LATER FOR LATE LATE SHOW

Craig Kilborn surprised CBS execs Thursday by informing them that he had decided not to renew his contract to host the Late Late Show, produced by David Letterman's Worldwide Pants. "It was easily the greatest job I've had, and CBS was very generous in their offer to re-sign me," Kilborn told Daily Variety. "But I simply want to try something new. I can now focus on writing and producing different television projects I haven't had time for." Letterman's company, which has the right to produce the program, said it will immediately begin a search for a replacement. Kilborn, who before joining CBS was the host from 1996-1999 of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, had boosted the network's ratings during his time period, but nevertheless consistently came in second to NBC's Conan O'Brien.

LETTERMAN NEARLY TIES LENO

An especially strong summer season for CBS has helped boost the ratings of Late Show With David Letterman, which came close to tying NBC's The Tonight Show With Jay Leno in last week's ratings. In the key demo group of adults 18-49, Leno drew an average 1.8 rating for the week with 5.1 million total viewers, while Letterman was slightly behind with a 1.7 rating and 4.9 million viewers. (The closeness of the results renders the difference statistically insignificant.) Letterman was also helped by the appearance of Bill Clinton on Tuesday night, which gave him a big lead for the night over Leno.

MCENROE TO PLAY DOUBLES WITH WOODY FRASER

Veteran producer Woody Fraser, who guided the Dick Cavett, Steve Allen, and Mike Douglas talk shows, and was the longtime executive producer of Good Morning America and That's Incredible, has been rounded up to save John McEnroe's new talk show on CNBC. McEnroe's show drew just 35,000 viewers last Tuesday, its smallest audience yet. Reporting on Fraser's assignment and McEnroe's ratings, Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes commented today (Friday): "In tennis it's called 'love.' In TV it's called 'scratch.' On CNBC it's called 'McEnroe.'"

HEFFRON'S LAST STAND

Detroit-area native John Heffron emerged as the Last Comic Standing in the latest round of NBC's comedy talent contest. His prizes include a contract with the network, his own special on Comedy Central, and an appearance tonight (Friday) on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In addition, as Jay Mohr, the show's producer-host, told Heffron Thursday night, "Your stand-up comedy price just quadrupled."

INTERNET WALLS AROUND OLYMPICS COVERAGE LIKELY TO FALL

Although NBC and the IOC have agreed to require overseas broadcasters to limit live Internet broadcasts of the 2004 Summer Olympics to their home countries, some Internet experts argue that such limitations can easily be surmounted and probably will be. Particularly attractive to Internet surfers may be the BBC's five streams of live Internet video streaming. (By contrast, NBC's Olympic site is offering only highlights -- after they have already been televised.) But Len Sassaman, a privacy-technology researcher, told Wired magazine that he expects the local restrictions on Internet broadcasting to fail. "It is not so far-fetched to think that someone will set up proxy servers in Britain that would do this," Sassaman told the magazine. He added that although relaying an event is not necessarily copyright infringement, the proxy servers could be configured to prevent the operator's IP address from reaching the originator of the telecast.

TV CAMERAMAN ORDERED TO FILM ABDUCTED REPORTER

Britain's Sky News has broadcast news footage of James Brandon, a reporter for the London Sunday Telegraph, surrounded by masked gunmen who had kidnaped him. "I'm a journalist," he says in the video. "I just write about what is happening in Iraq." The gunmen have threatened to kill Brandon unless U.S. forces withdraw from the holy city of Najaf within 24 hours. He reportedly was kidnaped at the Diyafah Hotel in Basra. A freelance cameraman working for Reuters was ordered by the gunmen to film Brandon, who was shirtless and wearing a bandage around his head. Although U.S. forces have been engaged in intense fighting with insurgents loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, a spokesman for al-Sadr called on Brandon's abductors to release him, according to Sky News. Meanwhile, the BBC reported that Israeli forces detained three of its journalists and a Palestinian doctor at gunpoint for three hours in Nablus. The soldiers also confiscated the journalists' tapes and notebooks, the BBC said. The three men, a TV crew, were accompanying the doctor as he visited an elderly patient. The Israeli soldiers reportedly had commandeered the woman's home when the crew arrived.

