AMERICA SEES RED (SOX)

Although the Boston Red Sox's seventh-game victory over the New York Yankees in the American League championships had the makings of a rout in the early innings, viewers thronged to the Fox telecast in huge numbers throughout Wednesday night. The network averaged a 22.2 rating and a 32 share for the game, peaking in the 9:00 p.m. hour with an 18.5/26. But even in the later innings (the Sox won by a score of 10-3), ratings remained strong. Fox drew a 16.8/26 in the 10:00 hour, nearly twice what NBC pulled with Law & Order (8.7/14). Earlier in the evening, at 8:00 p.m., ABC scored strong numbers (11.9/17) for its new hit Lost, the closest any program of the night came to challenging the baseball telecast.

"THERE SHE GOES ..."

ABC execs sang "There she goes..." to the Miss America pageant Wednesday, notifying the organization that stages it that the network will no longer televise the event. Last September's pageant drew record-low ratings. Today's New York Daily News pointed out that when the pageant premiered on TV in 1954 (it began in 1921), it attracted 47 percent of the TV audience; this year, only 7 percent. In a statement on Wednesday, the pageant's acting president and CEO, Arthur McMaster, said, "We are now free to pursue other parties who have expressed interest in our organization, and we are excited at the limitless opportunities that are now available for us to grow our brand." No other broadcast network indicated that it was among the interested parties. Elwood D. Watson, an associate professor of history at East Tennessee State University and co-author of There She Is, Miss America: The Politics of Sex, Beauty, and Race in America's Most Famous Pageant, told today's (Thursday) New York Times: "If it ends, what would be missing in American life is a major cultural institution, like the Academy Awards."

ELECTION ON ICE

The Rockefeller Center ice rink will be covered by a jigsaw puzzle map of the U.S. on election night as part of NBC's news coverage of the voting. When a state is carried by Bush or Kerry, a map of the state, colored red or blue, will be carried onto the ice and positioned on the map. At the same time the General Electric building (the onetime RCA building) which houses NBC's headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, will be lit with red and blue lights forming a graph of the number of electoral votes each candidate has captured. Reporting on the network's plans, the Associated Press commented on Wednesday that they were "the most elaborate" for any network and predicted that NBC will attract the biggest election night audience. It pointed out that the network will also benefit from "the emotional edge of a last hurrah" for Tom Brokaw, who is stepping down as NBC Nightly News anchor in December. Although he has agreed to return for some special events and front a number of documentaries for the network, Brokaw, in an interview with today's (Thursday) New York Daily News, remarked, "When the next election comes around, I'm going to be somewhere sitting with my feet up."

SCANDAL BOOSTS O'REILLY'S RATINGS

Andrea Mackris's sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly and his countersuit have certainly not cut his ratings. Quite the contrary, it would seem. According to today's (Thursday) New York Post, since the lawsuits were disclosed, O'Reilly's ratings have skyrocketed 34 percent over the previous quarter to an average 3.2 million. "Viewers apparently are tuning in to see if the cable news commentator will address his troubles," the Post commented.

HDTV -- ON YOUR PHONE?

Texas Instruments is expected to announce today (Thursday) that it is developing a new generation of cell phones that will be capable of downloading and showing high-definition TV broadcasts, the New York Times reported today. The sets are expected to hit the market in 2007 but will begin trial testing by 2006.

ANALYSTS PERPLEXED OVER AMAZON'S TV DVD PRICING

With little promotion, Amazon.com has begun selling boxed sets of several TV DVDs at a fraction of the regular list prices. According to Video Store magazine, sets that are ordinarily priced at $39.98 to $59.88 at other retailers are selling at $14.99 on Amazon. They include: The Simpsons: The Complete First Season, 24: Season One, Roswell: The Complete First Season, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete First Season, Angel: Season One, King of the Hill: The Complete First Season and Futurama: Vol. 1. In addition, the online retailer is offering $15 pricing on a number of upcoming releases. Fox declined comment on the pricing.

"WEST WING" FLYING IN A NEW DIRECTION?

