ABC MISSES HOUSEWIVES

Usher and OutKast may have been big winners Sunday at the American Music Awards, with each taking three awards, but the awards themselves turned out to be losers for ABC, which preempted its big hit Desperate Housewives to carry them. The three-hour special averaged an 8.7 rating and a 12 share between 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. That translated to a third-place finish for the night, down from first-place a week ago. Nevertheless, the awards show led among 18-49 year olds, advertisers' most sought-after demographic group. The top-rated show of the night turned out to be the first part of the CBS miniseries Category 6: Day of Destruction, which drew nearly 20 million viewers and recorded a 12.9/15.

BANNING PRIVATE RYAN

Conservative religious and family groups said Friday that they plan to file complaints with the FCC charging that ABC violated the agency's indecency regulations when it aired Saving Private Ryan Thursday night. Fearing such action and the possibility that they might be fined, some 66 ABC affiliates refused to carry the broadcast, which nevertheless produced the largest Thursday-night audience that the network has been able to attract this season. Among the groups complaining about the Ryan screening was the Rev. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, which cited the film's "excessively profane language." It added, "ABC crossed the line by airing at least 20 'f' words and 12 's' words during primetime viewing hours!" The FCC acknowledged over the weekend that it had received numerous complaints about the telecast.

QUARTERBACK THROWN FOR A LOSS AFTER USING "F" WORD

Only weeks after instituting a five-second delay on NASCAR coverage after driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. uttered a forbidden expletive during an interview, NBC may have to do the same with other sports telecasts following college quarterback Tyler Palko's use of the "f" word during a postgame interview on Saturday. Palko, a quarterback for the University of Pittsburgh's Panthers, who threw for five touchdowns to beat Notre Dame's Irish, later issued an apology. So, too, did NBC play-by-play announcer Tom Hammond, who remarked that it was "too bad" that Palko's "brilliant game ... was marred by that moment." ABC has already begun using a delay for its Monday Night Football telecasts.

NEWS PRODUCER WHO BROKE INTO CSI FIRED BY CBS

CBS has fired the "overly aggressive" news producer who broke into last Wednesday's CSI: N.Y. for a report on the death of Yasser Arafat, published reports said on Friday. The staffer was not identified, although she is believed to have been a senior producer for the network's overnight Up to the Minute, anchored by Melissa McDermott, who read the Arafat bulletin. CBS declined to confirm reports of the firing, citing a policy not to discuss personnel issues. On Thursday, the network issued an apology to viewers who missed the end of the drama and reran it in place of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on Thursday, where it drew the night's -- and perhaps the week's -- top ratings. Broadcasting & Cable magazine quoted an unnamed executive at a rival network as saying, "I think people here were scratching their heads over the decision to break in, and then scratching it even harder over the apology for breaking in."

CAST REUNION FOR SEINFELD SET FOR OPRAH

The entire cast of Seinfeld

will reunite on Oprah this week or next as part of a marketing campaign for the DVD release of Seinfeld: The First Three Seasons, Video Store magazine reported on Friday. The trade publication said that the reunion show will air around the Nov. 23 release date of the home video, which will also be promoted on Access Hollywood, Jeopardy, The Today Show, The Late Show, The Tonight Show, Regis & Kelly and The View. A Seinfeld special is also due to air in primetime on NBC on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25.

TV AND WEB ADS EQUALLY EFFECTIVE, SAYS STUDY

A study conducted for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has concluded that video ads on the Internet are equally as effective as TV ads. The study, conducted by Millward Brown and involving U.S. consumers, determined that TV and online video advertising were each able to convey "a distinctive and memorable message and influence viewers." In a statement, Kaki Hinton, vice president of advertising services for Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, said that the study "was the catalyst for us to enter the broadband arena as an innovative, new way to connect with consumers."

