WHAT ABOUT BRIAN? NOT MUCH
ABC's new -- and heavily hyped -- drama What About Bryan, which debuted with decent, if underwhelming, ratings on Sunday night following Desperate Housewives, saw those ratings sliced in half Monday as it moved into its regular time slot, 10:00 p.m. The show posted a 4.9 average and an 8 share, behind a rerun of CSI:Miami on CBS (10.5/17) and the return of Medium on NBC (6.9/11).

JUDGE TOSSES OUT AARON SPELLING'S DEFAMATION SUIT

A Los Angeles judge ruled Monday that Aaron Spelling's former nurse was acting within her rights when she sent letters to more than 600 actresses asking whether Spelling had ever sexually harassed them. The nurse, Charlene Richards, had sued Spelling, claiming that he had asked her to have sex with him. Spelling in turn had sued Richards, claiming that the letter, whose recipients included members of the cast of the Spelling-produced Charlie's Angels and Beverly Hills 90210, defamed him. However, Judge William Highberger ruled Monday that Richards has the right to circulate such a letter in preparing her lawsuit against Spelling and threw out the harassment suit. Spelling has also sued Richards for breach-of-contract, contending that she violated a confidentiality agreement when she told her boyfriend about the alleged harassment. Highberger allowed that part of Spelling's lawsuit to proceed. But Richards' lawyer, Virginia Keeny, told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times: "It makes no public policy sense to allow an employer to sue an employee for talking about unlawful conduct in the workplace."

PROPOSED SCHIEFFER COMMENTARIES ON CBS SLAMMED BY RIVALS

A report that Bob Schieffer may remain on the CBS Evening News to deliver commentaries twice a week has sparked numerous commentaries from TV news executives and other industry experts. John Reiss, executive producer of NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, indicated Monday that he has no plans to follow suit. "I'm uncomfortable with airing one person's opinion. We want to play it straight down the middle," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. But Alex Jones, director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, told the newspaper that "Commentary has always been part of good journalism, as long as it's labeled as commentary." And J. Max Robins, editor of Broadcasting & Cable magazine remarked, "In this day and age, people like distinctive voices. ... The right voice can attract new people. It can be a real signature."

FOX NEWS TO SEEK HUGE FEE INCREASE FROM CABLERS

Fox News Channel is considering asking cable companies to pay it $1 per month per subscriber -- quadruple the rate it currently charges them, the website Multichannel News reported Monday, citing a copy of a proposal that it had obtained. (The figure was later confirmed by a Fox News executive.) It also calls for a 10-cent monthly fee for the proposed Fox Business Channel.

FILMMAKERS ASK SMITHSONIAN TO DROP SHOWTIME DEAL

More than 215 filmmakers, television executives and academics have signed a letter demanding that the Smithsonian Institution abandon its deal with Showtime Networks, the New York Times reported today (Tuesday). The letter was reportedly sparked by word that the Smithsonian and Showtime had entered a joint venture to create an on-demand channel in December that would have first refusal on making commercial documentaries that relied on the museum's archives and personnel. Among those signing the letter were documentary filmmakers Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11), R.J. Cutler (The War Room) and Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room). In it, they write: "Closing off one of the most important collections of source materials and limiting access to staff will have a chilling effect on creativity, will create disincentives for digitization of the collections for access by all Americans, and violates the mission and purpose of the Smithsonian Institution." However, a Smithsonian spokeswoman told the Times: "We understand the filmmakers' concerns, because they feel they will be cut out of the national collections, but that's just not true."

NBC DEAL WILL BRING GAS AND VIDEO TO PUMPS

Motorists will soon be filling up not only with gasoline at their local service-station pumps but with local news, weather and sports, too, NBC said Monday. The video will be provided on video screens installed by VST Media Network at gasoline pumps all over the country. In a statement, NBC stations exec Ric Harris observed that the gas-station video will "provide advertisers with unique digital media marketing solutions to expose their brand to a captive, out of home audience."

SOUTH PARK FANS OUTRAGED OVER CENSORSHIP

Scores of South Park fans have expressed outrage at Comedy Central's decision last week to delete a scene depicting the prophet Muhammad. Among the printable comments posted on the South Park website were these: "This is a cowardly act." "You guys suck." "I could smell the stench of hipocrisy (sic) through my television." "Osama is proud of you." "Wake up America! Our way of life is being taken away!" "They have mocked the millions that have died throughout this countries (sic) history to ensure our rights." "With this move against free speech Comedy Central has become uncool and irrelevant." One message observed that after Comedy Central came under attack last December for a Denis Leary special on Christmas, spokesman Tony Fox responded, "We don't cave to pressure and we're not pulling the show off the air. That's not something we've ever done." For its part, Comedy Central said last week that it was motivated by concern for public safety. "Did we censor the show? Yes, we did. But if you hold Comedy Central's 15-year track record up against any other network out there, you'll find that we afford our talent the most creative freedom."

