPANY CLAIMS IT WAS SLANDERED BY MPAA

New Century Media Corp., which claims to be a legitimate replicator of DVDs and a leading provider of blank videocassettes, charged Tuesday that its name and reputation were damaged when the Motion Picture Association of America issued a statement commenting on a raid by the Southern California High Tech Task Force on its headquarters on June 15. In the statement, the MPAA said that authorities had uncovered a cache of pirated DVDs and equipment worth $30 million. New Century insisted that the MPAA's statement "contained false and misleading information," that it had not been engaged in bootleg activity, that it reproduces thousands of legitimate titles per year, and that authorities allowed it to reopen immediately after the raid. New Century also denied that equipment and DVDs that were seized in the raid were worth $30 million, putting their value at no more than $15,000 and insisting that the DVDs were produced for a legitimate company, Genius Products. In a statement, the MPAA acknowledged that New Century had reopened after the raid and explained that the $30-million figure was based on the value not only of the DVDs that were seized but also of those that could have been produced with the company's equipment.

SALES OF MOVIES FOR PLAY STATION PORTABLE SOAR

In less than three months, sales of movies in Sony's UMD format -- playable only on the company's PlayStation Portable (PSP) devices -- has topped 100,000, Sony said today (Wednesday). The figure does not take into account copies of Spider-Man 2, which are included in the PSP packaging in the U.S.

AFI ISSUES TOP 100 MOVIE QUOTES

The American Film Instituted has devoted its annual top-100 list to movie quotes this year, topping it with Rhett Butler's scornful, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," to Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. The latest list, like those that came before it, is certain to touch off much water-cooler debate in Hollywood. (The GWTW phrase, spoken by Clark Gable to Vivien Leigh, may have seemed scandalous in its day, when "damn" was a verboten word in movies, but it would probably be considered commonplace today.) Other phrases topping the list: 2. "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse," from The Godfather. 3. "You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am," from On the Waterfront. 4. "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore," from The Wizard of Oz. 5. "Here's looking at you, kid," from Casablanca.