NO RUNAWAY TV PRODUCTION, SAYS STUDYDespite much talk of producers fleeing Hollywood to save money in other states and countries, TV producers, whose budgets are generally a fraction of those of their movie counterparts, overwhelmingly prefer shooting in Southern California. A study by the semi-official Entertainment Industry Development Corp. found that 43 of the 58 one-hour dramas on primetime TV are shot in Los Angeles and 48 of the 54 primetime half-hour shows. Reality shows tend to be shot elsewhere, however; only 5 of 18 are produced locally. The agency estimated that the average one-hour episode costs $2 million to produce; $1.25 million for a half-hour show; and $700,000 for a reality episode.


The Producers Guild of America has indicated it will resist efforts by the Writers Guild of America to organize staff members of reality shows, who may be called story producers, story editors or segment producers but who, the WGA claims, are actually writers. In a letter to the WGA, the PGA warned the guild that it "may be courting a strain of chaos for the entire industry" with its efforts. In the letter, signed by the PGA's vice president for television, Marshall Herskovitz, and executive director Vance Van Patten, the WGA was taken to task for acting alone when it filed a lawsuit on June 7 accusing the major networks and production companies affiliated with Mike Fleiss of violating state labor laws by falsifying pay stubs, forcing staff members to work long hours without overtime payment and not allowing adequate meal periods. The WGA also said that the reality-show staff members, which it called "storytellers," were denied health insurance.


CNN anchor Jack Cafferty took the cable news network to task Thursday for its extended coverage of the sentencing of Dennis Rader, including its decision to carry Rader's long, rambling court statement in toto. [It later posted the video on its website.] Appearing on CNN's Situation Room, hosted by Wolf Blitzer, Cafferty remarked, "We ... played right into his hands. ... We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. Publicity is this monster's gasoline." ("I feel like I'm a star right now," Rader said during a two-hour Datelinedevoted entirely to him last Friday. "I seem to crave the attention of the media," he added in court on Thursday.) Cafferty called CNN's coverage "nonsense," and commented that "it doesn't belong on television." He warned that it might "inspire other nut cases out there that maybe they can get themselves famous by doing this." Cafferty confessed that he was "a little embarrassed to be a part of the media on a day like this."


Bob Costas, sitting in for Larry King, saw his ratings more than double Wednesday night as he devoted the entire show to Dennis Rader, known as the BTK killer. On Monday and Tuesday, Costas, who has been designated King's "permanent substitute," had averaged only 516,000 viewers. That figure improved to 1,049,000 on Wednesday but was still below King's average of 1,140,000. On Thursday, King's show was hosted by Chris Pixley, the Atlanta criminal attorney with movie-star good looks who was a member of Scott Peterson's defense team. His subjects were the continued search in Aruba for Natalee Holloway and the Rader sentencing. (Pixley to Holloway's mother: "Now there is this new report, hundreds of miles away from Aruba, of human remains washing up in Venezuela. Do you ever allow yourself to think that this could be your daughter?")


Seemingly turning the controversial Dancing With the Starsdecision to its own advantage, ABC announced Thursday that it will present a "Dance-Off" special on Sept. 20, a kind of rematch in which the final decision will be made by the audience, not the show's three judges. The "star" winner last month was Kelly Monaco, who appears on ABC's General Hospital. Several TV critics suggested that the fix was in. And in today's (Friday) Washington Post, writer Lisa De Moraes wrote that runner-up John O'Hurley was "robbed," adding "Monaco was a rotten dancer, the likes of which prime-time TV hasn't seen since Elaine on Seinfeld[O'Hurley played Elaine's boss]. But she was smart enough to cut down the size of her costumes to match the size of her dancing talent."BLAME THE SLUMP ON POORER PICS, SAYS NATO HEADThe president of the National Association of Theater Owners has attributed the slump in the box office this year to movies that are "not so good" as those released in previous years. In a statement, John Fithian added: "They're not terrible; they're just not as good. And so the industry has experienced a temporary drop-off compared to 2004, the biggest box office year in movie history." Fithian's comments came as part of NATO's response to a suggestion by incoming Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger that the time period between the release of a movie theatrically and its release on DVD be shortened or eliminated entirely. Fithian labeled the proposal a "death threat" against theater owners, saying that there could be "no viable theater industry" if Iger's suggestion was implemented. He maintained that the box-office slump could not be attributed to consumers suddenly deciding to stay home to watch DVD's. The reason, he said, "is the product." In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Fithian also dismissed comments that the slump was due to customers dissatisfied with their experience at theaters. "All those issues -- ticket prices, ads in cinemas and moviegoers who make noise or talk on cell phones -- were all present in 2004, a year in which we had record box office," he said.