INCREDIBLES DERAILS POLAR EXPRESS

Disney-Pixar's The Incredibles performedin its second week just as incredibly well as it did in its first, earning $51 million -- far above analysts' $40-45-million prediction and down just 28 percent from its opening weekend. The debut of Warner Bros.' Polar Express didn't meet analysts' expectations either -- but for the opposite reason. Expected to gross $32-37 million, it wound up with just $23.5 million. Three other new films, After the Sunset, starring Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek; Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, starring Renée Zellweger; and Seed of Chucky, starring Brad Dourif, performed as expected, taking in $11.6 million, $8.9 million and $8.8 million respectively. The Incredibles has now counted $144.1 million in ticket sales. In limited release (New York and Los Angeles), the two biopics Kinsey and Finding Neverland, both being touted heavily for Oscar consideration, performed well. Kinsey, about the controversial sex researcher, tallied $175,026 in five theaters or $35,005 per theater, while Neverland, about Peter Pan writer J.M. Barry, rang up $240,956 in eight theaters, or $30,120 per theater. After running behind last year's box-office grosses for weeks, last weekend's $146-million total appeared to be 10 percent above the comparable weekend's in 2003.

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

1. The Incredibles, $51 million; 2. The Polar Express, $23.5 million; 3. After the Sunset, $11.5 million; 4. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, $8.9 million; 5. Seed of Chucky, $8.8 million; 6. Ray, $8.4 million; 7. The Grudge, $7.1 million; 8. Saw, $6.4 million; 9. Shall We Dance? $4.1 million; 10. Alfie, $2.8 million.

TICKET SALES AT BIG-SCREEN IMAX ARE, WELL, BIG

Although ticket sales for Polar Express may have disappointed Warner Bros. executives, the industry itself may have marveled at how well the movie performed at IMAX theaters, where it was shown in 3-D. The 59 IMAX theaters accounted for 10 percent of the film's total receipts. On Saturday, the film drew the biggest audience in the history of the big-screen theaters. The Hollywood Reporter reported that some IMAX theaters are already sold out for morning and afternoon shows through mid-January because of group sales. (Ordinarily, business for Christmas-oriented movies drop precipitously following the holiday.)

CHARITY PROMOTER ADMITS HE PAID PAYOLA TO CELEBRITIES

Former charity-event promoter Aaron Tonken has admitted that he doled out millions of dollars in payola to A-list celebrities and politicians in order to entice them to appear at fund-raisers. During an interview on Friday night's ABC magazine show 20/20, Tonken maintained that celebrities rarely appear at such events without recompense. "Absolutely not," he said in an interview taped before he began serving a five-year sentence for fraud. "They want to be paid." He added: ""My bill at Cartier was a million dollars," he said. "I was handing out Hawaii trips like someone would hand out their business cards, to these celebrities and their hangers-on." Among those who received large direct or indirect payoffs from Token, ABC reported, were Arnold Schwarzenegger, Suzanne Sommers, Cher, Sylvester Stallone, Lance Bass, Paul Anka, and former President Gerald Ford.

REPORT: WEINSTEINS TO QUIT MIRAMAX THIS WEEK

Disney is expected to announce this week that Harvey and Bob Weinstein will step down as co-chairmen of Miramax, the company that they founded 25 years ago, the London Sunday Observer reported, citing no sources. The newspaper said that former 20th Century Fox chief Bill Mechanic is the leading contender to succeed them. The Observer indicated that the Weinsteins are prepared to leave the firm immediately if an amicable severance package can be agreed upon.

WILL REMAKE OF THE TINGLER STILL TINGLE?

Producer Neal Moritz (The Fast and the Furious) is planning a remake of the 1959 William Castle-directed horror film The Tingler for Columbia Pictures, the Hollywood Reporter reported today (Monday). The original film, starring Vincent Price, was a spine tingler in a very literal sense, as Castle introduced a gimmick he called "Percepto" in which selected theater seats were rigged with a vibrator. Whenever a scream occurred on the soundtrack, the projectionist would set off the vibrators, producing additional screaming in the audience. Castle assembled a crew that traveled the country to rig up the theater seats. There was no word whether Moritz intends to do the same.