HOUSEWIVES RETURNS WITH A BANG
While an overrun of CBS's NCAA basketball tournament coverage helped lift the network's Sunday-night ratings, they were no match for ABC's lineup, which included Desperate Housewives and the premiere of Grey's Anatomy. The return of Housewives, the season's biggest new hit, to the ABC lineup registered a 14.4 rating and a 22 share in the 9:00 hour, drawing about twice the audience recorded for the first hour of the CBS movie Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas (7.7/12). NBC placed third in the hour with a 6.6/10 for Law & Order: Criminal Intent. At 10:00, Grey's Anatomy led with a 10.0/17, beating NBC's Crossing Jordan (7.1/12) and the CBS movie (6.8/12).

THE OFFICE DOES BIG BUSINESS

NBC's U.S. version of the British comedy hit The Office got off to an auspicious debut Thursday. Facing only so-so competition from CBS's coverage of NCAA basketball, The Office scored a 7.5 rating and a 12 share, beating the numbers for Joey (6.0/10) and The Apprentice (7.2/11), which preceded it, and helping NBC win the night. (Once again E.R. was the network's highest-rated show of the night with a 10.0/17 in the 10:00 p.m. hour.) Fox's special edition of American Idol, necessitated by a voting snafu earlier in the week, was the top-rated show of the night, scoring a 12.1/19, the highest rating the network has scored in the 9:00 p.m. period in seven years. CBS's basketball coverage averaged a 6.9/12. On Friday and Saturday, basketball ratings climbed, putting CBS ahead on both nights -- on Friday with an average 8.1/14 and on Saturday with a 7.3/13.

CBS NEWSCAST SHOWING SURPRISING STRENGTH UNDER SHIEFFER

The CBS Evening News is down 1 percent in the ratings since anchor Bob Schieffer took over on March 10, something that analysts regard as a significant achievement, particularly inasmuch as ratings for NBC Nightly News are down 6 percent and those for ABC's World News Tonight are down 5 percent. Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz observed today (Monday) that Schieffer has introduced a more relaxed atmosphere into the newscast and has not shied away from commenting on some stories and encouraging correspondents to do the same on others. "It's just kind of my way," Schieffer told Kurtz. "We're trying to deliver the news in the way people talk."

E! DRAWING AVID AUDIENCES FOR JACKSON TRIAL RECREATION

E! Entertainment Channel's recreations of the Michael Jackson trial have continued to pick up viewers, the channel said Friday. The nightly telecasts, in which actors re-enact the proceedings that took place earlier in the day in Santa Maria, CA have reached 9.9 million viewers since their Feb. 28 debut, the channel said, and now average 412,000 viewers a night. The show is also being syndicated to TV networks in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark.

FORMER BBC CHIEF MAY HEAD ENDEMOL

Greg Dyke, who was forced to resign as director-general of the BBC following the release of an independent panel's findings about a BBC report about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, may wind up as head of Endemol, the TV production company best known for creating Big Brother and Fear Factor, according to British reports.

SEVENTEEN AND MTV TEAMING ON REALITY SERIES

Seventeen magazine and MTV are teaming up to produce a 10-part reality series, Project Seventeen, that will air on the cable channel next fall, the New York Times reported today (Monday). The series will track the competition to become "America's Sweetheart" -- a contest in which physical beauty apparently will be played down. Atoosa Rubenstein, Seventeen's editor in chief and the show's exec producer, said it will look for "the good girl, the one with good grades who is logging in the hours studying, who is well rounded and has integrity ... the one who does all the community service."

BEVERLY HILLBILLIES CREATOR HENNING DIES AT 93

Paul Henning, who produced some of the biggest TV comedy hits of the 1960s, including The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres, died Friday in Burbank at the age of 93. Hillbillies ranked No. 1 in its first two seasons and lasted nine years. Henning, who started out in 1938 as a comedy writer in radio, turning out scripts for Fibber McGee and Molly and Burns and Allen, among others, wrote most of the scripts for his TV series. He also co-wrote one of Marlon Brando's few comedy features, 1964's Bedtime Story.

