REPUBLICANS WIN TV VOTE
If the nation voted with its TV remotes, George Bush would be reelected by a wide margin, ratings results from the two political conventions indicated Saturday. According to Nielsen Research, the Republican convention in New York last week averaged 22.6 million viewers in primetime on the major broadcast and cable networks. The Democratic convention in July, by contrast, averaged 20.4 million viewers. Four years ago, the Democrats led in the ratings with 20.6 million viewers to 19.2 million for the Republicans.
FOR JEOPARDY, THE ANSWER IS KEN JENNINGS
Ratings for the syndicated Jeopardy quiz show are expected to bounce back to record heights again this week as contestant Ken Jennings returns to try to extend his record 38-game streak today (Monday). His total stood at $1,321,660 before the show went into reruns in late July. Two additional weeks of original episodes are scheduled before a special tournament is set to begin on Sept. 20.
BARBARA WALTERS GETTING OUT OF THE "GET" RACE
Saying that TV news magazine programs "are somewhat in jeopardy," Barbara Walters has deplored the contest among such programs for big "gets." In an interview with Sunday's New York Times, Walters remarked: "I'll tell you the way it's going to be: we're going to hear that a woman had a love affair with a frog. The producers are going to come to me and say: 'Barbara, this woman had a love affair with a frog. Diane Sawyer already has the woman lined up. Do you want to do the frog?' And I will say, 'O.K., but only if I can get the frog and his mother.' And they'll say: 'But the frog wants an hour. And before you do the frog, the frog is going to do Oprah. O.K.?"
CBS TO BE HIT WITH BIGGEST FINE IN HISTORY
The FCC is expected to mete out the biggest fine in its history to Viacom's CBS because of the network's telecast of Janet Jackson's breast baring during the halftime show at the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, published reports said on Saturday, citing unnamed FCC sources. The fine of some $550,000 would represent $27,500 imposed on each of the network's owned and operated (and separately licensed) television stations. It is expected to be announced this week. CBS issued a statement saying that it would be "extremely disappointed" if the reports proved to be accurate. "While we regret that the incident occurred, and have apologized to our viewers, we continue to believe that nothing in the Super Bowl broadcast violated indecency laws," the network said. Some of the commissioners are expected to release separate statements saying that the fine was not heavy enough, that each of the network's affiliates should have been fined as well.
IRAQI GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN AL-JAZEERA'S OFFICES
The interim Iraqi government, backed by the U.S., has permanently shut down al-Jazeera's operations in Baghdad, claiming that the Arab news network had violated a previous 30-day ban against operating in the city. A spokesman for al-Jazeera later denied the accusation, insisting that it had only been using agency footage. Outside the al-Jazeera offices, an armed police officer told Britain's Guardian newspaper: ""We have been told not to let anyone in; we are just following orders. ... If you take any photos we'll arrest you."
INDIA'S CENSOR COMES TO THE U.S. -- AS AN ACTOR
India's chief censor, Anupam Kher, who is also an actor (he played the father in Bend It Like Beckham), has expressed wonderment over the process of producing TV dramas in the U.S. after landing a role on the Warner Bros. series for NBC, E.R. ""There is tremendous attention to detail," he told the website Indiantelevision.com. "Their preplanning is thorough. Detailed call sheets - right from the time you are picked up from your hotel to the unit to the rehearsal to the final take - are charted out. You know what you are doing at 6 pm, 6:15 pm, 6:30 p. m. You don't waste a lot of time chatting like we do." Kher said that he was also impressed with the episode's budget, noting that it couldn't be compared with that of an Indian TV show. "Believe it or not," he remarked, "the budget per episode of a TV show in the States is equivalent to the average budget alloted to a feature film in India."
HERO TAKES B.O. HONORS
The official box-office tracking agencies took the day off Sunday for the Labor Day holiday, but several studios released their own estimates of how the current marquee fare performed. The Jet Li starrer Hero remained on top for the second week in a row, even though the Miramax film took in slightly less than $8.8 million, about half what it earned a week earlier, according to the estimates. The low-brow comedy Without a Paddle from Paramount moved up to second place with a total of $7.1 million. Slipping to third place was Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid with $6.4 million. The Mel Gibson-produced Paparazzi, which was not screened for critics, opened in fourth place with $6.3 million, The Cookout, an urban comedy that was also withheld from critics, opened in fifth place with $5.6 million. Wicker Park, from MGM, debuted with $5.4 million, taking sixth place.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Hero, $8.8 million; 2. Without a Paddle, $7.1 million; 3. Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, 46.4 million; 4. Paparazzi, $6.3 million; 5. The Cookout, $5.6 million; 6. (tie) Wicker Park, $5.4 million; 6. (tie) The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, $5.4 million; 8. Vanity Fair, $4.9 million; 9. Collateral, $4.5 million; 10. The Bourne Supremacy, $4.1 million.
MOVIE REVIEWS: PAPARAZZI
Ordinarily when studios decide not to screen a film in advance for critics, the critics have to line up at the box office like common folk in order to watch it -- with their reviews appearing on Saturday, instead of Friday, the usual day for them to be published. In the case of Paparazzi, produced by Mel Gibson's Icon Productions, a lot of major critics decided simply to take the Labor Day holiday weekend off and ignore it altogether. Those who labored through it dished out the expected dismal reviews. Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel got into the theaters ahead of Hurricane Frances, but came out storming himself. Paparazzi, he wrote, "is a petulant, violent and sophomoric hissy fit about those nasty photographers who torment the rich and famous." Dave Kehr in the New York Times described it as "this amazingly arrogant, immoral film" and predicted that it would "suffer a fast, richly deserved death" over the holiday. Stephen Cole in the Toronto Globe and Mail called it "a ripped bag of garbage." And Paul Sherman in the Boston Herald used the terms "lurid, ludicrous and often confused" to describe it.
EISNER BOOSTS IGER AS SUCCESSOR
Michael Eisner has given his blessing to Disney President Robert Iger to succeed him as CEO of the media giant, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. In an interview with the newspaper, Eisner said that he had told Disney board members that Iger "would be an excellent guardian of the Disney assets. ... There's nobody who has a better education and training to do that job." Nevertheless, Iger has been among the most severely criticized Disney executives because of his failure thus far to turn around the low rated ABC television network, which is in his corporate bailiwick.
TRAVOLTA FORECASTS PULP FICTION PREQUEL
John Travolta has disclosed that Quentin Tarantino is considering a prequel of his 1994 film Pulp Fiction. In an interview appearing in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica Friday, Travolta, who is attending the Venice Film Festival to promote A Love Song for Bobby Long, remarked that Tarantino calls him every six months to discuss the prequel, in which he would again star as hitman Vincent Vega. "The problem is that we worked together in tight times," he told the newspaper. "Now he makes films for millions of dollars. I don't know if I'd still be OK for him."
NOTE: Studio Briefing is somewhat abbreviated today due to the U.S. Labor Day holiday.