WHAT ABOUT BRIAN? VERY LITTLEABC's What About Brian, which drew decent ratings with its highly promoted premiere following Desperate Housewivesa week ago, then produced lackluster ratings in its regular slot a day later, utterly crashed Monday night. The show, which drew mostly favorable reviews in its debut, posted a mere 3.9 rating and a 6 share opposite CBS's CSI: Miami,which recorded a 12.1/19 and NBC's Medium, which drew a 6.8/11. Earlier in the evening NBC's game show Deal or No Dealremained strong in the 8:00 p.m. hour, registering a 9.6/15, while CBS took over the 9:00 p.m. hour with Two and a Half Men(9.5/14) and The New Adventures of Old Christine (8.1/2) For the night, CBS averaged an 8.7/14, followed by NBC with a 7.6/12. Fox placed third with a 6.7/10, while ABC trailed with a 4.6/7.


Two former network anchors appeared somewhat less than enthusiastic in discussing the prospect of Katie Couric's ascension to the anchor position on the CBS Evening News. Speaking to reporters in Las Vegas, where they received awards from the National Association of Broadcasters, Dan Rather, the onetime Evening News anchor, remarked that the hiring of Couric was part of "a period of transition" for network news. "I have no doubt CBS News will be different -- and not just the anchor," he said. Former NBC Nightly Newsanchor Tom Brokaw appeared even more cautious in assessing Couric's rise to the top. "CBS clearly has something in mind, but what it is, I don't know," he remarked. Apparently referring to CBS chief Les Moonves's remark that he believed the network newscast was "antiquated," Brokaw commented, "The country was pretty well served by the old model. It shouldn't change, and I don't expect it to." Reporters said that Rather became "emotional" when asked about Moonves remark that he wanted to get rid of the "voice of God" anchor. "It's the voice of experience," he said.


Viewers have flooded ABC's switchboards and posted hundreds of messages on the network's website complaining about Friday's Primetimebroadcast about dysfunctional "step-families" in which a father was shown hitting his teenage daughter. Many demanded to know why the network did not show the tape to police and have the man arrested, pointing out that he appeared to be a menace not only toward the daughter but three other small children living in the house. In a statement on Monday ABC said, "This was the only scene of physical punishment in the hundreds of hours of footage." It noted that the girl, Kyle Nelson, moved out of the house shortly after the incident occurred in Dec. 2002. On today's (Tuesday) Good Morning America,three psychologists who appeared on the Primetimeprogram agreed that after viewing the tapes they saw numerous incidents of "inappropriate parenting" but no safety issue. However, one of the psychologists, Dr. Patricia Papernow, author of Becoming a Stepfamily, took the program's producers to task for repeatedly airing the violent footage throughout the program. "When you expose viewers to a piece of violent tape over and over again, it's traumatizing to viewers," Papernow remarked. Dianne Sawyer, who hosts Good Morning America and hosted the Primetimespecial, lifted her right hand and replied, "I'm taking the pledge here. It won't happen again. It really will not happen again."


BET, the Viacom-owned cable network that targets the African-American audience, has unveiled a slate of eight original program series -- all of it of the "reality" genre and most of it focused on celebrities. The programs include Next Level: Vince Young, which will follow Vince Young, the former quarterback for the University of Texas Longhorns, as he turns pro. Speaking to prospective ad buyers, BET President Reginald Hudlin, a former filmmaker who was appointed to his current post last year, said that he intended to turn the network from "a beast into a monster." Extrapolating from that remark, Daily Varietycommented today (Tuesday) that the network wanted to present itself as "the King Kong of cablers" -- a remark that seemed certain to perturb more than a few executives at the black-operated network.


Bianca Nardi, a producer of Maury Povich's syndicated talk show, has filed a $100-million lawsuit against Povich and others connected with the show, claiming she was forced to expose herself in the studio, watch pornographic videos, and fill in for a female producer while the woman was having a sexual relationship with Povich. At one point, the suit alleges, executive producer Paul Faulhaber ordered her to wear provocative clothes, go to a bar, and "secretly videotape married men agreeing to have sex with her." In a statement, NBC Universal, which syndicates The Maury Povich Show, responded, "We do not believe that Ms. Nardi was a victim of unlawful sexual harassment and intend to defend this lawsuit vigorously."


