RATHER TO ANCHOR RITA COVERAGE -- ON CNN

Dan Rather, who was forced to evacuate the anchor's desk at CBS following a storm of controversy over a discredited 60 Minutes report a year ago, was back reporting on a subject on which he has become an expert over the years -- hurricanes. Rather veritably anchored CNN's Hurricane Rita coverage Tuesday night as he guested on Larry King's talk show. When King asked him whether he missed not being able to do the same when Hurricane Katrina hit, Rather replied, "How could I not miss it having grown up with the lore of hurricanes at my grandmother's knee on the Texas coast and covered hurricanes for a long time?" Rather then went on to praise CNN's Katrina coverage. "Anderson Cooper, stands out particularly but everybody across the board did such a good job. This new generation of reporters are better than -- potentially better certainly than any of us ever were. They took us there to the hurricane. They put the facts in front of us and very important they sucked up their guts and talked truth to power. I can't tell you how much I admire it." He called the coverage "one of the quintessential great moments in television news." King later announced that Rather would be substituting for him over the weekend, when Hurricane Rita is expected to be wreaking havoc on much of the Gulf coast of Texas and New Orleans.

JENNINGS EULOGIZED AS "CONSCIENCE" OF NEWSMEN

The late ABC anchor Peter Jennings was eulogized by his colleagues and competitors at ceremonies in New York Tuesday, with many of them remarking on his courage to withstand the pressure of commercial imperatives. Journalist and author Charles Glass, a former ABC News Beirut bureau chief, remarked, ""He lived his life, his adult life, as the voice and the face of a television network, but more importantly, he was its conscience. ... He is a permanent reminder...of what we as journalists need to be."

TOLL OF REPORTERS KILLED IN IRAQ RISES

A reporter working for the New York Times and a local TV station in Basra, Iraq has been found dead after being arrested by a group of armed men who arrived at his home a day earlier, several of them in a police car, the Times reported today (Wednesday). The reporter, Fakher Halder, had recently filed reports from Basra on the growing strife between Basra's rival Shiite militias, which, he indicated, had infiltrated the police. Times Executive Editor Bill Keller said that the newspaper was "angry and horrified" at the killing, noting that the reporter, who had been "an invaluable part of our [Iraqi] coverage" since 2003 was the second reporter to be killed in Basra in the past two months. Later today Agence France Presse reported that two reporters for the Iraqi national newspaper As-Safeer were shot dead this week in Mosul. Their deaths bring to 70 the number of reporters who have lost their lives in Iraq since the current war began.

EARL'S A PEARL FOR NBC

The series debut of My Name Is Earl on NBC Tuesday night won its time period with a 9.3 rating and a 14 share, helping the struggling network win the night. The show had been receiving massive critical praise. (The pilot reportedly tested stronger with focus groups than any NBC show had in 15 years.) On Tuesday, the Detroit Free Press described it as "a gen-u-wine, fresh-squeezed screwball pearl." And Kay McFadden in the Seattle Times commented, "If any show can single-handedly turn around NBC this fall, it's My Name Is Earl."

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL RETURNS TO NO. 1 SPOT

The season opener of ABC's Monday Night Football -- it's the last season for MNF -- drew the biggest audience in three years for the weekly contest and produced the biggest ratings of the week with a 13.0 rating and a 22 share. It even outscored the rebounding Emmy Awards ceremonies on CBS, which drew a 12.5/20. CBS, however, once again produced the highest overall numbers for the week, a 6.9/12. ABC and NBC tied for second with a 4.9/8, while Fox remained competitive with a 4.7/8.

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

1. NFL Monday Night Football, ABC, 13.0/22; 2. Emmy Awards, CBS, 12.5/20; 3. Survivor: Guatemala, CBS, 10.9/18; 4. House, Fox, 10.0/15; 5. NFL Monday Showcase, ABC, 9.9/16; 6. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 9.6/16; 7. NFL Post Game (overrun, Sunday), CBS, 9.1/17; 8. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 8.8/16; 9. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 7.4/13; 10. CSI: Miami, CBS, 7.3/12; 10. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 7.3/11.

