SEASON ENDS WITH A BANG

The season finale(s) of American Idol on Tuesday and Wednesday nights gave Fox one of its rare weekly victories. The two shows, in which Carrie Underwood competed agai�nst Bo Bice on Tuesday and learned that she had won on Wednesday, drew top ratings for the week. Wednesday night -- which officially marked the end of the 2004-05 season and the end of the May sweeps -- was an especially big night, with the season finale of ABC's Lost competing against Idol. Of 66 million viewers tuning in between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., Idol and Lost accounted for 50 million of them. Even with the heavy competition from the talent contest, Lost's ratings for the time period were the highest ABC had recorded for an entertainment show since May 24, 2000.

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

1. American Idol (�Wednesday), Fox, 17.5/27; 2. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 16.2/25; 3. CSI: Miami, CBS, 13.5/22; 4. Lost, ABC, 12.0/18; 5. House, Fox, 11.9/18; 6. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 10.9/19; 6. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 10.9/18; 8. Law & Order: Criminal Intent, NBC, 9.9/16; 9. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 9.7/15; 10. NCIS, CBS, 9.5/15.

OPRAH BACK ON TOP

Rising ratings for ABC in primetime and in the early morning hours for Good Morning America appear to be having a trickle-down effect for syndicated fare on ABC stations during the rest of the day. In particular, King World's Oprah, which airs on ABC-owned stations in most major markets,became the top-rated syndicated show again last week for the first time since 1992, scoring an 8.1 national rating. Likewise, another King World talk show, Dr. P�hil, scored a 5.9 rating, and was the second-highest-rated talk show. Right behind it was the Disney-produced Live with Regis and Kelly, which posted a 3.6 rating. All of the programs showed significant audience increases from last year. The King World game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! placed second and third among syndicated shows, registering a 7.9 and a 7.1 respectively.

NIELSEN DELAYS LOCAL PEOPLE METER LAUNCH IN TWO CITIES

Nielsen Research on Wednesday seemed to send a mixed response to broadcasters urging it to halt the roll-out of its Local People Meter Service. On the one hand, it said that it delayed the launch in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia from today (Thursday) to June 30 in order to allow its clients in those markets "more time to understand the impact that this change in methodology will have on their businesses." At the same time, TV Week magazine reported that Nielsen chief Susan Whiting had� sent a letter to the protesting broadcasters, noting that they were not its only clients and that any agreement with them could subject them all to antitrust action. Meanwhile, Nielsen has accused Washington D.C. station WJLA-TV of breaking a rule barring broadcasters from airing any story about TV ratings during ratings periods. The station replied that its report about Nielsen's Local People Meter Service was legitimate news. Frederick J. Ryan Jr., the president of Allbritton Communications, which owns WJLA-TV told Wednesday's Washington Times: "I knew Nielsen was powerful, but I didn't know they were more powerful than the First Amendment."

TED TURNER -- CNN SHOULD AIR LESS "TRIVIAL NEWS"

Ted Turner on Wednesday expressed displeasure at what CNN, the cable news network that he launched 25 years ago, has become in recent years. Speaking to CNN employees in Atlanta, where he created the network on June 1, 1980, Turner s

aid, "I wanted to be the New York Times of the airwaves, not the New York Post ... and we did it." But in recent times, he said, too much "trivial news" occupies the network -- too much attention is paid to "the pervert of the day." He added: "Somebody's got to be a serious news person. Somebody's got to be the most respected name in television news, and I wanted that position for CNN."

CHAPPELLE DVD'S SET SALES RECORD

In what Broadcasting & Cable described as a display of "the biggest back end in the business," Paramount Home Entertainment reported Wednesday that Chappelle's Show: Season 2 Uncensored had set a record for a TV series on DVD. PHE said that nearly 500,000 copies were sold on the date of its release, Ma y 24, and an additional 700,000 by the end of the week. The figures are all the more impressive given the fact that the DVD package sells for $37.

ROBERT JOHNSON TO RETIRE AS BET CHIEF

BET founder and CEO Robert Johnson said Wednesday that he will step down at the end of the year and that the network's president and COO, Debra Lee will replace him. Speaking to reporters during a conference call on Wednesday, Lee said, "I grew up with brands like Ebony [magazine] and Motown [records], and BET has surpassed those companies and has really become the number one brand in African American households."

