IDOL RUNNING ON MERCURY
Although Washington Post TV writer Lisa de Moraes commented today (Wednesday) that she could hear "Puff! Puff! Puff! Puff -- the sound of Freddie Mercury's ashes churning in his urn during last night's one-hour mutilation of Queen songs on American Idol," the show clobbered the competition, posting a 16.9 rating and a 27 share in the 8:00 p.m. hour, significantly higher than the same night a week ago. Fox remained ahead of the competition in the 9:00 hour, too, as House delivered a 12.9/20. Meanwhile, the second part of ABC's Ten Commandments miniseries received about as much attention as some of the commandments themselves, placing third in the 9:00 p.m. hour with a 7.2/11 and, with Fox out of the picture, second at 10:00 p.m. with a 7.9/13.

RATINGS DRIBBLE DOWN FOR NCAA BASKETBALL CONTEST

In the latest demonstration that sports on broadcast TV ain't what they used to be, the weekly Nielsen ratings indicated that the final game of the NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament ranked sixth for the week, drawing the fewest viewers in at least 30 years. The CBS telecast was outranked nationally by a two-hour version of NBC's Deal or No Deal, moving ahead of the game show only in the final15 minutes. (Non basketball fans typically say that the game only gets interesting for them in the final 15 minutes.) Nevertheless, CBS easily won the week with an overall average 8.1 rating and a 13 share. (Fox came out ahead among adults 18-49.) Fox and NBC tied for second place with a 6.1/10, while ABC trailed with a 5.2/9. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 16.6/26; 2. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 15.7/23; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 14.7/23; 4. House, Fox, 13.5/21; 5. NCAA Basketball Tournament Championships, CBS, 11.2/18; 6. Deal or No Deal (Monday), NBC, 10.7/16; 7. Without a Trace, CBS, 10.4/17; 8. NCIS, CBS, 10.0/16; 9. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 9.9/16; 9. The Unit, CBS, 9.9/15.

PRODUCERS COURT EMMY EARLY FOR EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS

Hoping to reignite the buzz surrounding Chris Rock's Everybody Hates Chris, the producers of the UPN show, CBS Paramount Network Television, are sending DVDs of the show's entire season to all 12,000 members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, including shows that haven't yet aired, Daily Variety reported today (Wednesday). According to the trade publication, it will be the first time Emmy voters will have access to so many episodes of a broadcast series. In an interview, company spokesman John Wentworth said, "We know that when the show launched, the critics raved about it and the industry buzz was palpable. We thought it would be appropriate to not only get the first season to [voters], but to get it to them early so that they'd have a chance to truly digest the shows." The 2006 Primetime Emmy Awards are due to be handed out on Sunday, Aug. 27.

MORE ETHICAL THAN THOU?

The Los Angeles Times has taken a swipe at corporate sibling KTLA, Los Angeles in an article posted on its TV industry blog Channel Island, written by Scott Collins. Collins observes that on Tuesday, Tribune Co., which owns the Times and KTLA, among other media holdings, updated its ethics code, with Tribune Publishing chief Scott Smith saying in a message to employees that the purpose of the revision was to address "a series of ethical lapses ... that have undermined our credibility in the public's eyes." Collins noted that one of those lapses came to light when it was revealed that KTLA anchor Michaela Pereira had accepted a dining-room makeover worth more than $10,000 from a local retailer. (She has since agreed to return some of the furniture and pay for the rest.) Tellingly, however, Collins concludes, "That incident appeared to violate the existing ethics provisions at Tribune in nearly every conceivable way, and nothing seemed to happen."

FIRED CBS NEWS PRODUCER CHARGES RACISM

A veteran African-American CBS News producer has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging that she was summarily fired in retaliation for voicing her complaints about racial bias within the news organization, and in particular about the behavior of CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer towards her. Raylena Fields said in her filing that her termination came one month after she complained that Schieffer had asked her to answer his phones, "something a similarly situated [white] staff producer would have never been asked to do." Fields also charged that "not one of CBS News' eight broadcasts is in any way directed, influenced, or shaped by an African American or any minority holding a senior position on that broadcast." CBS denied the allegations, saying that Fields "was terminated for completely lawful reasons connected to a reshaping of the CBS Evening News under new leadership."

