BUS CAN'T RUN OVER HOUSEWIVES

ABC's one-two punch of Desperate Housewives followed by Grey's Anatomy once again clobbered the competition Sunday night as the latter show led at 10:00 p.m. with an 11.7 rating and a 19 share, while the former show drew the biggest audience of the night, with a 15.8/23.. CBS lead during the first two hours of primetime Sunday, picking up a 7.9/14 for 60 Minutes and a 10.2/16 for Cold Case. It also made a strong second-place showing later in the evening with the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Riding the Bus with My Sister. Overall, ABC averaged a 10.7/17 for the night, followed by CBS with a 9.5/15. NBC followed with a 6.0/10.

ASIANS DISAPPEAR ON PRIMETIME TV

A UCLA study released today (Monday) has concluded that Asian Americans are virtually invisible on primetime TV. The study, conducted for the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, found that not a single regular character in CBS's entire line-up is Asian and that those Asians who do appear on primetime programs are generally relegated to minor roles on dramas. Writers of the study particularly praised ABC's Lost, which includes a South Asian character and a Korean couple who speak Korean (with English subtitles) on screen. It further noted that Asians are generally hired to play super-intelligent individuals, thereby reinforcing stereotypes. "I think we were expecting that there would be a discrepancy between white and Asian actors, just by watching television ourselves over the years," Nancy Yuen, who headed the survey, told the Associated Press. "But we were surprised by the extent of the discrepancy. ... They're rarely on. Even if they're part of the regular cast, it's a subordinate role."

WILL MSNBC CHANGE ITS NAME?

MSNBC is about to change its name to The NBC News Channel, according to the Drudge Report, which quoted a "top source" as explaining "The new name is cleaner, less confusing." While the report by Internet gossip Drudge received considerable attention online and in print, some analysts pointed out that the name change may have little to do with making it more streamlined and everything to do with previously reported plans by Microsoft (the MS of MSNBC) to pull out of the cable news venture. A spokeswoman for NBC dismissed the name-change report as "nothing more than an Internet rumor."

VOTE FOR THE WORST! SAY ANTI-IDOL CAMPAIGNERS

In what could be regarded as television's equivalent to a computer virus, some American Idol watchers have banded together to vote for the worst performers on the show. Today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times observes that Santa Clarita, CA college student Dave Della Terza and a group of college buddies have created an online campaign, votefortheworst.com, to thwart the designs of the show's producers. "The show is less of a contest for who America picks and more of who the show's producers will influence to win," said Della Terza of Santa Clarita. "The producers and the judges tend to say, 'We like this person' ... 'This person is going to win' -- and then America just tends to vote along with them," Della Terza told the Times. "So, we were like, 'Wouldn't it be funny if ... we pick somebody else and vote for the one [who has been told by the judges], 'You're going home, you're terrible.'?" The newspaper suggested that Della Terza's efforts might have been responsible for last week's results, which saw Scott Savol, who has been sneered at by the judges, finishing among the top 3, while Constantine Maroulis, who had been favored to win, was booted off the show. A statement issued by Fox and the show's producers maintained, however, that the efforts by Della Terza and his cohorts could have had little impact on the American Idol results.

PROLIFIC SOAP OPERA WRITER DIES

Emmy-award-winning soap opera writer and producer Bill Bell died Friday from complications of Alzheimer's disease at the UCLA Medical Center. He began his career as a soap-opera writer in 1956 on The Guiding Light, then moved to As the World Turns the following year. In 1966, he became head writer of Days of Our Lives and in 1973, along with his wife, Lee Phillip Bell, created The Young and The Restless. "Every single Monday through Friday for 40 years, one, sometimes two Bill Bell episodes aired on network television. His equal will never come this way again," said Young and the Restless supervising producer Edward Scott on a statement.

