YANKS, ANGELS NO MATCH FOR HOUSEWIVES

Game 4 of the Yankees-Angels American League playoff series got off to a strong start on Fox Sunday night as it posted a 9.8 rating and a 16 share in the 7:00 p.m. hour, well ahead of 60 Minutes, the usual winner of the time period, which drew only a 7.4/13. But the game lost viewers in the second hour (7.1/13) as CBS's Cold Case took over first place with a 10.3/16 and as ABC moved into second place with an 8.7/13 for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. By 9:00, the game lost even more viewers as ABC overwhelmed the competition again with a 15.7/23 for Desperate Housewives. At 10:00, Grey's Anatomy also produced big numbers for ABC -- a 12.0/19. Baseball remained in third place with a 7.6/12, behind NBC's Crossing Jordan, which drew an 8.4/13. ABC finished the night with an average 10.4/16. Fox was in second place with a 7.8/12. CBS placed third with a 7.3/11, while NBC trailed with a 6.8/10.

BOCHCO NEW COMMANDER OF COMMANDER IN CHIEF

In a surprise announcement, ABC said over the weekend that it is replacing Rod Lurie as the "show runner" of its new hit Commander in Chief with Steve Bochco, best known for creating the crime dramas NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law. Lurie, a former movie critic at Los Angeles talk-radio station KABC, will remain as executive producer. Newspaper TV writers observed that it was highly unusual for such a change to be made after a show debuts with the kind of success that CiC has achieved. Saturday's Washington Post quoted sources as saying that Lurie and the network had creative differences about future episodes. The report was denied by an ABC spokesman. Today's (Monday) Daily Variety said that the changeover was necessitated because episodes were not being delivered in a timely fashion. In a statement Lurie said, "I've been a huge fan of Steven Bochco's for over two decades. I'm blown-away excited to see how much more he will electrify Commander In Chief."

IRS COMES DOWN HARD ON RIGAS AND SON

Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John Rigas and his son, former chief financial officer Timothy Rigas -- both of whom are appealing lengthy prison sentences for pulling millions of dollars out of their cable-TV company as if it were a personal bank -- have been hit with charges of income tax evasion. According to the indictment, John Rigas failed to report $143 million in income and son Timothy failed to report $239 million. In 1999, for example, John Rigas claimed on his tax return that his income was -$44,155 but nevertheless paid taxes of $4,872. In fact, according to the IRS, Rigas actually earned $39.7 million and owed $15.7 million.

SOPRANOS ACTORS MAKE DEAL WITH TEAMSTERS

Apparently concerned about leaks of plot lines, Sopranos writer/executive producer David Chase has begun giving cast members only pages of the script in which they have lines, the New York Daily News reported today (Monday). "The cast is very upset," a source told the "Rush & Molloy" column. "They got whole scripts before, and now, David Chase no longer does that. ... It shows mistrust." The newspaper said that some members of the cast are getting copies of the script from Teamsters Union members, which requires complete copies of the script. "So as long as the stars make nice with the Teamsters," the columnists wrote, "they have no problem getting a complete copy of the lines."

OPRAH REWARD MONEY HELPS CAPTURE MOST-WANTED MAN

Two days after Harpo Productions, Oprah Winfrey's production company, began offering $100,000 for information leading to the capture of several alleged sex offenders whose pictures were posted on her show, Fargo, ND police, acting on a tip, arrested one of them. William C. Davis, who was on the FBI's Most Wanted Fugitives list, was recognized by Jean Rosenthal an Oprah viewer from suburban Moorhead, MN. Winfrey immediately dispatched a film crew to Evansville, IN to interview the mother of two boys who were allegedly molested by Davis. The interview is scheduled to air on Tuesday.

