CBS KEEPS ITS RATINGS CLINCH ON THURSDAYS

CBS continued to dominate on Thursday, overwhelming the competition in every hour of primetime. At 8:00 p.m. Survivor: Guatemala posted a 10.6 rating and a 16 share, ehilr Everybody Hates Chris on UPN saw 26 percent of its audience turn to other fare in its second week as it posted a 4.9/7. NBC's Joey's numbers improved as it finished with a 6.3/10. The live premiere of Will & Grace did better still with an 8.4/12. Once again, the big winner of the night was CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation which drew a 19.2/28 at 9:00 p.m. It was followed at 10:00 p.m. by Without a Trace, which posted a 14.6/23, well ahead of NBC's fading E.R., which drew an 11.4/18.

WHO SAYS THE INTERNET CUTS INTO TV VIEWING?

Despite competition from the Internet and home entertainment like DVDs and video games, TV watching rose to a record household average of 8 hours, 11 minutes a day during the 2004-2005 season, according to Nielsen Research. The figure was up 3 percent from the previous year and 12.5 percent from a decade ago, Nielsen said. Figures for individual viewers watching at home were even more striking -- an average of 4 hours, 32 minutes per day, also a record. (Out-of-home TV viewing is not tracked by Nielsen.) However, with the average viewer having a choice of more than 100 channels, the TV audience is fragmented as never before, Nielsen observed. In reporting on the figures, Daily Variety today (Friday) explained the rise this way: "While in the past TV viewership could fall when the networks offered bad programming, viewers have more options than ever and are more likely to change the channel than turn the TV off when they're not entertained." Meanwhile, new figures indicated Thursday that cable channels have expanded their audience share over broadcasters. During the first week of the new season, ad-supported cable networks drew 54.3 percent of the audience to 45 percent for broadcasters. Figures showed that both NBC and CBS showed significant declines in overall audience levels during the week compared with those of a year ago, while ABC showed a considerable gain.

TV DVD'S RESCUE DVD SALES BIZ

Although sales of movies on DVD plummeted 28 percent in August compared to a year ago, sales of TV DVD packages came to the rescue of retailers, Home Media Retailing magazine reported Thursday. The trade publication observed that TV DVDs were up 29 percent from August, 2004 with The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season the top seller of the month followed by O.C.: The Complete Second Season. In all, consumers spent $898.3 million on videos in August 2005, up 3.9 percent from August, 2004. Theatrical movies accounted for just $561 million of that amount.

NEWS CORP HAS BEST YEAR EVER

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp registered a profit of $2.1 billion during fiscal 2005 making it the best year in its 52-year history, Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch observed in the company's annual report released Thursday. "The company reported record revenues and profits, generated a record amount of cashflow from its operations, achieved a swift turnaround at its Italian satellite platform and completed a host of strategic initiatives that we believe position us for sustained growth," Murdoch said.

COOPER IS CLEARLY CNN'S RISING STAR

CNN confirmed Thursday that it had expanded the primetime duties of Anderson Cooper, retaining him as the co-host with Aaron Brown of Newsnight. Today's (Friday) Atlanta Journal-Constitution observed that CNN President Jonathan Klein was captivated by the idea of "pairing the emotional Cooper with the stolid Brown." Klein told the newspaper, "The combination of Aaron and Anderson gives us fire and ice. ... Anderson is about visceral experience. Aaron is kind of about the cerebral analysis." The newspaper observed that Klein is "under heavy pressure" to boost CNN's audience and that Cooper, who received high praise for his passionate reporting of the Katrina aftermath, could be instrumental in achieving that goal. "We'd love to expose him to as many viewers as possible," Klein said. "He's really kind of in the mold of what television journalism ought to be about today."

CNN INTERNATIONAL HAS 20TH BIRTHDAY

CNN International, which now airs in more than 200 countries and territories is celebrating its 20th anniversary today (Friday). In a birthday congratulations written to CNN-I staff and posted on the TVNewser blog, CNN News Group president Jim Walton hailed the channel as "the world's most talked about and recognized news network." But Kansas City Star TV writer Aaron Barnhart points out that CNN-I, which once shared a cable outlet with CNNfn, went out of business in many areas of the U.S. when the business-news channel folded. "That's a disgrace," Barnhart wrote, "and no one at CNN has the right to congratulate themselves until CNNI is on 24/7 on my cable system. My Time Warner Cable system." (CNN is part of Turner Broadcasting Inc., which is owned by Time Warner.)

CRONKITE OPPOSES CBS'S PLANS TO DO AWAY WITH SINGLE ANCHOR

Walter Cronkite has expressed misgivings about CBS Chairman Les Moonves' apparent intention to replace "the voice of God" single anchor on the CBS Evening News with a team. As reported in today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times, Cronkite, who was CBS's voice of God from 1962 to 1981, told an audience at USC's Annenberg School for Communication Tuesday, "I hope they're not bent on changing the format because they want to be more entertaining. We've got to be on guard constantly to eschew entertainment in the news. That's not our function. If we undertake it ... we're going to be cheating the public."

