DECISIONS, DECISIONS

Despite prudent efforts by the major television networks to avoid a repeat of the embarrassment they suffered in 2000 (when NBC anchor Tom Brokaw remarked that he not only had egg on his face but an omelet on his suit), some TV outlets early today (Wednesday) were calling the election for George W. Bush even as others were insisting that "provisional" and absentee ballots could alter the apparent outcome. NBC, MSNBC, and Fox pronounced Bush the victor. (Fox called Ohio for Bush even before the polls closed in that state.) CBS, ABC, and CNN maintained that not enough information about the uncounted ballots in Ohio was known to make such a call (although CNN analyst Jeff Greenfield remarked, "If we hadn't gone through what we went through in 2000, I suspect we would be calling this for Bush."). In addition, results in New Mexico, Wisconsin and Iowa remained unclear. The networks were also certain to face criticism for reporting early results of exit polls showing 3- or 4-point Kerry leads in some battleground states, particularly in Florida, that later seemed to be at odds with the actual vote count.

FOX CAUGHT OFF BASE

The Boston Red Sox's sweep of the World Series in four games kept Fox from repeating its ratings domination for a second week in a row. Nevertheless, the two final games of the series, which placed first and third respectively in the ratings, were enough to give Fox a solid second-place finish for the week. CBS, however, gave every indication that it would continue to behave as a juggernaut as it trampled the competition with regular programming, particularly on Thursday night, a night that at one time was owned lock, stock, and barrel by NBC. In the overall household ratings, CBS recorded an average 8.8 rating and a 14 share. Fox followed with a 7.3/12. ABC, showing growing strength from its new series Desperate Housewives and Lost, placed third with a 6.4/10, edging out NBC, which placed fourth with a 6.2/10.

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

1. Major League Baseball World Series Game 4, Fox, 18.2/28; 2. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 18.1/27; 3. MLB World Series Game 3, Fox, 15.7/24; 4. CSI: Miami, CBS, 14.3/22; 5. Without a Trace, CBS, 14.1/23; 6. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 13.3/20; 7. 60 Minutes, CBS, 12.6/20; 8. Survivor: Vanuatu, CBS, 11.7/19; 9. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 11.2/16; 10. NFL Monday Night Football, ABC, 11.0/18.

SNAKE EYES FOR DR. VEGAS

CBS has decided to sweep the Rob Lowe series Dr. Vegas out of its primetime lineup during the November sweeps. The Friday-night show will be replaced this week with a repeat of Without a Trace, while the CSI franchise is due to take over the spot for the rest of the month. In its announcement, the network made no mention of any intention to return Dr. Vegas to its schedule following the current sweeps period.

BRITAIN MAY ENACT CROSS-MEDIA RATINGS

The British TV watchdog OFCOM is reportedly planning to bring together broadcasters, the British Board of Film Classification, Internet service providers and mobile phone operators to create a joint ratings system, the London Times reported today (Wednesday), citing no sources. The newspaper said that the system was likely to place age restrictions and content warnings on all TV programs offered on broadcast, cable and satellite TV and on the Internet.

REUTERS SAYS U.S. KILLED ANOTHER ONE OF ITS JOURNALISTS

The Reuter News Agency has again registered a strong protest with U.S. military authorities in Iraq after another one of its cameramen was killed by U.S. fighters. A statement released by army officials said, "Marines from the 1st Marine Division of the 1 Marine Expeditionary Force engaged several insurgents in a brief small arms firefight that killed an individual who was carrying a video camera." But Reuters global managing editor David Schlesinger responded: "We reject the clear implication in the Marines' statement that [cameraman Dhia Najim] was part of an insurgent group." Sixty-two journalists have been killed in Iraq since the start of the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

EX-DIRECTOR: OVITZ CAME TO DISNEY VIA BACK DOOR

Two Disney directors who together owned a third of the company secretly approved Michael Eisner's decision to sidestep executive headhunters and instead directly hire CAA founder Michael Ovitz, Eisner's longtime friend, as Disney president in 1995, former Disney director Irwin Russell testified at his appearance in Delaware chancery court Tuesday. According to Russell, the two directors, Sid Bass and Roy Disney, agreed with Eisner that Disney execs Jeffrey Katzenberg and Sanford M. Litvack were unqualified to succeed Eisner, who had just undergone heart bypass surgery, and Frank Wells, who had recently been killed in a helicopter crash, but that Ovitz was up to the task.

DISNEY, PIXAR REV UP CARS

Disney and Pixar are planning to begin building buzz for Cars, a computer-animated race-car feature directed by Pixar co-founder John Lassiter, beginning this week when the two partners roll out a trailer for the movie attached to The Incredibles. The film is scheduled for release one year from now and will likely be Pixar's final collaboration with Disney. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) USA Today, Lasseter said that the film will display a greater sophistication in computer animation than any previous film. "The level of detail, the patina on the road, the peeling paint, the dirt -- everything looks so real," he said.

DICAPRIO SAYS TITANIC SUNK HIM

Leonardo DiCaprio says he now regrets accepting the role in Titanic that brought him fame and notoriety. In an interview that will appear in the December issue of Vanity Fair, DiCaprio says that he wishes that he had instead accepted the role of a porn star in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights that eventually went to Mark Wahlberg. He said that the public attention that accompanied his success wrecked his ability to land offbeat roles. "It's a really obvious thing to say, but the more people know too much about who you really are, and it's a fundamental thing, the more the mystery is taken away from the artist, and the harder it is for people to believe that person in a particular role," DiCaprio remarks in the magazine interview.

MURDERED FILM DIRECTOR HAD SCOFFED AT THREATS

Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was allegedly murdered by a man dressed in Arab garb while bicycling down a street in Amsterdam Tuesday, had recently dismissed threats against his life that he had received after making a short film critical of Muslim treatment of women. In a radio interview, van Gogh, a distant relative of the 19th century artist, said that the film, titled Submission, was "the best protection I could have. It's not something I worry about." His alleged assailant, a 26-year-old man with both Dutch and Moroccan passports, was arrested following a shoot-out with police in which he, along with another police officer and a bystander, were wounded. He reportedly left a note on van Gogh's body, the contents of which were not disclosed, although some reports said it contained verses from the Koran.

FILM RENTAL PRICE WAR HEATS UP

The price war between online movie renters grew more contentious Tuesday as Los Gatos-based Netflix reduced its subscription price to $17.99 per month. The move came following Blockbuster's decision a week earlier to reduce its price to $17.49 per month. Wal-Mart offers an even cheaper service that allows just two movies to be out at a time for $15.54. Amazon is also expected to announce its own movie-rental service within the next few weeks.

TIME WARNER'S PROFITS DROP

Time Warner said today (Wednesday) that its third-quarter profit fell 8 percent to $499 million from $541 million during the comparable quarter a year ago. The company said that it was setting aside $500 million to pay legal costs for an upcoming government probe of its accounting practices.