CAN CHRIS SURVIVE SURVIVOR?
The critically hailed Everybody Hates Chris produced better-than-average ratings for UPN Thursday night. But the series debut could not even beat NBC's struggling Joey in the 8:00 p.m. hour as it posted a 4.6 rating and a 7 share to Joey's 5.6/9. Meanwhile CBS's Survivor: Guatemala posted a 10.2/16 equaling the combined ratings of Chris and Joey. ABC's repeat of Dancing with the Stars: Dance-off scored a 5.7/9 in the same hour. At 9:00, the season premiere of CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation drew typically gigantic numbers, coming in at 16.9/25, virtually assuring it of the top spot in the week's Nielsens. CBS also won the 10:00 p.m. hour with a preview of Criminal Minds, which moves to Wednesday next week, as it scored a 12.6/20.
LOST IS FOUND BY 23.1 MILLION VIEWERS
ABC's Lost overwhelmed the competition -- including Martha Stewart -- on Wednesday night, drawing 23.1 million viewers and posting a 13.7 rating and a 20 share (a 10.0/24 among adults 18-49), its best numbers ever, during its regular time period, the 9:00 p.m. hour. A recap hour, Destination: Lost, at 8:00 p.m. drew a 9.2/15. The strong numbers also provided strong coattails for ABC's Invasion, which debuted at 10:00 p.m. with a 10.4/16, beating the season premiere of NBC's Law & Order, which averaged a 9.0/14, and the second hour of a repeat of the Quentin Tarantino-directed episode of CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which pulled an 8.2/12. By contrast, NBC's heavily hyped The Apprentice: Martha Stewart barely made it out of the gate as it posted a mediocre 5.5/9 against the recap hour of Lost (the lowest ratings ever for an Apprentice episode) while the network managed a 7.3/10 with the debut of Jerry Bruckheimer's E-Ring at 9:00 p.m. On Fox, the debut of Fox's America's Next Top Model averaged a 3.1/5. TV writers were quick to pounce on Stewart's poor showing. Robert Bianco in USA Today said that it proved that the "show has no reason to exist other than NBC's need to fill a time slot and its desire to capitalize on Stewart's post-prison notoriety." Lisa de Moraes's column in the Washington Post was headlined: "Martha Stewart, Out of the Can and Into the Tank."
REAL-LIFE AIRLINE DRAMA CAPTURES BIG NEWS AUDIENCE
While an airliner flying around in circles may not sound like a compelling TV image, it was enough to attract some 10.5 million viewers to the cable TV news networks in the 8:00 p.m. hour Wednesday, while at 9:00 p.m. -- opposite ABC's Lost -- the airline drama was watched by 13 million viewers. The huge number waiting to see whether the JetBlue plane with damaged landing gear would land safely or explode in a disastrous crash was greater than even the audience for Hurricane Katrina. Most tuned in to Fox news, which attracted 4.3 million viewers at 8:00 p.m. and 5.2 million at 9:00 p.m. But CNN also posted respectable figures -- 3.4 million at 8:00 p.m. and 4.9 million at 9:00 p.m. Its Headline News service drew an additional 611,000 at 8:00 p.m. and 597,000 at 9:00 p.m. MSNBC, meanwhile, drew some of its best numbers ever, attracting 2.4 million viewers at 8:00 p.m. and 2.8 million at 9:00 p.m.
TV TO BE BLOWIN' IN THE WIND THIS WEEKEND
The news divisions of each of the major broadcast networks have decided to go all out to cover Hurricane Rita's expected strike somewhere around the Louisiana/Texas border this weekend. Reports on Thursday indicated that they had rounded up reporters and camera crews from all over the country and posted them with satellite transmitters all along a 150-mile stretch of shoreline where Rita could land. "It's a challenge for the [news] budget this late in the budget year," ABC's VP of news gathering Paul Slavin told Reuters, indicating that his division had set aside some funds to cover just this sort of emergency. CBS News senior vp Marcy McGinnis echoed Slavin's remarks, saying, "These are the reasons why you save money during the year and make smart decisions."
3D TV TO REAPPEAR IN NOVEMBER
In television's latest 3-D marketing gambit, NBC and TV Guide are teaming up to boost an episode of Medium on Nov. 21. Included in an issue of the magazine, which hits newsstands on Nov. 17, TV Guide will provide a pair of 3-D glasses with which to view the episode. In a statement, the magazine's editor-in-chief, Ian Birch, remarked, "By serving as the exclusive provider of the 3-D glasses that will enable viewers to fully experience this program, we're fulfilling our goal to enhance the television viewing experience of all TV Guide readers." Left unexplained was how the 3-D system was any different from any previous such system for TV, all of which have been deprecated by most critics. However, Medium executive producer Glenn Gordon Caron noted, "I think people will be surprised by how vivid and dynamic 3-D has become."