The West Wing is likely to focus this season on the transition of power from the current Josiah Bartlet administration to a new one, headed either by characters played by Jimmy Smits or Alan Alda. But critics of the new season are focusing on the transition of power from the show's original creator, Alan Sorkin, to its current producer, John Wells. In their reviews of Wednesday night's season opener, most of them note that since Sorkin left the show, the program has become lead-footed, a condition that has cost it a third of its audience. Writing in the Kansas City Star on Wednesday, TV writer Aaron Barnhart asked, "When did this show stop being fun? When did the snappy patter get shouted down by Deadly Serious People? I thought NBC was supposed to be an escape from MSNBC, not an extension of it." Alessandra Stanley wrote in the New York Times: "Mostly, what's missing is the dry wit. ... Everything is a crisis, and all the president's men and women holler with urgent intensity. It's a little like E.R. on the Potomac -- and sometimes a lot." However, in an interview with Mike Duffy, the TV critic of the Detroit Free Press, Wells himself (he also produces E.R.) acknowledged that the show had lost its sense of humor and that one of his goals now is to "try to recommit ourselves to making sure the show is more enjoyable and has some of the buoyancy it had before 9/11." On Wednesday, a repeat of last season's West Wing finale placed fourth (5.6/8) in the ratings at 8:00 p.m. but the season premiere ranked second (behind baseball) at 9:00 p.m. (10.2/14).

DISNEY ON TRIAL

Duke University law professor Deborah DeMott delivered a stern lecture to the Walt Disney Co.'s board of directors Wednesday for failing to oversee the hiring of Michael Ovitz as president in 1995 and his firing 14 months later. Called by Disney shareholder plaintiffs as their first expert witness, DeMott said that the board had failed to examine Ovitz's employment contract before it was handed to him, a probable breach of "good corporate governance" (as she phrased it) and a violation of its own bylaws. She also pointed out that at the time the mean value of payout packages was $4.2 million and that the largest CEO payout from 1996 to 2002 was $36 million. Ovitz received $140 million. The decision to pay him such a huge fee, she indicated, was simply rubber-stamped by the board. "I saw nothing in the record to indicate that the decision was precipitated by a meeting of the corporation's board of directors," she testified. Disney's lawyers slammed DeMott's expertise, drawing from her a concession that she had never served on a corporate board. But chancery court judge William Chandler III refused to grant their demand that she be disqualified as an expert witness.

DISNEY STORES DROPPED INTO THE LAP OF THE CHILDREN'S PLACE

Disney has agreed to sell its money-losing chain of 313 Disney Stores located in shopping malls to The Children's Place, it announced Wednesday. The stores will continue to stock merchandise principally based on Disney's animated movie characters and will retain the Disney name. No upfront payment is being made to Disney and in fact the deal calls for no royalty payments to begin until two years after the sale closes, allowing it the wherewithal to remodel the stores. The Children's Place has indicated that it plans to spend $100 million on the remodeling. Disney will retain the stores located at its theme parks as well as its Fifth Avenue store in New York City. It said it is continuing to seek a buyer for its stores in Europe.

YOUR NAME ON A DISNEY TOMBSTONE FOR $37,400

Like Florida's spate of hurricanes, yet another controversy has hit the Walt Disney Co., this time over its decision to auction off "an honorary tombstone" in its Haunted Mansion theme-park attraction. With less than 7 hours remaining in the bidding on eBay this morning (Thursday), the highest bid stood at $37,400, a record for a piece of Disneyland memorabilia. (Actually the tombstone, bearing the name of the winning bidder, will remain in the Disneyland attraction.) But Jeff Baham, webmaster of Mansion fansite DoomBuggies.com told today's Ottawa Citizen: "I spoke with an ex-Imagineer ... about the auction and he was livid about it. ... He was very close to Marc Davis, one of the Imagineers who created most of the gags in the graveyard scene, and altering it hit a little too close to home." Writing on the Motley Fool website, contributor Rick Munarriz commented: "Trust me, I would be shocked if within the next few years Disney didn't auction off a speaking role in its Haunted Mansion attraction, an audioanimatronic likeness in Pirates of the Caribbean, or monorail naming rights."

MOVIE SHIP PURCHASED BY SAN DIEGO MARITIME MUSEUM

The San Diego Maritime Museum has purchased the HMS Surprise, the ship used in last year's Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, the San Diego Union reported today (Thursday)The ship had been on loan to the museum for one year and had boosted attendance more than 50 percent, according to Ray Ashley, the museum's executive director. "People like this ship, and it's not just because of the movie," Ashley told the newspaper. "An 18th-century warship seems to have a particular allure." Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the Union said that its previous owner, 20th Century Fox, would also allow the museum to display weapons, costumes and props from the film. The museum has also agreed to make the ship available to Fox for future productions.

33 YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH, HAROLD LLOYD RETURNS TO THE SCREEN

Sony Pictures Releasing is planning to release many of the classic silent films of legendary comedian Harold Lloyd, it said Wednesday. The company announced that it had acquired rights to all of Lloyd's shorts and features -- some 200 in all -- and would release them, restored and uncut, beginning next year.