TOO MUCH TALK AT POPE'S FUNERAL, SAY CRITICSThe funeral of Pope John Paul II proved to be a test for a new assortment of network anchors who gathered in Vatican City to report on the solemn ritual. The Associated Press found them wanting. With NBC's Tom Brokaw, ABC's Peter Jennings, and CBS's Dan Rather all gone, "what was missed most," the A.P. commented, "was their experience in knowing when to interject information and observations and when to step aside, a seemingly effortless skill that's anything but." TV writer Ed Bark observed in the Dallas Morning News: "Those moved to witness history as it happened were best served when anchors and commentators fell eloquently silent in deference to the stirring sights and sounds enveloping the first true 'television pope.'" Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribunecomplained of the "time-killing chatter of the news anchors," and noted that they had not learned what most Catholics already knew -- that "it's bad form to talk during communion, which is meant to be a time of silent contemplation and prayer." The live coverage began airing at 4:00 a.m. Eastern Time (1:00 a.m. in the West).


CBS's total takeover of what was once NBC's "Must See TV" night seemed complete Thursday as the network, even while airing reruns during two of the three hours of primetime, attracted nearly twice NBC's audience. CBS finished with an average 12.0 rating and a 19 share versus NBC's 6.9/11. ABC was virtually out of the running with a 4.4/7, while Idol-less Fox managed only a 3.7/6. CBS got off to a strong start as Survivor: Palau with an 11.7/19 clobbered NBC's Joeyand Will & Grace, which averaged a 5.0/8. CBS increased its audience at 9:00 with a repeat of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation that drew a 13.9/21 versus an 8.9/14 for a new edition of The Apprentice on NBC. A rerun of CBS's Without a Trace at 10:00 recorded a 10.5/17 compared with a 6.8/11 for a rerun of NBC's once unbeatable E.R.


Comcast and Time Warner Cable have agreed to pay $18 billion in cash and stock for the bankrupt Adelphia Communications Corp., the New York Timesreported today (Friday), citing people familiar with the matter. Separately, the Wall Street Journalreported that the deal could be completed within days. As a result of the deal, Adelphia will now be able to pay off nearly all of the $20 billion owed to creditors, and Comcast and Time Warner will be able to divvy up their cable systems to comply with regulators' demands that Comcast dispose of its 21 percent stake in Time Warner Cable by November 2007. Under the deal, as it was reported by the Times, Comcast contributes $2 billion in cash and swaps its Time Warner stake in exchange for about two million Adelphia subscribers. Time Warner will pay $12 billion in cash and $5.6 billion in stock for 3.3 million subscribers. Earlier this week, Cablevision submitted a $16.5-billion all-cash bid for Adelphia.


Under a proposed deal with the NFL, ABC could drop Monday Night Football, a fixture on the network since 1970, allowing MNF to air instead on cable sibling ESPN, while ABC would carry Sunday night games, the New York Timesreported today (Friday). The deal could be worth as much as $1.45 billion, the newspaper reported. Under its current deal ABC pays $550 million to the NFL, and although the games boost ABC's overall ratings, they amount to a loss leader. The Timesestimated that the network loses about $150 million a year on MNF. The biggest problem that would then face the network under this arrangement would be having to move its successful Sunday-night lineup, which includes its biggest hit, Desperate Housewives, to other nights. The Timessuggested that ABC might follow NBC's example and drop football altogether, leaving Fox and CBS to pick up the Sunday-night broadcasts. Meanwhile, the Washington Postis quoting Pat Bowlen, chairman of the NFL's broadcasting committee, as saying that ABC has not indicated what they plan to do. "I'm hopeful we'll resolve something with them," he said.ICAHN: I CAHN'T STAND ANTIOCOAn angry Carl Icahn, the corporate raider best known for his 1985 takeover of TWA, lashed out at Blockbuster CEO John Antioco Thursday, accusing him of going on a "spending spree with shareholders' money," bungling the effort to take over rival Hollywood Video, while all the while receiving an "unconscionable" pay package that includes $7.2 million in salary, $5 million in options and $28 million in restricted stock. He demanded that spending be brought under control, that Antioco's "egregious" bonuses be curtailed; that greater dividends be paid to shareholders, and that any offers for the company be duly considered. He threatened to take control of Blockbuster's board next year if his demands are not met. He is by far Blockbuster's largest shareholder.