NO (MONSTER) MASH NOTES FROM CRITICS

Alien Vs. Predator is expected to rule the box office this weekend, and critics will have to queue up for tickets tonight just like every other moviegoer; 20th Century Fox decided not to schedule press screenings. "It's a dodge studios use in desperation when dumping cinematic turkeys, fearing that their gobblers would be incinerated by critical heat before being consumed by unsuspecting moviegoers," critic Peter Howell wrote in today's (Friday) Toronto Star. (Howell acknowledged, however, that the movie is "critic-proof" and that would fans would turn out in droves to see it "no matter how many thumbs jerk downwards from amongst the critical assassins.") The film will have unexpectedly heavy competition from Disney's The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement, which opened on Wednesday with a remarkable $8,478,000 -- clobbering last weekend's winner Collateral, which took in $2,863,000 on Wednesday. Warner Bros. is also opening the Japanese animated feature Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie, but it is not expected to attract big crowds. In fact, overall attendance at the box office is expected to fall significantly due to the opening of the Summer Olympics beginning tonight.

Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: YU-GI-OH! THE MOVIE

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie is pretty much an infomercial for Yu-Gi-Oh! The Game, critics almost universally agree. Comments Dave Kehr in the New York Times: "It's a sad excuse for a movie, but then, it isn't really meant to be one. It's a commercial with a ticket price." Chris Hewitt wonders about cryptic lines in the film like "You may have destroyed my dark clown, but I've still got my deck virus trapcard." But for all its Japanese provenance, Louise Kennedy writes in the Boston Globe, "Yu-Gi-Oh! "has been stripped to its all-American essence: a marketing platform." Megan Lehmann in the New York Post sums it all up in two words: "Exploitative rubbish." Nevertheless, Raju Mudhar in the Toronto Star surveyed some of the young people around him who had far different reactions to the film. One told him, "I give it a 9.5 out of 10." Two others, 7, 12, and 13 called it "great." Concluded Mudhar: "So if you're a parent with a kid who's into it, you know that you're going to have to go."

MSN PORTAL TO OFFER MORE ENTERTAINMENT SITES

Microsoft on Thursday announced deals with three entertainment companies to enhance the movie site on its MSN Internet portal by aggregating their products. The companies are: Blockbuster, which will offer its new online DVD rental service; MovieTickets.com, which will allow users to buy theater tickets online; and CinemaNow, which provides access to films that can legally be downloaded -- for a fee. The site already offers movie news and trailers of current films. "We keep investing in our entertainment site because it's one of our biggest click-throughs," MSN product manager Christine Andrews told the IDG News Service.

MPAA HONORS PROJECTIONISTS WHO TURNED IN PIRATES

The first two theater projectionists who spotted and turned in customers who were illegally camcording movies on the screen were handed reward checks for $500 by the MPAA for their action Thursday. One recipient saw a patron illegally camcording The Passion of the Christ at The Grove mall in Los Angeles on April 10. Another, using night-vision goggles, spotted a man recording The Alamo at a theater in the San Fernando Valley. The two pirates were later convicted of operating a recording device in a theater and sentenced to about a month in jail.

BERLUSCONI ASKED TO OVERTURN PLANS TO MAKE DE NIRO AN HONORARY ITALIAN

The 600,000-member Order of the Sons of Italy in America has sent a telegram to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi asking him to cancel a planned ceremony in which Robert De Niro is due to receive an honorary Italian citizenship. According to Britain's Guardian newspaper, the organization objects to De Niro's having "made a career of playing gangsters of Italian descent." OSIA has also sent a missive to DreamWorks demanding that it remove scenes from the upcoming animated film Shark Tale, in which De Niro provides the voice of Don Lino, a shark mob boss. OSIA deputy executive director Dona de Sanctis complained in the letterthat the film will "introduce unflattering and untrue stereotypes of Italian-Americans as gangsters to millions of children."