CBS IS THE NEW NBC

For the sixth consecutive week, CBS dominated the Nielsen ratings -- the best season start for any network since NBC accomplished the same feat in 1988. Remarkably the win came as the network went into rerun mode in anticipation of strong competition from the World Series. As things turned out, the Series lasted only four days and drew the lowest ratings for any series in history. (The deciding Game 4 wound up in fourth place; Game 3, in third.) CBS was also the most-watched network with adults 18-49. Surprisingly, a repeat of the network's No. 1 hit, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, lost only 20 percent of its regular audience. ABC on the other hand, saw its regular watchers flip to other stations while its two regular-season hits Lost and Dangerous Housewives were airing; they lost more than half their regular viewers.

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

1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 15.4/23; 2. Without a Trace, CBS, 14.2/24; 3. World Series Game 4: Chicago White Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals, Fox, 13.0/21; 4. CSI: Miami, CBS, 12.9/20; 5. NCIS, CBS, 11.7/18; 6. World Series Game 3, Fox, 11.0/21; 6. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 11.0/18; 8. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 10.8/15; 9. Survivor: Guatemala, CBS, 10.6/17; 10. Commander in Chief, ABC, 10.2/15; 10. CSI: NY, CBS, 10.2/16.0.

ABC NEWS CHIEF SAYS NEW ANCHOR WILL BE NAMED �IN WEEKS, NOT MONTHS�

ABC News President David Westin has told the New York Daily News that a permanent successor to the late Peter Jennings as anchor of ABC's World News Tonight will be announced "in weeks, not months." Speaking with Daily News columnist Lloyd Grove, Westin said that the announcement has been delayed "to show proper respect to Peter" and because the network wanted "to make sure we thought it all through from all directions." In the meantime, Charles Gibson has been doubling as temporary anchor of WNT and co-host of Good Morning America. (Elizabeth Vargas has been spelling Gibson in the anchor's chair.) "It would be a terrible mistake for anyone to read anything into the fact that we haven't made an announcement yet," said Westin. "I think the world of Charlie."

NEWS IS A WHOLE OTHER BALLGAME, SAYS CBS NEWS CHIEF

Newly appointed CBS News President Sean McManus has acknowledged that rebuilding the news division requires a different strategy and a different set of skills than the kind he has employed to expand CBS Sports. In an interview with TV Guide's Steven Battaglio, McManus said, "The difference between sports and news is that with sports you can go out and buy ratings [by acquiring the rights to broadcast games]. You can't do that in news because there is no proprietary coverage. The only thing that distinguishes you is your on-air coverage and your on-air talent. So if you do a good job in both of those, you can maintain and improve upon an already good division. It's doable. It's not easy."

LIZ SMITH BLASTS LAW & ORDER EPISODE

Syndicated gossip columnist Liz Smith has joined a chorus of critics expressing outrage over a recent episode of NBC's Law & Order: SVU which revolved around a killer of gay men who might spread a "superstrain" of AIDS. Smith, writing that no such "superstrain" exists and expressing scorn over the outcome of the drama, in which the killer receives a light sentence, commented: "This was one of the most misleading and dangerous shows I've ever seen on TV." She also remarked, "Where is GLAAD when needed? Off luring big stars to their next self-congratulatory awards show?" In fact, GLAAD, along with the Gay Men's Health Crisis, and AIDS Action Massachusetts, has sent a letter to Wolf, saying in part: "While the main plot of the episode was problematic and rooted in a false reality, the inclusion of [a police detective's] gay son does represent a step forward for L&O: SVU. His presence created some balance to the episode by featuring a gay man who is not a killer, victim or a crystal meth user, but someone who helps to solve the crime. GLAAD encourages the producers of L&O: SVU to include this character in future episodes as well as other LGBT representations that fall on the right side of the law."

