CBS EXTENDS ITS RATINGS LEAD

CBS once again dominated in the overall ratings last week, while Fox, thanks to American Idol, prevailed among the key 18-49-year-old audience, according to Nielsen Research. CBS's strong showing did not depend on specials or stunts -- it offered none -- but on the regular stalwarts in its lineup. On the other hand, ABC introduced two new shows with only so-so results. Blind Justice, which replaced NYPD Blue, opened in second place in its Tuesday timeslot at 10:00 p.m., drawing an audience somewhat larger than Blue's. The John Stamos comedy Jake in Progress, however, appeared to represent little progress for the network. In fact, by premiering it in Desperate Housewives' time slot on Sunday, the network once again lost its biggest ratings draw. As a result, ABC wound up the week a distant fourth. The four major networks lined up this way for the week: 1.CBS, 8.1/13; 2. Fox, 6.7/10; 3. NBC, 6.4/10; 4. ABC, 5.5/8.

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

1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 18.0/27; 2. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 15.8/24; 2. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 15.8/24; 4. Without a Trace, CBS, 15.0/25; 5. American Idol (Monday), Fox, 14.0/21; 5. CSI: Miami, CBS, 14.0/22; 7. Survivor: Palau, CBS, 12.4/20; 8. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 11.4/17; 9. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 10.7/16; 10. Cold Case, CBS, 10.5/16.

MARIO WALKS OUT AGAIN

Mario Vazquez has now walked out on two shows. The American Idol finalist, who dropped out of the show last weekend for "personal reasons," appeared on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman to read a top-ten list of reasons why he pulled out of Idol, but when he reached No. 4, he remarked "Screw it -- I'm quitting this, too," and walked off stage. Perhaps helped by the additional publicity for Idol generated by Vazquez's walkout, the show posted a huge 16.1 rating and a 25 share Tuesday night. It also gave Fox's House a huge lead-in advantage keeping the network ahead in the 9:00 hour with a 10.6/16. NBC's Law & Order took over the lead at 10:00 p.m. (Fox does not air network programs in the 10:00 p.m. hour.)

TIVO VAULTS ON NEWS OF COMCAST DEAL

TiVo Inc., the company that makes personal digital TV recorders, saw its shares leap 75 percent on Tuesday after Comcast, the nation's largest cable system, agreed to offer the TiVo service to its 21.5 million subscribers. Although relished by users and prominently mentioned on TV talk shows, (former FCC Chairman Michael Powell once referred to it as "God's machine") TiVo has never turned a profit since going public in 1999. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but some analysts worried that TiVo, desperate to pull itself out of the red, may have been forced to sign an unfavorable deal.

SEN. STEVENS PROPOSES VAST EXPANSION OF INDECENCY RULES

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has indicated that he will seek to have cable, satellite, and the Internet included in new regulations to extend broadcast decency regulations. Stevens suggested that families should be able to receive a package of channels -- regardless of how they're delivered -- "that is clear of the stuff you don't want your children to see." He also voiced support for a kind of all-encompassing ratings system that could be applied to broadcast, cable, satellite, and Voice Over Internet Protocol. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Wall Street Journal Peter Tolan, co-producer of FX cable's Rescue Me, called Stevens's proposal "an idiotic idea" and forecast a backlash. The idea that government feels they have to regulate this stuff because the people they're governing can't turn it off is insulting," he told the Journal.

LIBERTY TO SPIN OFF DISCOVERY

Liberty Media is planning to spin off into a new company its 50-percent stake in Discovery Communications, which operates the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and several other cable channels, the company said Tuesday. Analysts warned, however, that Liberty would have to persuade other investors in Discovery to go the spin-off route if a subsequent public offering is going to be successful.

PROTESTERS WELCOMED AT THEATERS

Movie exhibitors ought to be grateful when protesters show up in front of their theaters, judging by the success of the two most controversial films of last year, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, National Assn. of Theatre Owners President John Fithian said Tuesday. "When a theater chain calls to tell me there are a group of protesters outside their theater, I tell them, 'Give them free popcorn, free soda and tell them to stay there as long as possible,'" Fithian told the ShoWest conference in Las Vegas. He recalled that when the Anti-Defamation League began protesting Passion, "I told them as someone who sympathized with their cause to keep their mouths shut, but I told them as the head of NATO to complain as loud as they could. And they did, and it generated a ton of publicity, and more movie tickets were sold." He also urged film studios to "look beyond the liberal confines of Hollywood" and begin to make more family films, which, he pointed out, represented half the top-ten-grossing films of 2004. "There's more money in family movies," he said. "Families buy more tickets."