IN-HOUSE DIVERSITY VIDEO TURNS UP ON TV; P.R. DIRECTOR CANNED

The public relations director of the San Francisco 49ers is looking for a new job after a training video on "diversity" that he produced and which was intended for viewing only by the team's players was leaked to the press and onto the air. The video was apparently intended to instruct them on how to deal with San Francisco's large gay and Asian populations, and was commissioned after running back Garrison Hearst created a storm of controversy with an anti-homosexual comment. The video, however, contained numerous gay stereotypes, including a "wedding" between two topless women who engage in heavy petting at the alter and a scene in which a Chinese man says that his name is Suck. "My brother's name is Suck Young -- my whole family Suck." P.R. Director Kirk Reynolds told the San Francisco Chronicle: ""I didn't make this for publ#ic consumption. The ideas of the tape are appropriate for the locker room -- though some of the subjects were inappropriate for the values of this organization, and mine frankly."

ONLINE TICKET SALES REACH GALACTIC HEIGHTS

Moviegoers purchased $30.5 million worth of tickets from Fandango and MovieTickets.com to see Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith during its weekend opening, or about 20 percent of the gross, Forbes magazine reported on its website Wednesday. The magazine estimated that the two online ticket sellers made $3 million between them in just the first four days of the movie's release. Since Fandango is owned mostly by domestic theater chains, Forbes observed, the $1 ticket surcharge charged by the online ticketing service eventually reverts to the theaters. Online ticket sales are particularly helped when moviegoers determine that demand for a film will be so great that they'll be turned away at the turnstiles.

WILL MISSION SELF-DESTRUCT?

The behavior of Tom Cruise while promoting the June 29 release of the Paramount/DreamWorks' film War of the Worlds has prompted Paramount execs to consider shelving Mission: Impossible III, in which Cruise is als'o slated to star (and which has seen its anticipated budget climb to over $150 million), the New York Times reported today (Thursday). The newspaper said that in recent promotional appearances Cruise has been spending so much time promoting Scientology and talking about his love for his new girlfriend Katie Holmes that War of the Worlds itself has been getting little attention. The Times indicated that Paramount and DreamWorks execs were particularly concerned about Cruise's odd behavior during an appearance on Oprah on May 23.

DISNEY LAWYERS WANT LAWSUIT TOSSED OUT

Lawyers for the Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday urged a Delaware judge to toss out a lawsuit filed by former dissident directors, Roy E. Disney and Stanley P. Gold, which claims that the comp"any's board conducted a sham search for a new CEO before announcing that Disney President Robert Iger was their choice. Disney and Gold claimed that Iger was hand-picked by outgoing CEO Michael Eisner to succeed him. The Disney lawyers maintained that the two former directors were simply unhappy with the choice of Iger. "Common sense says we wouldn't be here" if Iger had not been chosen, they said. The Delaware judge, William Chandler, said that he expected to hand down a decision on the Disney Co. motion promptly.

LOUISIANA'S WELCOME MAT SHRINKS

The Louisiana legislature, which was criticized for offering overly generous tax incentives to Hollywood producers, has taken the first step to reducing some of them. A new tax-credit program was overwhelmingly approved Wednesday ?by the House which actually raises the tax credit from 15 percent to 25 percent but makes it apply only to money spent in the state. Previously, film companies could collect from the state even when most of a movie was filmed outside the state. At least one Louisiana lawmaker, Rep. Jim Tucker, warned that the new law could scare off movie producers.

232 FILMS TO SCREEN AT OUTFEST

Outfest, the gay and lesbian film festival, will boast 232 shorts and features from 28 countries during its July 7-18 run in Los Angeles, organizers of the festival said Wednesday. Olivier Duscatel's French farce Côte d'Azure is set to open the festival's 23rd edition. "The breadth and diversity of this year's festival is truly outstanding," Outfest executive director Stephen Gutwillig told today's (Thursdauy) Los Angeles Times. "The festival boasts 101 separate public programs -- five galas, 66 feature film programs, 17 short film programs, seven special events and six panels."

DISCORD OVER MOVIE'S SINGERS

Few people may have thought initially that the French film Les Choristes would have become one of the biggest hit films in French history, but it attracted 8.5 million ticket buyers and netted about $123 million from theatrical and CD sales. Now, the parents of the child singers who provided the soundtrack for the movie want a piece of the action. Although the film's producer, Galatee Films, paid the singers about $24,000, the parents of two of them have sued the filmmakers, saying that they had never approved the deal with the kids and asking that they receive 8-10 percent of the profits.