BRITAIN'S ITV SHUFFLES EXECS

In a massive game of musical chairs today (Wednesday), Britain's commercial ITV network shifted a number of prominent executives into new positions, leaving ITV broadcasting chief executive Mick Desmond no where to go but out. Desmond's position will will be shared by Granada chief Simon Shaps and ITV COO Ian McCulloch. ITV also created a number of new positions. Asked about the ouster of Desmond, ITV CEO Charles Allen told reporters during a conference call: "Desmond is a really nice man who has delivered for the last 25 years but we need a new set of skills."

WRITERS SHARPEN THEIR PENS

Setting the stage for a contentious jurisdictional dispute between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) West and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the WGA on Tuesday elected animation writer Patric Verrone as its president. Verrone campaigned on a platform that included a vow to organize animation writers, cable-TV writers and broadcast reality-show writers. Verrone's efforts are likely to clash with those of IATSE who are looking to organize the same writers. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Times, Verrone said that he hoped to improve relations with IATSE. "At the end of the day, it's not a fight among the unions, it's an attempt to get better wages and working conditions ... for the talent in this town," he said.

DREAMWORKS UNVEILS SLATE

DreamWorks Animation, whose stock has taken a beating in recent months after a series of bad-news announcements, unveiled its development slate through 2009 Tuesday in an apparent effort to spark investor excitement in the company's potential. The company's two-pictures-per-year agenda includes the 2008 release of Kung Fu Panda, in which Jack Black will provide the voice for the title character. The year will also see the release of a sequel to the company's recent hit Madagascar. The company also indicated that it will chose two films from among four currently being considered for release in 2009. High on the list is It Came from Earth, told from the point of view of Martians who are surprised by the landing of astronauts from Earth.

RATHER PRAISES MOVIE ABOUT ED MURROW

Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather had high praise Tuesday for George Clooney's Good Night and Good Luck, about 1950s newsman Edward R. Murrow's legendary clash with Communist-hunting Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy on CBS. Appearing on CNN's Larry King Live, Rather said, "There's no question this is a great movie and whether you walk out saying you agree with my review or not, you will learn a lot about journalism, particularly about electronic journalism by seeing this film. I think it's a great film." Earlier Rather criticized CBS's reported plans to replace the traditional anchor with a team of reporters like those who appear on 60 Minutes. "Ed Murrow's basic message was if you want to know who's responsible for this newscast you're looking at him," he said, adding that he couldn't imagine a team of reporters being responsible for handling coverage of disasters like 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, or Hurricane Katrina. "Somebody has got to step in the chair and lead," he said.

IMAX TO GET ITS FEET WET WITH 3-D SURFING MOVIE

IMAX, which has long been hampered in its production efforts by the enormous size of its cameras, is planning to produce its first 3-D surfing movie. (Some classic surfing movies were shot by camermen/surfers who mounted their cameras in hand-held waterproof housings and filmed the action from surfboards.) The Hollywood Reporter reported today (Wednesday) that the movie is being written by Surfer magazine editor Sam George, who has himself shot surfing movies in the past. IMAX reportedly plans to release the film in 2007.

CRITICS SHOOT DOWN REVOLVER

British director Guy Ritchie said Tuesday that he decided not to cast wife Madonna in his latest movie, Revolver, to avoid the kind of response from critics that he received when he cast her in his last film, Swept Away. In an interview with the London Times, Richie said, "Do you think they would let me get away with that? I did that last time, it didn't work." Interviewed at the London premiere of the movie Tuesday, Ritchie also remarked, "The critics have been harsh all through my career, but it doesn't affect me. I've accepted the rules of the game." With or without Madonna, Ritchie continues to be drubbed by critics. When it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last week, Britain's Guardian newspaper commented: "Ritchie's new film lands on cinema-goers' collective head like a sack of wet sand."