On Wednesday night's taped Conversations with Michael Eisneron CNBC, Regis Philbin takes the former Disney chief to task for burning out Who Wants to Be a Millionaireby overexposing it. According to excerpts from the show released by the cable network on Monday, Eisner replies, "We killed the golden goose. ... Can't we be stupid?" EXPLOSIVE OPENING FOR TRIBECA FESTIVALThe Tribeca Film Festival, a phoenix that arose out of the ashes of the 9/11 attack, opens tonight with the first theatrical motion picture about the disastrous day, United 93. Despite mostly excellent reviews, many box-office analysts question whether the film will draw an audience when it opens in general release this weekend. Daily Varietypointed out today (Tuesday) that while studio tracking indicates that the film is the top choice among males, it also registers a high percentage of persons who responded "definitely not interested." Lloyd Grove wrote in his column in the New York Daily Newsthat even Tribeca officials have had trouble attracting attendees. He quote a source as saying, "They were having trouble filling the seats and had to send out last-minute invitations to B-list invitees. ... There's a lack of appetite for watching something so gruesome." But a festival organizer insisted that the screening was full to overflowing.


In his review of United 93appearing today (Tuesday), New York Postcritic Lou Lumenick comments, "It's a long, brutal and honest look at a shattering event some Americans would apparently prefer not to see depicted -- but also a respectful, inspiring one that's in no way exploitative or emotionally manipulative." Gene Seymour in Newsdaycalls it a "persuasive account" of what actually occurred aboard the one plane that did not hit its target. "As many have feared, the movie is also wrenching to both the heart and the viscera, but those who choose to see it will be deeply, honestly moved," he writes. Claudia Puig in USA Todayrates it with four stars and calls it "undeniably the most gut-wrenching and captivating film released this year." David Denby writes in The New Yorker: "United 93 is a tremendous experience of fear, bewilderment, and resolution, and, when you replay the movie in your head afterward, you are likely to think that [writer/director Paul] Greengrass made all the right choices."


Crash, which received the Oscar for best movie of the year, crashed and burned when it came to the MTV Movie Awards. The movie received not a single nomination in any category. Instead, the list of nominees for best film included King Kong, Sin City, Batman Begins, The 40-Year Old Virgin, and Wedding Crashers.(Brokeback Mountainalso didn't make the list of nominations for best film, either, but Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, the film's stars, were nominated for "best kiss.") MTV made numerous changes in its award categories, becoming the first to drop gender divisions in the acting categories. Instead nominees were grouped under the category "best performance." An award will also be presented to the top student filmmaker. The awards show will take place in Culver City on June 3 and air on MTV five days later.


It has been a good year for scary movies. The low-budget, low-risk films have filled the coffers of several Hollywood studios even while costlier films have proved, well, costly. On Monday two scary movies led the box-office list. The premiere of Silent Hill, based on the popular video game, led in ticket sales with $20.2 million, while last week's top film, the spoof Scary Movie, placed second with $16.8 million. Today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times observes that of this year's 25 top-grossing films, a quarter have been horror films. In an interview with the Times,Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian commented horror films and family films -- another genre that has proved to be successful this year -- get people out of their homes because they are "genres that people don't necessarily want to wait for the DVDs." Paramount Pictures President Gail Berman put it this way, "When you give people something they want, guess what? They come." The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):1. Silent Hill,Sony, $20,152,598, (New); 2. Scary Movie 4, Weinstein Co. $16,814,942, 2 Wks. ($67,478,181); 3. The Sentinel, 20th Century Fox, $14,367,854, (New); 4. Ice Age: The Meltdown, 20th Century Fox, $13,284,408, 4 Wks. ($168,348,135); 5. The Wild, Disney, $8,332,068, 2 Wks. ($22,240,635); 6. The Benchwarmers, Sony, $7,256,143, 3 Wks. ($47,101,418); 7. Take the Lead, New Line, $4,176,517, 3 Wks. ($29,482,613); 8. Inside Man, Universal, $3,748,955, 5 Wks. ($81,313,510); 9. American Dreamz, Universal, $3,667,420, (New); 10. Friends With Money, Sony Classics, $3,179,025, 3 Wks. ($4,960,765).