MOVIE REVIEWS: A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE

In one of the few negative reviews of David Cronenberg's A History of Violence, Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun suggests that the title of the history course ought to be changed to Carnage for Art Houses 101. And clearly most other critics have indeed embraced this film not only as art, but as a lesson about the artless commerce of the movie business. Indeed, as Manohla Dargis points out in her review in the New York Times, Cronenberg sets his story "in a copy of the world that looks -- wouldn't you know it -- a lot like a movie. Mr. Cronenberg, a Canadian, is taking aim at this country, to be sure. But he is also taking aim at our violence-addicted cinema, those seductive, self-heroicizing self-justifications we sell to the world." Dargis's observations are hers alone. Each critic seems to have a different take on the movie. Compare her remarks to those of Lou Lumenick in the New York Post, who writes that the film is "a high-minded crowd pleaser that revels in the kinesthetic pleasures of the shootouts it's so busy deploring." To Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer, this is no piece of "art" at all but a "creepy gem of a thriller" that is "eerily compelling and darkly humorous. And chilling -- to the bone." But to Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times, it's a "a gripping, incendiary, casually subversive piece of work that marries pulp watchability with larger concerns without skipping a beat. ... It's the gift of Violence ... that it manages to do all these things without seeming to make a fuss. That's how strong and compelling its dead-on plot is." But Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times writes: "This is not a movie about plot, but about character. It is about how people turn out the way they do, and about whether the world sometimes functions like a fool's paradise." But perhaps the film's greatest gift is that people will -- if the critics are any example -- come away from it with their own take on what makes it a compelling movie. Chris Vognar in the Dallas Morning News settles for calling it shrewd, penetrating and, yes, entertaining. It's also one of the best films of the year."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED

The Greatest Game Ever Played may well be the polar opposite of A History of Violence. Whereas Violence is generally being praised as a unique work of cinema art, Game is being viewed as a paint-by-the-numbers commercial filmmaking. Not that there's anything wrong with that, many critics hasten to add. A.O. Scott in the New York Times describes the movie -- about the principal golfing competitors in the 1913 British Open -- as "a canny piece of feel-good entertainment." He adds, "Predictable though it is, the picture is rousing and well paced. ... This is not the greatest sports movie ever made, and it doesn't try to be. It aims for par, and makes it." Bob Strauss in the Los Angeles Daily News uses another golf metaphor, calling it "a straight shot down the fairway, predictably pleasing by not veering off into anything too interesting." Other critics bestow similar restrained praise on the movie. Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer calls it "an affectionate ode to sportsmanship." How true is the story? None of the critics apparently tried to find out. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times writes: "I have no idea if the movie is based, stroke for stroke, on the actual competition at the 1913 U.S. Open. I guess I could find out, but I don't want to know. I like it this way." John Anderson in Newsday presumes that "authenticity is sacrificed for a film that will please the largest audience possible. And it may in fact be large."

MOVIE REVIEWS: INTO THE BLUE

Critical reaction to Into the Blue is about as low-key as the reaction to The Greatest Game Every Played. Consider the comments of Roger Ebert (who awards the film three stars): "Into the Blue offers modest pleasures. It is not an essential film, but if you go to see it, it will not insult your intelligence, and there's genuine suspense toward the end." If that's not the kind of review that will send you racing to your local multiplex, consider this one by Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel: "Into the Blue is a brutally competent thriller, decently cast, adequately acted and magnificently photographed." He especially likes the photographs of star Jessica Alba. So does Bob Longino in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Here's what you need to know about Into the Blue," he writes. "The Bahamas looks like a great place to go scuba diving, and Jessica Alba, tanner than you've ever seen her, mostly wears a skimpy bikini." Bob Strauss in the Los Angeles Daily News gives the film favorable marks for: "Buff bods. Fantastic fish. Silly thriller twists, trolled along at a leisurely but increasingly suspenseful pace. Some funny lines and a shark attack or two. Did we mention there are buff bods?" That's precisely the appraisal of Peter Howell in the Toronto Star, who comments: "Into the Blue exists primarily to show beautiful female and male bodies in the water, with a bit of buried-treasure drama tossed in to make this seem like a movie rather than a strip show." Philip Wuntch in the Dallas Morning News is also impressed by the photography. "In its favor, the treasure-hunt adventure has some modestly good underwater scenes, complete with interesting fish," he writes. "Still, a trip to the aquarium would probably be livelier."

MOVIE REVIEWS: SERENITY

In her review, Manohla Dargis in the New York Times compares Joss Whedon's Serenity with George Lucas's Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith. Serenity comes out ahead. "Scene for scene," she writes, "Serenity is more engaging and certainly better written and acted than any of Mr. Lucas's recent screen entertainments. Mr. Whedon isn't aiming to conquer the pop-culture universe with a branded mythology; he just wants us to hitch a ride to a galaxy far, far away and have a good time." Jan Stuart in Newsday makes a similar comparison, remarking: "George Lucas could learn a thing or two from Whedon. Serenity flies with sass and spirit, qualities that have been in palpably short supply in that Star Wars series since, well, Star Wars."Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times also indicates that he had a good time watching the movie, writing: "Serenity is made of dubious but energetic special effects, breathless velocity, much imagination, some sly verbal wit and a little political satire." Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News notes that the movie appears to exist as a the final episode of Whedon's canceled Firefly TV series and because the show's fans "made the Firefly DVD set an unexpected best seller." She adds: "Whedon's sci-fi fantasies smartly parallel the serious issues we're grappling with here on Earth, while his protagonists remain mordantly funny in the face of utter disaster. Like Star Trek before it, the outer-space setting is perfectly suited to a big budget" movie.