GUESS WHO WON THE BOX-OFFICE RACE
The Easter weekend, rarely a big box-office holiday, was no exception this weekend, as the top film, the debuting Guess Who, earned just $21 million, and the No. 2 film, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, opened with $14.5 million ($17.6 million including Thursday's receipts), according to studio estimates. Last year, Mel Gibson' The Passion of the Christ led the box office with $15.2 million in its seventh week. In limited release, Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda expanded into 95 theaters and took in $790,000. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Guess Who, $21 million; 2. Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, $14.5 million; 3. The Ring 2, $13.8 million; 4. Robots, $13 million; 5. The Pacifier, $8.5 million; 6. Hitch, $4.3 million; 7. Hostage, $4.1 million; 8. Ice Princess, $3.7 million; 9. Be Cool, $2.85 million; 10. Million Dollar Baby, $2.6 million.

IGER MAKES FIRST MAJOR MOVE AT DISNEY

Newly named Disney CEO Robert Iger, countering recent concerns that he may be "too nice" for the company's good and too closely linked to Michael Eisner, has removed Peter Murphy as chief strategic officer of the company. Murphy, who was responsible for appraising new projects for the company, had reportedly primarily acted as Michael Eisner's lieutenant in charge of shooting down proposed undertakings that Eisner disfavored and championing those that his boss endorsed but that others at the company opposed. "This is a welcome change and long needed," USC business professor Warren Bennis told Saturday's Los Angeles Times. "Too many decisions are made by Eisner and the strategic planning department, and it's why to a great extent Disney has lost a lot of talent over the years." For his part, Murphy told the newspaper, "I did the job I was asked to do by Michael, Bob [Iger] and the board. ... It was not a popularity contest."

DELINE SEEKING BIG PAY-OFF AT PARAMOUNT

Angered by the manner in which he was summarily replaced after only 14 months, Paramount President Donald DeLine is reportedly demanding a multimillion-dollar termination settlement, published reports said over the weekend. According to the Los Angeles Times, DeLine learned that his job had been offered to former Fox Entertainment chief Gail Berman from studio associates, not from newly appointed studio chief Brad Grey. The Times also quoted an unnamed studio veteran as saying that "a culture of fear" had developed at Paramount over the possibility of a substantial purge.

BRAD GREY GOES ON BIDDING WAR FOR PARAMOUNT PRODUCT

Given apparently unlimited resources, newly appointed Paramount chief Brad Grey has been aggressively bidding against rivals for high-profile movie projects, successfully landing some for Paramount, but also forcing other studios to pay twice what they had expected for others, the New York Times reported today (Monday). In an interview with the newspaper, media analyst Hal Vogel remarked: "It's open checkbook season where anything goes and executives are saying, 'Let's get on the map. ... It's even more symptomatic of Paramount, where for 10 years the mantra was 'Don't take any risk.' Brad Grey is reflecting that and taking advantage of his position."

BLOCKBUSTER PULLS OUT OF BIDDING FOR HOLLYWOOD ENTERTAINMENT

Surprising several analysts, Blockbuster abruptly withdrew its unfriendly takeover attempt of Hollywood Entertainment Corp., operators of the nation's No. 2 video rental chain, Hollywood Video, saying that it believed the Federal Trade Commission would block it. The move puts the country's No. 3 chain, Movie Gallery, in position to buy Hollywood for $13.25 a share. Blockbuster had valued its bid at $14.50.

HONG KONG FILM AWARDS NAMES WINNERS

At ceremonies that featured many of Asia's top screen performers, the 24th Hong Kong Film Awards honored Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle as the best film of 2004, while the two stars of 2046, Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi, won the acting awards. Derek Yee won for best director for his One Nite in Mongkok. In a night that commemorated 100 years of Chinese cinema, the late Bruce Lee was named "Chinese Film's Bright Star of the Century." The award was accepted by Lee's daughter, Shannon Lee Keasler.

PAKISTANI MOVIE STAR RECEIVES DEATH THREATS AFTER KISSING INDIAN

Pakistani actress Meera has told the New York Times that she has received death threats after newspapers in her country revealed that she had kissed an Indian actor, Asmit Patel, a Hindu, in the forthcoming Indian-produced film Nazar. The Times reported that the kissing scene has generated outrage in Pakistan, where conservative Muslims have denounced it as immoral and are seeking a court order to prevent the movie from being shown. In an interview with the newspaper, Meera, who was visiting India at the invitation of the film's producer, Mahesh Bhatt, said that she will not return to her home in Lahore, Pakistan unless the country's president, Pervez Musharraf, guarantees her safety. "I need protection," she said. "I am scared to go to Lahore."