STUDIO BRIEFING TV: April 23, 2009

A summary of today's Hollywood happenings in television.
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STUDIO BRIEFING TV: April 23, 2009


ABC, which is slogging through another year of lackluster ratings, is planning to revive the show that rescued it when it was last in a ratings bind ten years ago -- Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The network said Wednesday that it will air a two-week Millionaire "tournament" in August, once again featuring Regis Philbin as host. The quiz show, which launched in 1999 and at one point regularly drew around 29 million viewers, lasted in primetime only three years, with season-to-season audience erosion blamed on overexposure. But the show has continued in syndication and remains a staple in primetime in other countries. (The Indian version was featured in the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire.)


A day after Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly accused General Electric executives of being "in partnership with the Obama administration on a number of different levels," resulting in positive treatment of the administration on GE-owned NBC, an O'Reilly staffer infiltrated a meeting of GE stockholders on Wednesday and demanded that company chairman Jeffrey Immelt explain why actress Janeane Garofalo was allowed to appear on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show and attack conservatives as racists. His microphone was duly cut off. The Hollywood Reporter, which reported on the incident, said that when another stockholder attempted to ask a follow-up question, her microphone was cut off, too.


Andrew Tyndall, who monitors each of the nightly network newscasts for his long-running "The Tyndall Report," observed Wednesday that network anchors are beginning to show less reluctance to using the term "torture" in describing the abuse of prisoners of war. Noting that in stories this week concerning the administration's consideration of potential prosecution of lawyers in the Bush administration for giving the go-ahead for torturing prisoners, "euphemism is slowly being stripped away," Tyndall noted that both NBC anchor Brian Williams and CBS anchor Katie Couric had both used the term "torture," although ABC's Charles Gibson continued to use the words "harsh interrogation." Network correspondents, however, have been less willing to use the "T" word, with NBC's Andrea Mitchell referring to "harshest interrogation tactics, which some call torture," and CBS's Bob Orr referring to "so-called torture memos." Like Gibson, ABC's Jake Tapper referred only to "harsh interrogation."


Nearly three times the number of people combine TV watching and Internet surfing on Thursdays than do so on Mondays, according to a new study. As reported by Adweek, the study by Integrated Media Measurement Inc. found that 5.8 percent of viewers watching broadcast television multitask with Internet use on Monday, rising to 15.9 percent by Thursday. Matt Reid, director of strategic initiatives for IMMI, said that the trend "represents a significant opportunity for advertisers who want to target viewers with a message to visit content online. ... The landscape is moving at a steady pace from multiplatform advertising to simultaneous multiplatform advertising."


While all major broadcast and cable news networks have cut back on coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan, CBS and NBC are reportedly in talks to set up a joint operation in Kabul that would allow them to share such items as housing and security, according to the New York Observer. It quoted CBS News Senior Vice President Paul Friedman as saying that talks about cost-sharing costs between the two networks have been ongoing since last fall. Doing so, he said, would allow him to "get our own people in there." Last year CBS correspondent Lara Logan, who has frequently reported from Afghanistan and Iraq, said that the budget issues for the network were "terrible." In an interview with the New York Times, Logan said, "We can't afford to maintain operations in Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time. ... It's so expensive and the security risks are so great that it's prohibitive."


After the judges used their one-time-only veto to save American Idol contestant Matt Giraud from being eliminated last week, two other finalists, Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai, were given the hook on Wednesday's show. Viewers apparently agreed with the judgments of judge Simon Cowell, who harshly criticized the performances of both singers. The results show attracted 23.30 million viewers and helped Fox win an easy victory for the night. Lie to Me, which preceded Idol, drew 7.87 million viewers. Together, the two shows captured first place in each half-hour between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. by a wide margin. CBS took over first place at 10:00 p.m. however, with an edition of Criminal Minds that took over the regular CSI: NY time period and attracted 13.55 million viewers.

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