HITCHHIKER RIDES HIGH; XXX FLOPS

"Don't Panic" might well have been not only the watchword of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but also cautionary advice to nervous stockholders in the Walt Disney Co., which distributed it. Despite mixed reviews, the film, based on a BBC radio series and a book that sprung from it, took in an estimated $21.7 million at the box office, making it the top film of the weekend. Other films did not fare nearly so well. Universal's The Interpreter, starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, dropped just 37 percent to take second place with $14.2 million. But the film that was expected to take top honors, Sony's XXX: State of the Union, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Ice Cube, tanked with just $13.7 million, about half what box-office analysts had predicted. The poor performance was largely responsible for pushing the total for the top 12 films to $84.8 million, down 10 percent from the previous weekend, making it the 10th weekend in a row of lower results.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, $21.7 million; 2. The Interpreter, $14.2 million; 3. XXX: State of the Union, $13.7 million; 4. The Amityville Horror, $8.1 million; 5. Sahara, $6 million; 6. A Lot Like Love, $5.2 million; 7. Kung Fu Hustle, $3.8 million; 8. Fever Pitch, $3.75 million; 9. Robots, $2.65 million; 10. Guess Who, $2.2 million.

LUCAS WORRIES SITH WILL FLOP

With the final Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith, not so far, far away, Darth Vader has landed on the cover of Time magazine, which assures fans that they will be breathing a lot easier than Vader when the movie opens on May 19. Critic Richard Corliss forecasts that there will be a "a sigh of relief that Lucas found the skill to make a grave and vigorous popular entertainment, a picture that regains and sustains the filmic Force he dreamed up." For his part, Lucas tells Time that, while he believes "it turned out as well as I could have hoped," he worries that audiences may not think so. "I have a feeling this one is going to be sort of like the last one in terms of some people like it, some people hate it. And like everyone who makes movies, I'm always convinced the next one will be a flop. So right now I'm thinking it probably won't make any money and will be considered a failure."

WHEN A FISH BIT A MOUSE

The famous falling-out between Apple and Pixar Chairman Steve Jobs and Disney Chairman Michael Eisner occurred after Eisner previewed Pixar's Finding Nemo and concluded that it would flop at the box office and thereby give Disney the upper hand in negotiations with Pixar for a contract renewal, according to a new, unauthorized biography of Jobs. In the book, iCon: Steve Jobs, the Greatest Second Act in the History of Business, writers Jeffrey S. Young and William Simon remark that "it was as if Eisner were reveling in the idea of a Pixar dud." The film, however, became the highest-grossing animated film of all time, giving Jobs, not Eisner, the upper hand in negotiations. The authors quoted box office analyst Dave Davis of Houlihan, Lokey, Howard & Zukin as saying, "The impact of Nemo is like a baseball player hitting 60 home runs in the final season of his contract." At one point, the authors claim, former presidential candidate Al Gore offered to act as a peacemaker between the two sides, but they say, "Gore's efforts only raised Eisner's hackles."

NEXT POTTER FILM GETS IMAX RELEASE

IMAX is expected to announce today (Monday) that it will produce an "IMAX Experience" version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that will open on its giant-screen theaters on Nov. 18, the same day it opens in conventional venues, according to Daily Variety. The deal with Warner Bros. marks IMAX's ninth with the studio and includes this summer's Batman Begins and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which will also be released on IMAX and conventional screens simultaneously. Warner Bros. distribution chief Dan Fellman told the trade paper: "IMAX is carving out a new distribution platform that can generate incremental revenues for event films."

OUSTING ANTIOCO COULD BE COSTLY, SAYS BLOCKBUSTER

If Carl Icahn succeeds in ousting John Antioco from the chairmanship of Blockbuster, it would cost the company $54 million in severance under a "good reason" condition of Antioco's contract, the company said in an SEC filing on Friday. Icahn fired back that no severance would be owed if the board agrees to his collateral proposal to create a seat on the board for Antioco. Meanwhile shares in the company closed at $9.90 on Friday, down $.06. They were unchanged in midmorning trading today (Monday)

DIRECTOR OF BANNED CHINESE FILM WINS TRIBECA AWARD

Chinese director Li Shaohong's Stolen Film has received the Founders Award, the highest honor at Robert De Niro's Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Accepting the award, Li, whose film has been banned in China, expressed the hope that it would now be "green-lighted so that my people in China can watch this film soon." Meanwhile, the biopic Kinsey won the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for outstanding film Saturday.

SHAWSHANK ON YOUR PHONE

The Shawshank Redemption

has become the first full-length movie to be released for new mobile phones that can accept memory cards. The movie, priced at about $32 for the mobile-phone version, went on sale in the U.K. today (Monday).