DISNEY'S IGER AVOIDING THE PITFALLS OF THE MUSIC BUSINESS

Disney chief Robert Iger said Tuesday that the decision to explore new online avenues for distributing ABC and Disney Channel programs was influenced in large part by watching the mistakes made by the music industry in dealing with the Internet. Iger, speaking at the AG Edwards Media & Entertainment Conference in Los Angeles, suggested that the music industry's resistance to providing product online at a reasonable price led to the explosion of pirate websites. Members of the industry, he said, "were not in tune with what their customers wanted and what the world was demanding of them and I think it hurt them significantly." He added that Disney would not be cowed by the "perceived fear" of the Internet and that it intended to take "more aggressive approaches to new media in the future." On Monday, Disney announced that it would make several of its hit ABC and Disney Channel movies available for free on a revamped website. However, analysts observed, unlike the Disney programs available for downloading from Apple's iTunes music store for a small price, those on the free site will be streamed -- presenting quality problems that viewers typically find objectionable.

IGER: DISNEY'S CONTROVERSIES ARE "BEHIND US"
Disney chief Robert Iger has suggested that the controversies that have plagued the company in recent years are now "largely behind us, if not completely behind us." In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Iger said, "This is a great time for the company. We are one of the most admired companies in the world." He said that the primarily challenge for it now is to produce "quality entertainment," citing as a "great example" the Disney Channel's High School Musical TV movie -- "something that came out of nowhere, that no one expected. It's not overly expensive to make. A lot of talent in there. ... It's more than anything else what's behind [the deal to acquire] Pixar. The incredible value that we've created over the years when we made great animated films that transcend one medium, motion pictures that spread across all of our business. It's incredible. We have to continue to do that. I want to do more of that."

SNAKES ON A PLANE: THE CULT

New Line's Snakes on a Plane, due to open on Aug. 18, has already produced an avid cult, "the first cult following created entirely by a movie's title," according to Canada's Maclean's magazine. According to the magazine, an uproar among the cultists ensued when studio executives decided to change the title to Pacific Air Flight 121. Even star Samuel L. Jackson joined in the ruckus, saying, according to Maclean's: "We're totally changing that back. That's the only reason I took the job: I read the title." The magazine said that in the end, not only did the producers restore the original name but that they "recently returned to Vancouver to film new scenes with profanity and gore, bringing the final product closer to the kind of garish B movie its name suggests."

RUSSIAN HISTORIAN SAYS HE THOUGHT UP THE DA VINCI CODE

Only days after a British court rejected a lawsuit by two writers who claimed that author Dan Brown had plagiarized their writings in The Da Vinci Code, a Russian art historian is also threatening to take Brown to court. Mikhail Anikin, a Leonardo da Vinci expert in the Hermitage museum's Western European art department, told the London Times that in 1998 he had shared his controversial ideas about Da Vinci's Mona Lisa painting with visitors from Texas, one of whom asked if he could pass them on to his friend, Brown. Anikin told the Times that he agreed, even giving his theory about the painting a name -- The Da Vinci Code. "When I read the book, I was shocked at its poor quality and because it used my ideas," Anakin told the newspaper. He is demanding an apology from Brown and half the revenue from the book. A film version of the book is due to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next month.

VIDEO DEALERS AND GAME MERCHANTS TO COMBINE

The Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) and the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA) announced Tuesday that they plan to merge into a single trade group that represents retailers of both home video and video games. VSDA President Bo Anderson will head the merged group, while IEMA President Hal Halpin will become a consultant to the group. In February the two groups had hired Washington lobbyist Stuart Spencer to jointly represent them. In a statement, IEMA Chairman Rick Vergara said, ""This is a great development for both the video and video game industries. The merger will create a more efficient and influential organization to serve the needs of video and video game retailers and distributors. The interests of the membership of the two associations are so closely aligned that we expect a seamless integration."

ICE AGE MELTS THE COMPETITION IN BRITAIN

Ice Age: The Meltdown raked in a stunning $17.11 million in its debut at the British box office over the weekend, more than all other films in the top-ten list combined. By contrast, the No. 2 film, She's the Man, earned $1.74 million, or roughly a tenth of what Ice Age garnered. The film also performed strongly in other international markets as well, taking in a total of $93 million in overseas markets.

Cinemark Movie Club