TITANIC COLLECTOR'S EDITION TO GO INTERACTIVE

Director James Cameron is preparing two new DVD packages of Titanic to be released in October -- a two-disc special edition and a four-disc collector's edition. Although no new "director's cut" of the film will be offered in either package (Cameron said that he felt "very good" about the original) the new DVD's will include 58 minutes of deleted footage in what Cameron called a "branching format" -- presumably meaning that viewers will be cued to switch to the additional scenes as the film is being played, then switch back to the original. Producer Jon Landau said that a "making of" documentary will also be included in which the stars and crew will present "a Rashomon type of perspective of what was going on."

DID EISNER AND KATZENBERG BOTTLE UP THE GENIE FOR 13 YEARS?

Robin Williams has suggested that his feud with The Walt Disney Company's Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg in 1995 may have kept him from working in animated films ever since. Williams, who was paid scale for his work as the genie in Disney's Aladdin in 1992, charged that the two had lied to him and broken a promise not to use his voice in merchandise associated with the movie. In an interview with Louis B. Hobson of the Calgary Sun, Williams, who provides the voice of Feder in 20th Century Fox's Robots, remarked, "Let's see. Eisner is still at Disney and Jeffrey is over at DreamWorks, which could explain why I wasn't in Finding Nemo or Shrek. Robots is a Fox movie. It's a more comfortable pairing."

IGER INDICATES THAT KEEPING WEINSTEINS IN FOLD IS NOT REALISTIC

The naming of Robert Iger as Disney CEO will not heal the rupture that has resulted in Bob and Harvey Weinstein's imminent departure from the company, Iger indicated Tuesday. "Negotiating a deal that will ultimately result in us parting company in some form is the right thing at this point," Iger said in an interview with Bloomberg News, adding, "It will end amicably and it won't be tense and there won't be a lot of stress" Several reports have indicated that the separation could take place as early as this week. Meanwhile, the New York Post reported that the Weinsteins intend to include a book division in their new film company, even as Miramax Books is being absorbed into Disney's Hyperion publishing house.

FREE DVD TO BE OFFERED WITH STAR WARS SOUNDTRACK

The soundtrack CD of John Williams' score for Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith will be accompanied by a special 70-minute DVD, Star Wars: A Musical Journey, when it is released on May 3, Sony Classical announced Tuesday. The DVD will feature Williams conducting excerpts from his Star Wars scores behind 16 "music videos" compiled from all six films that will include original dialogue and sound effects. Each "movement," will be introduced by Ian McDiarmid, who plays Senator Palpatine.

MONTANA LEGISLATORS FEUD OVER FILM TAX BREAKS

The taxation committee of the Montana House of Representatives has voted to provide tax breaks to movie companies in order to lure them to the state. But the breaks are far less than initially proposed, and the bill's sponsor said Tuesday that he thinks they may not be sufficient to attract Hollywood production companies. Meanwhile, opposition to any breaks at all appears to be growing. "We're taking taxpayer dollars to assist companies that aren't based here, but come in periodically and create part-time jobs," Billings Representatives Dennis Himmelberger told the Associated Press. "Something like this is a slap in the face of some of our Montana businesses who are here day after day."

INDIAN REPORTER REVEALS "CASTING COUCH" IN HIDDEN CAMERA FOOTAGE

The "casting couch" has long been whispered about in Hollywood, but an Indian reporter with a hidden camera may be the first to document its actual existence. In a clip aired on India TV, described by Britain's Guardian newspaper as "a new station specializing in salacious investigations," film star Shakti Kapoor is seen telling the reporter, "All actresses have slept with directors. I want to make love to you and kiss you. You must do this or else I won't be able to help you." The exposé has caused an uproar in Bollywood. Pehlaj Nihalani, president of the All-India Motion Pictures and Television Producers Association, called it "a planned conspiracy to defame [Kapoor]." On the other hand producer Mahesh Bhatt told the Associated Press that soliciting sex in exchange for movie roles "is Bollywood's best-known secret. The rot is within us." In an interview with the Times of India, India TV's editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma said that the program was not targeting Kapoor. "He is just a symbol, proof of the existence of the casting couch in the film industry. It could have been anyone else."