JOEY CAN'T SURVIVE SURVIVOR

The second week of Joey took second place to the season debut of CBS's Survivor Thursday night. The reality series averaged an 11.5 rating and a 19 share in the 8:00 p.m. hour as supersized episodes of Joey and Will & Grace averaged only a 10.0/16. The news was not propitious for NBC at 9:00, either, as a rerun of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation scored a 13.9/22, well ahead of the conclusion of Will & Grace and a new episode of NBC's The Apprentice, which posted a 10.2/18. At 10:00, however, the conclusion of The Apprentice moved ahead, drawing a 10.9/18, narrowly beating CBS's Without a Trace, which pulled a 10.6/18. The season debut of a revamped Primetime Live averaged a 3.9/7 for ABC.

SIEGFRIED AND ROY: ON TOP AGAIN

Siegfried & Roy's interview with Maria Shriver on NBC Wednesday night produced a roar in the ratings as it posted a 9.8 rating and a 17 share -- NBC's best numbers in the 9:00 p.m. time period since October of last year. The figure was all the more sensational since television ratings in general are not quite up to snuff at this time of year, during the transition from summer reruns. The interview not only was the highest-rated show of the night, but it also bested CBS's 60 Minutes II, which aired a follow-up report about President Bush's National Guard service in the early '70s (see below) that had been highly touted in print and TV news reports earlier in the day. The interview also topped ratings for all season or series debuts so far this fall on any network, with the exception of last week's Friends spinoff, Joey -- also on NBC.

GAY CHARACTERS DEPART PRIMETIME NETWORK TV

The once growing population of gays on primetime network TV has retreated to cable, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) indicated Thursday. According to the group, the number of gay characters on scripted primetime shows in 2003-2004 dropped to its lowest level since 1996, when the group began keeping count -- five gay male characters and one lesbian character. Only one character was added this season, it said. On the other hand, network reality shows and cable dramas have increased the number of gays. "When you turn to cable and reality TV, you see us -- our lives, our relationships, our diversity," GLAAD Executive Director Joan M. Garry said in a statement. "But when you turn to network comedies and dramas, you're seeing portraits of an America where gay people and families are nearly invisible. That's not the America we live in."

WHITE HOUSE SLAMS RATHER

The White House on Thursday hit back at Dan Rather's exhortation to fellow reporters to question President Bush more closely on whether he fulfilled his National Guard obligations in the early 1970s. White House spokesman Scott McClellan commented: "I think it's always best for journalists to stick to reporting the facts and not trying to dispense campaign advice." Meanwhile, criticism continued to swell over Rather's 60 Minutes report, which presented documents, later claimed to be fake, alleging that the president shirked his National Guard obligations. Bill Kovach, chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, told today's (Friday) New York Times that Rather and CBS News execs "have not convinced me they properly nailed it." The Times also quoted an unnamed CBS correspondent as saying, ""I can't understand why '60 Minutes' Wednesday didn't exercise more caution in checking the story out, and why they don't seem to have been the least bit skeptical of the documents." And Former NBC News President Richard Wald, now a consultant to ABC News, told the Associated Press: "There are two parts to this problem - the truth and the perception. They have to deal with both." The perception has apparently irked the staff of the older Sunday edition of 60 Minutes. New York Post reported Adam Buckman wrote in his column today that some of them have implied that they would have more thorough in checking out the documents than their colleagues on the Wednesday edition.

CBS TO AIR RAY CHARLES TRIBUTE

CBS, which rarely airs musical/variety programs these days except for awards shows, is teaming up with Ken Ehrlich, producer of the Grammys since 1980, for a one-hour tribute to Ray Charles, Daily Variety reported today (Friday). The special, which will include performances by Norah Jones, Usher, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder, among others, will be staged at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Oct. 8. Although an airdate has yet to be set, it will likely air before the opening of Taylor Hackford's biopic of Charles, Ray, starring Jamie Foxx, on Oct. 29. Foxx has been set as the host of the special. Hackford (The Idolmaker, An Officer and a Gentlemen), who cut his teeth as a director on a weekly musical show on public TV in Los Angeles in the 1970s, will also be "involved" in the production of the Charles special, Ehrlich told Variety.

L.A. BUSINESSMAN SAYS APPRENTICE IDEA WAS HIS

Los Angeles businessman Mark Bethea has sued Mark Burnett Productions, producers of The Apprentice, claiming that the company stole his idea for the Donald Trump show from him after he pitched it to them more than three years ago. According to today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times, Bethea, who registered his idea with the Writers Guild of America in 2000, had originally titled the show C.E.O. and suggested that Trump star in it.