RUMSFELD BACKS APPOINTED DEFENSE SPOKESMAN

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has come to the defense of Dorrance Smith, whom he has named to become his chief spokesman. Smith has run into a roadblock of Democratic opposition because of his allegations in an April 25 Wall Street Journal commentary titled "The Enemy on Our Airwaves." In it, he accused the TV networks of being "a tool of terrorist propaganda" when they air footage obtained from the Arab news network al-Jazeera. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) said that Smith's remarks were "so far over the top [as to be] unacceptable." On Tuesday Secretary Rumsfeld commented that he found Smith "to be a very intelligent, thoughtful, experienced person."

LONGTIME TONIGHT SHOW CONDUCTOR HENDERSON DEAD AT 88

Skitch Henderson, whose career as a conductor began in radio as the musical director of Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby's variety programs, then shifted to television in 1954 when he became the leader of the Tonight Show band, has died at his home in New Milford, CT at age 87. Henderson continued to conduct the Tonight Show band for twelve years through reigns of three different hosts, Steve Allen, Jack Parr, and Johnny Carson. He left the show in 1966, four years after Carson took over. Henderson founded the New York Pops orchestra in 1983.

SPACE ALIENS RESCUE PARAMOUNT

Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds, starring Tom Cruise, helped increase Paramount's revenues 54 percent in the third quarter -- which, in turn, lifted parent Viacom out of the red. Viacom said in its SEC filing Tuesday that it recorded a $708.5-million profit for the quarter, versus a $487.6 million loss in the comparable quarter a year ago. Somewhat surprisingly, results for Viacom's broadcasting arm -- primarily the CBS and UPN networks -- posted a 3 percent decline in revenue despite strong ratings and higher ad pricing. Overall results slightly beat market expectations.

MY BIG, FAT PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION?

Bob Berney, president of "mini-major" studio Picturehouse, said Tuesday that he made a bid for Robert Altman's film version of A Prairie Home Companion halfway through watching a screening of the film Thursday night and closed it on Saturday for $3.75 million. In an interview with the Minneapolis-St. Paul Pioneer Press, Berney, best known for spotting the potential of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which went on to earn more than $250 million), said that he thought the film "played really well. With real audiences, it'll be fantastic." The film is based on Garrison Keillor's public radio show, which is produced in Minneapolis. "I think fans of the show will love it," said Berney, adding that beyond that core audience there are those who want "films that are not the typical R-rated violence. ... I think there's a really big audience for this, an older audience that goes to movies if the movies are there. I think Hollywood sometimes forgets them." Berney said that he plans to hold the premiere of the move in the Twin Cities in May, followed by a limited opening during the first weekend in June.

OREGON WOMAN SUED FOR ALLEGEDLY DOWNLOADING MOVIES

Showing no gender partiality, Disney, New Line and Universal on Tuesday sued an Oregon woman, Chasity (sic) McCarthy, charging that she used peer-to-peer software to download their movies, National Treasure, Elf, and Meet the Fockers. Previous announced lawsuits by Hollywood's studios have named only men. The Associated Press reported that a second suit was filed Tuesday in Denver federal court, but no details were provided.

DISNEY TO LAUNCH PIZZA PROMOTION

Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment is planning to promote its Nov. 29 release of Disney's Sky High with ads on pizza delivery boxes at independent pizzerias nationwide, the company said. The film, which stars Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston as a retired superhero couple raising a son with no special superhero powers, was selected for the pizza promotion after Disney marketing personnel came across a Department of Agriculture study indicating that 42 percent of families with children ages 6-11 consume pizza every three days.

ANTI-WAL-MART DIRECTOR SPOTS WAL-MART CONSULTANT IN AUDIENCE

Documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald has accused a Wal-Mart consultant of attempting to use his cell phone to record parts of his latest film about the company, titled, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Today's (Wednesday) New York Times reported that Greenwald spotted the consultant, John Marino, pointing his cell phone at the screen and later ordered him to leave. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman later denied that Marino was using the cell phone to record the movie. "Why would we record it?" she said, "We bought tickets." Rick Jacobs, whose Brave New Films is distributing the film told the Times that he is considering filing piracy charges against the super-retailer.