EMMY REMEMBERS RAYMOND
In an Emmy awards show that might have been titled "Desperately Seeking Raymond," TV academy voters passed over last season's favorite, ABC's Desperate Housewives, and gave the award for best comedy to CBS's Everybody Loves Raymond, which ended its nine-year run in May. ABC did come up winners in the drama category as Lost took the top honor, to no one's surprise. Housewives, which had received 15 nominations, settled for just two wins, best comedy actress -- Felicity Huffman -- and best direction. It could have been worse. NBC's Will & Grace, which also received 15 nominations, came up empty-handed. Patricia Arquette, who won the best actress award in the drama category for Medium, was also a surprise winner. Glen Close of The Shield had been expected to win in that category. The best comedy actor Emmy went to Tony Shalhoub, the star of Monk (beating out favorite Raymond's Ray Romano), while the best drama actor Emmy went to James Spader, who won for Boston Legal (beating out favorite Hugh Laurie of House).
RATINGS PICK UP FOR EMMYS TELECAST
The awards telecast reversed a steady decline in ratings during recent years, scoring a 14.8 rating and a 22 share versus a 12.0/18 last year and a 14.6/22 the year before. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres received high marks from critics for her hosting work, but Jon Stewart got the biggest laugh when he remarked, "When I said that I wanted to put together a writing staff that would only be 80 percent Ivy League-educated Jews, they said it couldn't be done." Stewart's pre-taped feature about botched Hurricane Katrina relief also drew much praise. Newsday writer Verne Gay remarked that the night "belonged" to Stewart. Los Angeles Times writer Paul Brownfield said that he wondered "why Jon Stewart didn't just go ahead and host the show." As for DeGeneres, several critics suggested that the producers gave her too little to do. David Bianculli in the New York Daily News remarked, "Host Ellen DeGeneres was used too infrequently -- where did she go? -- and her around-the-theater bits were better performed than directed." Phil Gallo in Variety blamed the "kudocast's" writers for failing to play to DeGeneres's strengths as a comedian. "She gave it a college try, insulted no one, displayed a bit of quirkiness and kept the trains running on time." Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times summed up: "It was not the most electrifying Emmy Awards night, but much of it was brisk and good-humored, like its emcee."
CNBC MORALE PROBLEM WORSENS, BLOG INDICATES
Disgruntled CNBC employees have posted numerous messages on the TV Newser blog, claiming that all show units have been ordered to "increase the heat of interviews." One poster wrote, "The rules were different last week and will be different next week. All the while, the place is once again layered with tiers of new managers and not a single increase in headcount on the newsroom floor where bookers are being asked to do double duty." Another wrote: "We have a new graphic, HOT TOPIC, which is used to indicate heated discussions." Yet another wrote, "I can tell you as a decade long employee of CNBC, I can't remember a time when the shows have been so disorganized. Sure they're increasing the heat! That's what happens when you have TOO MANY COOKS IN THE KITCHEN!"
KATRINA MAY ALTER TV REPORTERS' APPROACH
TV reporters who covered the devastation of Hurricane Katrina have indicated that the experience has forever changed their approach to news stories and, in particular, how they present official versions of news events to the public. CBS's John Roberts, regarded as the most likely candidate to succeed Dan Rather as anchor of the CBS Evening News, told Saturday's Los Angeles Times that the disparity between what reporters saw and what officials said was "stunning." He added that in the future, "I think we'll probably be quicker to ask questions. ... I think we'll be a little bit more skeptical of pronouncements that come from the administration and other levels of government." Steve Harrigan, a correspondent for Fox News, generally regarded as sympathetic with administration policy, commented. "It really shocked me how inefficient our country was. You find yourself stunned on the air, reporting what you're seeing." And NBC's Brian Williams told the newspaper, "I do think ... the news media have been operating under a loose kind of 9/11 syndrome. Perhaps we are guilty of settling in to too comfortable a journalistic pattern, and perhaps this tragedy did serve as a reminder that this is what we do." Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp owns Fox News Channel, has told a group of media executives in London that Prime Minister Tony Blair was angered by the way the BBC covered the Katrina disaster. Blair, he said, "told me yesterday that he was in Delhi last week and he turned on the BBC World Service to see what was happening in New Orleans. And he said it was just full of hate for America and gloating about our troubles."
