NBC WINS, WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM FRIENDS
NBC didn't have The Apprentice on its schedule Thursday night but it did have one of the final episodes of Friends, and that was all it took to give it a substantial ratings win for the night. The episode drew a 16.6 rating and a 25 share, making it the most-watched show of the night. A repeat episode of Friends at 8:30 p.m. also drew strong numbers, a 14.5/21. CBS's competing Survivor: All-Stars, by contrast, recorded a 12.2/18 in the same hour. NBC finished the night with a strong 14.0/21, beating CBS's 12.2/18. The rest of the pack was left in the dust.

ADELPHIA MAY PUT ITSELF UP FOR SALE

Bankrupt Adelphia Communications, which reportedly had been considering selling off parts of its cable operation to pay creditors and emerge from Chapter 11, is now considering selling itself whole, the company's current chief said Thursday. Today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times quoted analysts as saying that the front-runners for Adelphia's assets, said to be worth as much as $20 billion, are Time Warner and Cox Communications. Adelphia, the country's fifth largest cable system, declared bankruptcy in 2002 following allegations that its founding Rigas family had used it as collateral for billions of dollars in private loans. Founder John Rigas and his two sons Timothy and Michael are currently standing trial on charges of misleading investors and cooking the company's books.

TWO TOP CANDIDATES FOR LEADING JOB AT NBC QUIT

Surprising many in the industry, the two executives who were considered to be the top candidates to become head of syndication for NBC Universal when the merger is completed suddenly resigned Thursday. Ed Wilson, who had been president of NBC Enterprises and Syndication, said that he simply wanted to work in a different area of the business. Today's Los Angeles Times said that the other possible candidate for the job, Steve Rosenberg, currently president of Universal Domestic Television, quit because he was "disgusted" with the way the selection process was being handled. In reporting on the dual resignations, the Times commented that they "disrupted NBC's plans for a smooth marriage with Universal."

"DO THEY KNOW SOMETHING THAT WE DON'T KNOW?"

Analysts were puzzling Thursday over a conference call by Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone and President Mel Karmazin in which the pair sounded delighted over first-quarter revenue showing a 60 percent surge over the same quarter a year ago, but they were restrained when it came to issuing earnings forecasts for the year. They left their estimates at 12-14 percent. "The current forecast represents a slowdown in performance for the rest of the year,'' Richard Greenfield of Fulcrum Global Partners told today's (Friday) New York Times. He then asked: "Are they being so conservative, or do they know something that we don't know?" But Schwab Soundview analyst Jordan Rohan told the New York Daily News that he expected the forecast to be raised later in the year. Viacom's interests include CBS, Infinity Broadcasting, MTV, BET, Simon and Schuster, and Paramount Pictures.

KARMAZIN VOWS TO FIGHT FCC ON DECENCY ISSUE

Viacom President Mel Karmazin indicated Thursday that the company intends to battle the FCC if the commissioners continue to become more assertive in restricting "indecent" language on the airwaves. Viacom syndicates the Howard Stern radio program, and its television network, CBS, broadcast the infamous Janet Jackson breast-baring incident. "We are concerned any time the government gets involved in issues like speech," Karmazin said in a conference call with investors. "It is a very slippery slope for them to try to use their position to influence the kinds of programs Americans get to hear." Some analysts have indicated that Viacom could be fined millions of dollars for numerous incidents of indecent language broadcast during the Howard Stern radio program. But Karmazin indicated that the company will fight any such fines. "We are aggressively going to take the FCC to court if the opportunity presents itself," Karmazin said.

RATING SIGNS

Advertisers have speculated about the value of buying signage at sports stadiums since the dawn of television. Now Nielsen Media Research says that beginning this summer, it will attempt to determine how many times TV viewers see those signs. In a test run of its planned project, Nielsen said that signs for FleetBoston Financial Corp. posted at Fenway Park appeared 84 times during last week's Yankees-Red Sox game and were visible for a total of seven minutes and 22 seconds. In reporting on the Nielsen project, the Associated Press today (Friday) observed that in many cases signs that appear on stadium walls during sports telecasts don't even exist -- they're inserted electronically for television only.

EX-BBC CHIEF THUMBS NOSE AT THOSE WHO FIRED HIM

Former BBC Director General Greg Dyke indicated Thursday that he submitted his resignation to the BBC's board of governors following the release of the Hutton report, hoping that it would not be accepted. The Hutton report concluded that a BBC reporter had broadcast unfounded accusations against the Tony Blair government and that editorial oversight had been defective. Appearing as a guest host on the BBC's satirical panel show Have I Got News for You, scheduled to air tonight, he introduced one guest by describing him as "a man who left the BBC after a row -- like I did -- and who has since been reemployed by the corporation. If you're watching, Michael Grade ..." (Grade was recently appointed BBC chairman.) When one panelist suggested that Blair might have to submit his resignation "hoping it may not be accepted," Dyke interjected: "That's below the belt." At another point, he read a scandalous internal email from a Shell oil company figure who concluded: "This is dynamite. Not at all what I expected, and needs to be destroyed." Dyke commented, "Funny -- that's exactly what I said about the Hutton report. The difference between the two, of course, was that the Shell report was true."