Spring only began less than three three weeks ago and the baseball season began only a few days ago, but a summer popcorn movie will be vying with a baseball-themed film at the box office this weekend with analysts split over which one will attract the bigger audience. While the Farrelly Brothers' Fever Pitch, starring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon, is a romantic comedy that ordinarily would primarily draw women, the fact that it's also about baseball (Fallon is a die-hard Red Sox fan and a climactic scene was filmed at the end of the final game of the World Series last year) is likely to attract male fans -- not to mention Bostonians. It will vie with the action-adventure film Sahara,starring Matthew McConaughey -- a $130-million extravaganza based on a Clive Cussler novel. Neither film is expected to draw blockbuster crowds.


Roger Ebert is spreading praise fairly evenly all around for the makers of Fever Pitch, writing that the two leads are "perfectly cast," that the directors -- the Farrelly brothers -- show that they can be "sensitive and warm-hearted, never push too hard, empathize with the characters" and that the script by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel based on a book by Nick Hornby reveals "truth and close observation. We know these people. We dated these people. We are these people." Manohla Dargis in the New York Timesfinds fault with a number of elements in the production. Nevertheless, she concludes, "I found myself rooting for this movie anyway, partly because Lindsey and Ben make a nice fit, as do the actors playing them, partly because the Farrellys bring so much heart to their movies, and partly because Ms. Barrymore inspires more goodwill than any other young actress I can think of working today in American movies." Indeed, many critics use the adjective "adorable" to describe her in the film. But several other critics write about the odd casting of Fallon in the lead role of an obsessed Red Sox fan. "As his mediocre skit work on Saturday Night Live demonstrated, Fallon has no presence or charm," writes Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News. But Gene Seymour in Newsdaywrites that Fallon performs the role "with perfectly pitched goofball ardor."


The buzz about Saharawas that it was not so hot and was likely to fizzle at the box office this weekend. Nevertheless, some critics are greeting it warmly. Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirercalls it, "Spectacularly silly and perversely entertaining." Similarly Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitutiondescribes it as "raucously nimble and cheerfully silly." Stephen Holden in the New York Times, while noting that it is not another Raiders of the Lost Ark, writes that it nevertheless "is a movie that keeps half a brain in its head while adopting the amused, cocky smirk of the Indiana Jones romps." Still, most critics are giving it the cold shoulder. Comments Peter Howell in the Toronto Star: "There's nothing here to engage the brain along with the eyeballs." "Saharais a mediocrity wrapped inside a banality, toasted in a nice, fresh cliché," writes Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post,paraphrasing Churchill. Noting that the film is directed by Breck Eisner, the son of Disney chief Michael Eisner, Janice Page in the Boston Globe comments, "Saharaisn't going to make him a mogul anytime soon." And Jan Stuart in Newsdayconcludes, "Sahara feels as plodding and fruitless as trekking the length of a desert on a pogo stick with a busted spring."


Writers and directors who were responsible for some of Miramax's biggest hits plan to remain loyal to Bob and Harvey Weinstein as they leave the Disney Co. to form a new production/distribution company, The Weinstein Co., the Gannett News Service reported Thursday. The wire service quoted Harvey Weinstein as saying that his company will maintain "relationships of what we believe are some of the most significant and the most profitable filmmakers in the world" -- among them, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Anthony Minghella. Rodriguez, whose Sin City debuted at No. 1 last weekend, commented, "If they're moving somewhere, you gotta go with them, or what, you're going to start making regular movies? They've still got the same taste. And they've got more to prove now, so they may do even better material."


Francis Ford Coppola is up in arms over Paramount's decision to produce (with videogame makers Electronic Arts) a videogame based on his The Godfathermovies. In a taped interview due to air on AMC's Sunday Morning ShootOutthis Sunday, Coppola said that the studio had never mentioned its plans to release a Godfathervideogame. "I knew nothing about it. They never asked me if I thought it was a good idea," Coppola said." Calling Coppola's movie, "one of history's most revered masterpieces," Electronic Arts says on it website that the game, due to be released in the fall, "serves as inspiration for the game as gamers will join the Corleone family and earn respect through loyalty and fear." Coppola says that he was able to get a preview of the game. "They use the characters everyone knows ... and then for the next hour they shoot and kill each other. I had absolutely nothing to do with the game and I disapprove."