MURDOCH ENCOUNTERS A NEW GREAT WALL IN CHINA
Rupert Murdoch has complained that his News Corp business has "hit a brick wall" in attempting to expand in China. The country's Communist leaders recently launched an investigation into claims that News Corp was selling access to its channels to unapproved subscribers. Under government regulations, News Corp is allowed only to air programming in Hong Kong and in some areas of the neighboring province of Guangdong.
FAMED BRITISH WAR CORRESPONDENT BACKS REFUSENIK REPORTER
Former ABC News correspondent Richard Gizbert, who claims that he was fired by the network after refusing an assignment in Baghdad, has picked up support from veteran British war correspondent Martin Bell. Bell told the London Times: "It takes extreme courage to agree to a stint in Baghdad, but it takes real courage to say I won't do it anymore." ABC denies that Gizbert was terminated for refusing the Baghdad assignment.
WOMEN GO TO HEAVEN
After making box-office analysts look really bad for two weeks in a row, moviegoers reverted to form and landed at movie theaters in more-or-less predicted numbers. They spent $16.5 million to see DreamWorks' Just Like Heaven (analysts figured it would earn $16-19 million). Seventy-seven percent of the audience was female, according to the studio. "That's the highest percentage of women I can ever remember for one of our films," DreamWorks distribution chief Jim Tharp told USA Today. Two other new releases were well off analysts' forecasts. Lions Gate's R-rated Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage, opened in third place with an estimated $9.2 million, while Rogue Pictures' Cry Wolf took in only $4.6 million. Last weekend's champ, Sony/ScreenGems's The Exorcism of Emily Rose, performed reasonably well in its second week, landing in second place with an estimated $15.3 million. Meanwhile, in its 13th week, March of the Penguins picked up an additional $2.6 million, putting it in ninth place (up from tenth last week) and bringing its total now to $70.4 million. Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian, noting that Fahrenheit 9/11 holds the record for documentaries -- $119 million, a record most analysts had figured would remain safe for years to come -- told the Associated Press, "It's an amazing run. ... Nobody ever thought this would have a chance of challenging Fahrenheit."
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Just Like Heaven, $16.5 million; 2. The Exorcism of Emily Rose, $15.3 million; 3. Lord of War, $9.2 million; 4. The 40 Year-Old Virgin, $5.8 million; 5. Cry Wolf, $4.6 million; 6. The Transporter 2, $4.0 million; 7. The Constant Gardener, $3.7 million; 8. Red Eye, $2.9 million; 9. March of the Penguins, $2.6; 10. Wedding Crashers, $2.5 million.
MAJOR STUDIOS UNITE TO BLOCK PIRATES
Hollywood's major studios have agreed to jointly put up more than $30 million per year to fund a research laboratory looking to find an effective technology to block movie pirates, the New York Times reported today (Monday). The group will officially be called Motion Picture Laboratories Inc, or MovieLabos for short. James N. Gianopulos, co-chairman of 20th Century Fox said that it will allow the industry "to develop more ways of getting creative content into the home, to mobile devices, theaters and so forth, without exposing us to more sources of theft. ... The more comfort you have in the security of the content, the more able you are to expand the consumer's access to it."
BLOCKBUSTER SHARES PLUNGE
Shares of Blockbuster fell nearly 10 percent Friday to a 52-week low of $4.60 amid reports that customers are shying away from traditional DVD rentals and are gravitating to online services like NetFlix or are preferring to buy DVDs at retail chains like Wal-Mart and Best Buy, which sometimes offer DVDs for sale at "loss-leader" prices. Blockbuster management has also been criticized by some investors for its policy of effectively doing away with late charges. In an interview with today's (Monday) Wall Street Journal, Blockbuster chief John Antioco conceded that the overall "rental industry is in the tank." He added, I am not trying to portray that everything is hunky-dory with the industry. It's not." Antioco told the newspaper. He primarily attributed the company's financial condition to the public's lack of interest in current movie fare. Shares in Blockbuster continued to fall today and were trading at $4.42 at midday.
TORONTO FILM FEST NAMES WINNERS
The British/South African film Tsotsi, about a car thief who finds a baby on the rear seat, beat out favorite Brokeback Mountain to win the People's Choice award at the Toronto Film Festival. The Australian film Look Both Ways won the festival's prestigious Discovery award.