MPAA WILL BE TWO-HEADED
In a surprise move, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) announced Thursday that it would divvy up primary responsibility for running the organization between Dan Glickman, its current president and CEO, and Bob Pisano, the former head of the Screen Actors Guild and a veteran studio exec. Pisano will have the title of president and COO, while Glickman's title will be chairman and CEO. Pisano will be based on the West Coast, at the MPAA's Encino office, while Glickman will focus on the organization's lobbying work in Washington. The decision to put Pisano in charge of most day-to-day operations of the organization ends what had long been considered a czar-like position of the MPAA's leader, personified by Jack Valenti, who resigned earlier this year. As Daily Variety observed in reporting on the appointment, "For decades, Valenti and the MPAA were synonymous. He had many fervent supporters and many detractors, but apparently it takes two men to fill his shoes."
BUDGET CEILING IMPOSED FOR INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS
If a movie costs more than $20 million to make, it will no longer be eligible to compete for the Independent Spirit Awards. The new guideline was announced Thursday by Film Independent (formerly IFP/Los Angeles), which oversees the awards. Nominations for the awards are scheduled to be announced on Nov. 29 with the trophies themselves to be presented on March 4 at ceremonies carried live by the Independent Film Channel (IFC).
PRODUCERS ROUTINELY INCLUDING ALTERNATE ENDINGS IN DVD'S
For movie producers and directors, ending up is hard to do -- and frequently several endings for movies are filmed, then screened for test audiences. Those alternate endings are now routinely included in the "extras" packages of DVDs. In an interview with Home Media Retailing magazine, Ken Graffeo, head of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, remarked, "An alternate ending is a great way to provide added value because it brings film fans into the creative process." He pointed out that the latest DVD to include an alternate ending will be Sydney Pollack's The Interpreter. "Obviously only one [ending] could make it into the theatrical version," Graffeo said. "So he was very supportive of their inclusion on the disc." Likewise, New Line's home entertainment chief Matt Lasorsa remarked that offering the viewer a second or even a third ending "puts the viewer in control and piques people's curiosity and interest. Before, when you heard there was an alternate ending in which, say the character dies, you could only read about it. Now, with DVD, we have the opportunity to bring that to the consumer."
MOVIE REVIEWS: CORPSE BRIDE
Tim Burton's animated Corpse Bride moves from limited to wide release this weekend and is continuing to draw rave reviews. Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe says that Burton "has rarely been in brisker, friskier form. This picture is 77 minutes, and while not all of them whiz by, they don't feel laden, either. ... The picture's industrious expressionism alone makes you forget the time." Bruce Westbrook in the Houston Chronicle calls it "the best-looking, stop-motion animation film ever." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times observed that Corpse Bride "is not the macabre horror story the title suggests, but a sweet and visually lovely tale of love lost." And Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes: "The movie is a bit betwixt and between -- whimsical but eerie, funny but melancholy. That said, Corpse Bride truly is like nothing else at the movies these days."
MOVIE REVIEWS: FLIGHTPLAN
Most analysts are predicting that the box-office winner this weekend will be the Jodie Foster starrer Flightplan, which is receiving mixed reviews -- strong ones for the performance of Foster, so-so ones for the script and the direction by Germany's Robert Schwentke. Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer sums up the movie by remarking that it's like "airplane food. No matter how good the ingredients the air chef has to work with, the entree inevitably ends up tasting like a Xerox of a facsimile of a meal." Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News writes that "there's so little reason behind the plot that it's hard to focus on Foster's fierce performance." Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times dismisses the movie as a "boilerplate, if histrionically entertaining, airline thriller." And Claudia Puig in USA Today advises: "Keep your wallets in the locked and upright position: Flightplan is not worth the trip."
MOVIE REVIEWS: ROLL BOUNCE
Also opening this weekend is the roller-skating movie Roll Bounce, which doesn't do much of either, according to most critics. Manohla Dargis writes in the New York Times: "A drowsy comedy about a handful of kids grooving and roller-skating, Roll Bounce has heart and good vibes but little else to recommend it." Still, many critics suggest that families looking to spend an evening together at the movies could do worse. Writes Kevin Thomas in the Los Angeles Times: "Teen pictures in which kids square off in a competition form a genre unto themselves, yet the warm and wise Roll Bounce confounds all expectations. Writer Norman Vance Jr. and director Malcolm D. Lee dare to suggest that winning may not be everything, that a father-and-son relationship may actually be more important than a skate-off, and that it's possible to set a film in 1978 without drowning it in nostalgia and dated fads."