AN "IDOL" SHOW FOR PRIESTS

Britain's Channel 4 will be borrowing a bit from the Idol talent contests, the makeover TV shows, and the assorted televangelist telecasts to produce Priest Idol, due to air next year, the British trade publication Brand Republic indicated on its website today (Friday). The show will reportedly follow a new vicar's effort to turn a parish church that currently has only nine elderly members into a thriving congregation. Channel 4 had previously announced that it is also planning to broadcast another hybrid reality series titled Cook Idol, a national talent search for the top amateur chef.

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is carrying a lot of mostly happy critics aboard its maiden flight. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Time appears to be the happiest of them all. Awarding the movie a four-star rating, Ebert writes: "In its heedless energy and joy, it reminded me of how I felt the first time I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's like a film that escaped from the imagination directly onto the screen, without having to pass through reality along the way." Nearly all of the critics praise the look of the film. (It was shot almost entirely in front of a blue screen, with backgrounds added in post production, something Stephen Holden in the New York Times describes as "a landmark in computer-generated imagery.) Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News remarks: "It's like nothing you've seen before because nothing quite like it has been attempted before." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post finds the plot second rate. "But that hardly matters," he writes. "Sky Captain is a collection of such dazzling digital illusions you can't wait for it to hit DVD so you can freeze individual images." But ABC's Joel Siegel counters: "It's technically a watershed, but movies are about story-telling and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow doesn't tell one." Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal likewise maintains that beautiful images do not a movie make. "The best way to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow -- if you see it at all -- is as an interesting experiment that failed," he writes. Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post calls it a "$70-million novelty item." And Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mail comments that the imaginative images simply aren't enough to sustain an unimaginative script, and so "what begins as childlike and filled with wonder ends as childish and fraught with tedium."

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: WIMBLEDON

Reading the reviews of Wimbledon is like watching a polite tennis match, with each side lobbing easy shots to the other. Stephen Holden in the New York Times calls it "a likable, formulaic sports movie." To John Anderson in Newsday, "it's a smart movie with a smart director (Richard Loncraine)." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post describes it as "ultra-predictable if essentially painless." But Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe thinks it's "a cheesy romantic pastry." However, Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer finds the movie to be "a slick comedy that's more fun than it has any right to be." On the other hand Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribune finds it "yowlingly childish." Bob Longino in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution awards a draw to the two sides. He writes: "Always light, always breezy and anything but coy, Wimbledon is entirely watchable and entirely forgettable the moment it's over."

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: MR. 3000

Mr. 3000

may star TV family man Bernie Mac and sport a PG-13 rating, but ABC's Joel Siegel warns in his review of the movie: "The real problem with Mr. 3000 is that you see Bernie Mac in a baseball uniform and you think the movie is for kids. It isn't. He and Angela Basset have a sexually charged relationship. They don't fool around. Well, they do fool around. I don't know what's worse for a parent -- taking your 8 or 9 year-old and having them ask questions you don't want to answer or taking your 11 or 12 year old and having them not ask questions because they know the answer. Either way it's not a family film." Nevertheless, most reviewers are cheering Mac's performance in the movie. Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post, while describing it as "bland, unobjectionable," says that it nevertheless proves that Mac "can hold the big screen for longer than the few minutes he has heretofore been relegated to in movies." And Brad Wheeler writes in the Toronto Globe and Mail: "Entertaining and swift, Mr. 3,000 thrives on the star's comedic prowess."

SPIELBERG HAS LANDED

The town of Bayonne, NJ (population 68,000) has been invaded by Paramount and Steven Spielberg, who plan to use it for filming their upcoming War of the Worlds, starring Tom Cruise. One local resident told the Jersey Journal that two weeks ago he received a knock-on-the-door from Spielberg, who wanted to inspect his home for use in the film. Four hours later, he said, he received another visitor from a location scout who told him that Spielberg wanted to shoot part of the film in his home. In the past two weeks, he said, crew members have returned to his home to take measurements and to remove his outdoor pool. City officials said that they were told that the studio wants to build a structure on a local Little League field and blow it up. Bayonne Law Director John Coffey II noted that a local ordinance "calls for a payment of $50 a day for a permit to film on city streets, but this (build and destroy plan) is a bit different."