ALLEGED BECKHAM PARAMOUR TO RECREATE HER AFFAIR ON PORNO FLICK

An adult cable TV channel in the U.K. has offered Rebecca Loos $442,000 to recreate a night of sex with a lookalike of soccer star David Beckham. The London Daily Mirror said that the TV channel Xplicit XXX wants Loos, Beckham's former personal assistant, to make an hour-long film in which the two would make love in the same way that she claims they did during an affair in Spain last year.

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: 13 GOING ON 30

13 Going on 30, another movie in which a child switches bodies with an adult, is no Big or even a Freaky Friday, critics agree.But star Jennifer Garner is receiving high marks in the charm department. Jonathan Foreman in the New York Post writes that the Alias star "turns out to be a very fine comedienne with an extraordinary knack for moving and sounding like a real teenager -- all awkward vitality and openness -- despite looking very grown-up indeed." Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News praises Garner's ability for "capturing the body language of a spirited, giggly girl, and turning that into an appealing womanly trait." And Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer comments that "Garner delivers an irresistible, star-making performance." Not doing so well in the eyes of most critics is the movie itself. "13 Going on 30 plays like it was made by people who are 30 going on 13. The movie is as flighty and mixed up as the adolescent girl at its center," Mark Caro observes in the Chicago Tribune. But Manohla Dargis argues in the Los Angeles Times: "Life is too short to get worked up about what movies like this are trying to say when all they're really saying is, 'Isn't Jennifer Garner adorable and won't she make a great star?'"

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: MAN ON FIRE

Man on Fire will test moviegoers' lust for righteous revenge. It has certainly tested the critics'. On the one hand, there's Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who writes that the movie "aspires to be something more than a straight-up ransom/revenge flick. It also wants to say a few things about faith, friendship and redemption. And for the most part it succeeds." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News calls it "the first (nonreligious) sure thing to hit the multiplex this year." On the other hand, Jan Stuart in Newsday observes: "There will be worse movies before the year is out. There will most certainly be longer ones. But it's hard to imagine a picture more in need of sedation than Man on Fire, two hours and 20 minutes of the most out-of-control filmmaking you've seen since your Jack Russell terrier grabbed the Handicam off the coffee table, mistaking it for a tug toy." Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun calls it "incendiary trash." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the movie "plays as if [director Tony] Scott knows the plot is threadbare, and wants to patch it with an excess of style." And Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mail advises: "If your idea of a bargain is two bad movies for the price of one, then shell out for Man on Fire. And don't fret about that incendiary title because this thing is all fuse."

ARIZONA SCHOOL CAN'T FIGURE OUT WHY IT WAS RAIDED

School officials in Deer Valley, Arizona were puzzling over a raid by FBI officials of their computer center, where bootleg copies of movies, music and software were allegedly being stored. The Arizona Republic reported today (Friday) that the Justice Department had declined to reveal why the Deer Valley School District had been targeted, telling the newspaper only that "our educational institutions have access to very high speed and good computer capacity, and the ability to move things digitally. So it's not surprising to me that there may be individuals who would seek to use those kinds of access points." The Arizona raid was said to be part of a worldwide sweep dubbed Operation Fastlink in which as many as 200 computers were seized. Attorney General John Ashcroft said that one server seized in the raids contained 65,000 pirated "titles." He did not indicate where the computer had been maintained or what sort of material comprised the titles. Additional raids were carried out in Israel, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Singapore, Sweden, and the U.K. No arrests were made.

ADD TIME WARNER TO LIST OF POTENTIAL SUITORS FOR MGM

A day after reports appeared indicating that Sony was in talks with MGM about buying the legendary film studio, the New York Post reported today (Friday) that Time Warner has had similar talks with MGM and could team with buyout firm Thomas H. Lee Partners in making its own bid. The Post, citing unnamed sources,observed that it was not clear how serious Time Warner's interest is in pursuing MGM.

NEW STAR TREK MOVIE IN THE WORKS

Star Trek producer Rick Berman has confirmed that work has begun on developing a new theatrical Star Trek feature, which he has described, without elaboration, as a "prequel." "I am involved in the very earl stages of what could be the next Star Trek movie," Berman told the British magazine Dreamwatch. "It's something I will be producing with two other producers."

CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER WILL ENTERTAIN AGAIN

On the heels of the success of Fox Searchlight's Johnson Family Vacation, starring Cedric the Entertainer, MGM is developing a remake of the 1986 comedy Back to School, which starred Rodney Dangerfield, for Cedric (real name: Cedric Kyles), the Hollywood Reporter reported today (Friday). Family Vacation, which cost only $12 million to make, has taken in more than $22 million since its opening three weeks ago.

ISRAEL MAY GET A LOOK AT THE PASSION

Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, which has been shunned by film distributors in Israel, may finally be screened in that country following a decision by a theater in Tel Aviv to buck the prevailing anti-Passion sentiment. Numerous Jewish groups have asserted that the film could promote anti-Semitism, and members of the Israeli Knesset have urged that it be banned. A spokesperson for the Tel Aviv Cinemateque said Thursday that the theater has decided to show the film because it has received numerous calls expressing curiosity about it. News reports have indicated that bootleg CDs of the movie are being circulated among the Christian Arab population in eastern Jerusalem.

ANIMATOR HARRY HOLT DEAD AT 93.

Animator Harry Holt, who joined the Walt Disney Company in 1936 and worked on such features as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Lady and the Tramp has died in Florida at the age of 93, the company said Thursday. In the 1960s he became chief designer of Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, and in the early '90s, greeted visitors to the Disney/MGM Studio Preview Center in Orlando.

Cinemark Movie Club