CURSE STRIKES AARDMAN

Almost as if it had been struck by a curse, Aardman Animation was engulfed in flames early today that destroyed what the company called its "entire history." The fire struck as Aardman employees were preparing to celebrate the successful opening of Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, which opened at the top of the U.S. and overseas box offices, with $16.1 million and $9.2 million respectively. Company spokesman Arthur Sheriff told the BBC: "It couldn't have come on a worse day -- we were supposed to be celebrating, but instead our history has disappeared in a couple of hours. "Everything has gone. ... Everyone is devastated." Aardman founder Nick Park put a different perspective on the loss. "Even though it's precious stuff and nostalgic -- and it's dreadful news for the company, in the light of other tragedies it's not a big deal," he said. No one was apparently in the building when the fire broke out at about 6:00 a.m. local time. However, the fire was so intense -- at times flames shot 100 feet into the air -- that firefighters were unable to enter the building and were forced to fight the blaze from the outside. A Bristol fire department official said, "All three floors inside have collapsed and the exterior walls are unstable."

FOR AARDMAN, THE NEWS WASN'T ALL BAD

The fire that destroyed Aardman Animation studios in Bristol, England today (Monday) occurred just as studio officials were tallying weekend receipts showing that the company's Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit had opened in first place at the domestic box office with $16.1 million. It took in an additional $9.2 million in 13 other countries, including $5 million at 487 previews in the U.K. on Saturday and Sunday. Released by DreamWorks Animation in the U.S. (and UIP abroad), the movie performed about as expected during a lackluster weekend at the nation's theaters, which saw the Jodie Foster thriller Flightplan land in second place with $10.8 million after holding on to the top spot for the previous two weekends. The remaining top five were all new releases, with In Her Shoes opening in third place with $10 million; Two for the Money, in fourth with $8.4 million; and The Gospel, in fifth with $8 million. The critically acclaimed Good Night, and Good Luck, about legendary TV journalist Edward R. Murrow's 1954 clash with Red-hunting Senator Joseph McCarthy earned $420,000 at 11 theaters.

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

1. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, $16.1 million; 2. Flightplan, $10.8 million; 3. In Her Shoes, $10 million; 4. Two for the Money, $8.4 million; 5. The Gospel, $8 million; 6. Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, $6.5 million; 7. Waiting ..., $5.7 million; 8. A History of Violence, $5.1 million; 9. Serenity, $4.9 million; 10. Into the Blue, $4.8 million.

NEWS CORP SHAREHOLDERS SUE MURDOCH

Twelve institutional shareholders in News Corp are suing the company, claiming that Rupert Murdoch broke a promise to them that he would not extend a "poison pill," directed at Liberty Media's John Malone, beyond 12 months without shareholder approval. Murdoch, seeking to safeguard the company against a possible takeover attempt, had extended the provision in August for another two years. The shareholder group had claimed that Murdoch had made the original promise to them in return for their agreement to support the company's relocation from Australia to the U.S.

MOVIE TICKETS TO COME WITH MAGAZINE

Beginning Dec. 16, moviegoers buying tickets at Loews Cineplex Theaters will also be handed a pocket-sized magazine titled OnMovies that will contain copy culled from the culture section of the New York Times. In a statement, Jyll Holzman, senior vice president of advertising for the newspaper, said, "This exciting new magazine will further extend The Times's content into a new environment -- movie theaters -- and effectively reach demographic audiences that are important to us." Initially, the Times plans a run of 1.25 million copies with 18 issues to be produced each year -- about once every three weeks. The newspaper did not indicate how many pages will be included in each issue but said that they will be equally divided between editorial and advertising.

NATO ENDORSES DOCUMENTARY ABOUT FILM EXHIBITION

The National Association of Theatre Owners has responded favorably to an appeal from the makers of a documentary about the history of movie exhibition tentatively titled Now Showing! America Goes to the Movies. NATO announced over the weekend that it will cooperate in the project but did not specify the nature of its cooperation. On their website, the filmmakers had implored the theater owners: "This is an important, pivotal moment for the exhibition industry and we need your help to celebrate the work of industry personnel across the country and the magic and history of the movie theater." They warned that "the universal thrill of common stories and unequaled impact of experiencing entertainment together are in danger of eroding" because of piracy, video on demand, and the narrowing of the window between the time films are released in theaters and on DVD. NATO Executive Director MaryAnn Anderson said in a statement, "Our membership recognizes this opportunity to celebrate all of the fun and excitement that makes going to the movies one of America's favorite pastimes." The film is being directed by David Strohmaier and Ross Melnick and produced by A.J. Roquevert, Andreas Fuchs and Melnick.