DIE HARD DIRECTOR PLEADS GUILTY TO PERJURY
John McTiernan, who directed such movie blockbusters as Die Hard, The Thomas Crown Affair, and The Hunt for Red October, pleaded guilty Monday to charges that he lied to FBI investigators about whether he knew that private detective Anthony Pellicano had engaged in illegal wiretapping on his behalf. McTiernan reportedly struck a plea bargain with prosecutors, in which he agreed to provide further information about Pellicano's alleged snooping. He admitted to U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer on Monday that he paid Pellicano $50,000 to wiretap producer Charles Roven in the summer of 2000. McTiernan directed the Roven-produced Rollerball, released in 2002.

WOODY ALLEN BIDS PARIS AU REVOIR

Woody Allen may be regarded as a veritable hero in France, but the filmmaker has decided that shooting a movie there is too expensive. Daily Variety reported today (Tuesday) that Allen has scrapped plans to shoot his next film in Paris, and has decided to shoot a third film in London instead. The Paris film was to have starred Michelle Williams -- in her first movie since her Oscar-nominated role in Brokeback Mountain -- and David Krumholtz, the star of CBS's Numb3rs. Variety said that the London film will have a different script and a different cast. In a recent interview with Paris-based writer Norman Spinrad, Allen remarked about the city: "Whenever I'm here, I love it and I always feel depressed when I have to leave here." Fittingly, Daily Variety, in its item today, remarked: "Woody Allen will have plenty to talk about in his next therapy session."

IT'S SCARY: WEINSTEIN FLICK IS NO. 1

The fledgling Weinstein Co. on Monday was celebrating its first No. 1 hit, as final figures put the box-office take of Scary Movie 4 at $40.2 million. It was the biggest Easter weekend opener in history. Indeed, the box office itself, after a lackluster first quarter, seemed finally to be taking off. The third weekend of Ice Age: The Meltdown took in $20 million -- almost as much as the No. 1 film, The Amityville Horror took in in its debut last year during the comparable weekend. The total box-office gross of $119.9 million was 31 percent above the year-ago figure, according to the Hollywood Reporter.The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Scary Movie 4, Weinstein Co. $40,222,875, (New); 2. Ice Age: The Meltdown, 20th Century Fox, $20,026,625, 3 Wks. ($147,226,916); 3. The Benchwarmers, Sony, $9,913,291, 2 Wks. ($35,881,922); 4. The Wild, Disney, $9,684,809, (New); 5. Take the Lead, New Line, $6,783,697, 2 Wks. ($22,601,019); 6. Inside Man, Universal, $6,427,815, 4 Wks. ($75,421,180); 7. Lucky Number Slevin, Sony/MGM, $4,752,800, 2 Wks. ($14,297,147); 8. Thank You for Smoking, Fox Searchlight, $4,491,102, 5 Wks. ($11,539,571); 9. Failure to Launch, Paramount, $2,608,433, 6 Wks. ($83,179,669); 10. V for Vendetta, Warner Bros., $2,224,266, 5 Wks. ($66,037,682).

ACADEMY MOVES OSCARS BACK TO FEBRUARY

The 79th annual Academy Awards presentations will again be held in late February next year after being moved into March this year because of the Winter Olympics. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a schedule of Oscar-related events for next year, including the announcement of nominees on Jan. 23 and the Academy Awards show itself on Feb. 25 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

EISNER BACKING ONLINE MOVIE SITE

After heading up the battle against Internet sites that allow consumers to download movies, Michael Eisner is reportedly buying into one such site -- albeit a 100-percent legal one, presumably. Daily Variety reported that Eisner plans to take part in a $12.5-million round of financing for the video website Veoh Networks, which gives consumers numerous choices about how they wish to subscribe to the network.

CRUISE WALKS OUT OF INTERVIEW WITH SWEDISH REPORTER

Tom Cruise reportedly walked out of an interview with a reporter for the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet Söndag recently after the reporter questioned him about his claim that Scientology had helped him overcome dyslexia. As reported by MSNBC.com's gossip columnist Jeannette Walls, Cruise laughed when the reporter, Björn Benkow, cited experts as saying that dyslexia could not be cured by Scientology's methods, then said that he had to "admit that you have the courage of a madman. ... This is something no journalist has dared say to me face-to-face. ... Your cynical media colleagues cast doubt over all the good that we do by spreading a bunch of hocus pocus about us." When Kidman's name later came up, Cruise reportedly cut the interview short, remarking, "Now you've gone over the line." In an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer on Friday, Kidman's name was never brought up in the interview, leading to speculation that a condition of the interview was that she not be mentioned.

HD DVD TO DEBUT TODAY

The first high-definition video disks using Toshiba's HD DVD format are due to go on sale today (Tuesday). They include Universal's Serenity and Warner Bros.' The Last Samurai and Phantom of the Opera. Players are also expected to make their debut at all Best Buy stores today and at select Sears, Wal-Mart, Costco and Tweeters locations by the end of the week, according to Home Media Retail magazine.

Cinemark Movie Club