The Walt Disney Co.' board of directors, stung by criticism by a Delaware Chancery Court that it had fallen short of the "best practices" of corporate governance in its oversight of the hiring and firing of Michael Ovitz, instituted a round of reforms Thursday. Under them, whenever shareholders withhold a majority of votes for a director running unopposed for reelection, the director must submit a letter of resignation, which the Disney board will then review. Under another measure, the board will be barred from buying back the shares of a troublesome shareholder at above-market prices unless shareholders approve.


Hollywood's major studios are considering significantly reducing their expenditures on advertising in major-market newspapers, L.A. Weeklycolumnist Nikki Finke reported today, citing one unnamed mogul who commented that newspaper readers are mostly "older and elitist." Finke added that at least two Hollywood movie studios -- which she did not identify -- have already decided to cut their newspaper ads as soon as possible. Even those studios who are likely to continue their advertising campaigns may be doing so not to attract patrons, Finke added, quoting another executive as saying, "It's about talent relations. The only reason you do it is because the talent expects it. ... These people like to see their ad in the paper. It's ego feed."


On the heels of the best buzz any movie has generated this year, critics are gushing with praise for The 40-Year-Old Virgin, co-written by and starring Steve Carell. Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, who calls the comedy, "charmingly bent,"observes that nothing Carell has done in the past -- including his regular appearances on The Daily Showand his starring role in the U.S. version of The Office, conveys "his sheer likability [or] his range as an actor, both crucial to making this film work as well as it does." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily Newswrites that Carell "gives a breakout performance in the title role, creating a character who would be downright pathetic if he weren't so darn lovable." Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirermarvels that the "film succeeds in having its virginity and losing it, too. Like Wedding Crashers, it purges its cynicism with romanticism." As for the title, Chris Kaltenbach in the Baltimore Sunwrites: "People see the name of this movie and get defensive. What's wrong with being a virgin? they ask. Absolutely nothing, and that's part of the point of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, probably the most sweet-spirited sex comedy ever made. It's pretty funny, too." On the other hand, Lou Lumenick in the New York Postisn't buying any of that "sweet-spirited" stuff. "Like the somewhat less smutty Wedding Crashers, it panders to that crowd by wrapping envelope-pushing sex gags -- garnished with yards of misogynistic, homophobic and racist quips -- around a sweet love story between the innocent title character ... and a divorced young grandmother." And Geoff Pevere concludes in the Toronto Star: "The 40 Year-Old Virgin is overlong, meandering and pedestrianly executed (by first-time director [Judd] Apatow), and it leaves you wishing someone had pointed out economy and comedy aren't necessarily mutually exclusive."


Wes Craven's Red Eye (the title refers to late-night airline flights),could turn out to be "the summer's killer thriller," writes Jan Stuart in Newsday. Several other critics agree. No one, however, is awarding it four stars. As Stephen Hunter observes in the Washington Post, the movie is not great, and maybe only "sort of good." But it is, he says, "nifty." Lou Lumenick in the New York Postputs it this way: "In a summer when so many overhyped, overlong and sloppily directed movies have disappointed, Wes Craven's unpretentious, lightning-paced B-movie Red Eye offers far more nail-biting thrills than we've come to expect during Hollywood's dog days." Several critics note that the film marks a departure for Craven. Bob Townsend in the Atlanta Journal-Constitutionremarks that while the director may be best known for slasher films like A Nightmare on Elm Streetand Scream, "he shows that subtler suspense can be shaped from some of those same menacing elements, even if the pace is a little slower and the scares much more real."


Valiant is a bird, critics are pointing out, and, they seem to indicate, it's certainly no prince. In fact, they're taking turns at firing potshots at Disney's latest animated feature. (The film was produced by a British company; Disney is distributing it.) It's digitally animated, not hand-drawn and voiced by such top-name British talent as Ewan McGregor, Ricky Gervais, Jim Broadbent, Tim Curry, John Cleese, Hugh Laurie and John Hurt. Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinelconcludes that it's "watchable. But try explaining all of this not-particularly funny adult history, humor and clutter to a child." Likewise, Kyle Smith in the New York Post warns that the movie "will fly over the heads of actual youngsters." And Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Timessuggests that the film may be trying too hard to fly high. She writes: "Valiant wants to be the Saving Private Ryan of animated war movies. Instead (and the characters are just as hard to tell apart) it's their The Great Raid."