Seeming to invoke the proverbial admonition that Rome wasn't built in a day, executives of HBO dismissed analysts' observations that the 3.8 million viewers who tuned into the first episode of RomeSunday fell far short of the numbers for other recent HBO series premieres. What counts, they indicated, will be the total number that the installment draws as it repeats over seven days on HBO's various digital channels. It is also available 24 hours a day on HBO's video-on-demand service. While the audience was roughly a third of that drawn by HBO's The Sopranos,a spokesman for the pay-TV channel remarked, "You can't compare it to The Sopranos. The two are completely different shows." The initial broadcast of Romeon Sunday also faced strong competition from MTV's Video Music Awards, which drew 8 million viewers. (Indeed, the VMAs may have been harmed more by Romethan vice versa; last year they drew 10.3 million viewers.) Fox News drew 4 million viewers for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina on Sunday, while CNN drew 2.3 million.


Nine of the top-ten shows last week were reruns. The only non-rerun was ABC's Monday Night Football preseason game between Dallas and Seattle, which tied for tenth. It was the 13th straight week that CBS held the championship. It averaged a 5.3 rating and a 9 share (7.71 million viewers). Fox was in second place with a 4.2/7 (5.96 million), as it edged out NBC, which posted a 4.0/7 (5.84 million). ABC trailed with a 3.8/7 (5.66 million). Ratings for the two top nightly news competitors remained close. NBC Nightly News with Brian Williamsattracted 8.1 million, while ABC's World News Tonightaveraged 7.8 million. CBS Evening Newsremained a considerable distance behind with 6.4 million.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 8.5/14; 2. 60 Minutes,CBS, 7.4/14; 2. (Tie)Two and a Half Men(9:30 p.m.), CBS, 7.4/12; 4. CSI: Miami, CBS, 7.2/12; 4. Without a Trace, CBS, 7.2/12; 6. Cold Case,CBS, 7.0/12; 7. Law and Order, NBC, 6.8/12; 8. Two and a Half Men (9:00 p.m.), CBS, 6.7/11; 9. NCIS, CBS, 6.5/11; 10. CBS Sunday Movie: Stone Cold, CBS, 6.4/10; 10. (Tie) Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 6.4/11; 10. (Tie) NFL Preseason Football (Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks), ABC, 6.4/11.


Television crews attempting to cover the devastation in New Orleans Tuesday were hamstrung by unforeseen difficulties as cell-phone communication proved spotty at best; satellite trucks failed to operate properly; and health dangers made some areas of the city off-limits to everyone. Satellite phones proved to be the most reliable instruments not only for TV reporters to remain in contact with their home bases but also for relaying pictures of the havoc. Jon Banner, executive producer of ABC's World News Tonight, told Reuters Tuesday: "We have a lot of real estate to cover and very little technology that will work. We've struggled to get a good way to transmit pictures from New Orleans. ... It's getting supplies for our troops, it's trying to get [to] these places that are blocked off by law enforcement and nature. It's a struggle."


The rise in ad spending for Spanish-language TV outpaced all media competitors during the first half of 2005, according to ad trackers Monitor-Plus. Spanish-language TV, principally stations affiliated with the Univision and Telemundo networks and the networks themselves, saw ad revenue increase 15 percent over the period. Advertising on cable networks was up 13.1 percent, although it rose only 4.9 percent on network TV. The local spot TV market was virtually flat with the year-ago numbers. Overall U.S. ad spending was up 5.7 percent.


The BBC has apologized for airing a program in which a dog trainer advised women how to use her techniques in their marriages. It acknowledged today (Wednesday) that the program, titled Bring Your Husband to Heel,had received numerous complaints from viewers who found it offensive and sexist. It said that the program was intended to be humorous, adding, "There was never an intention to cause offense, but we recognize that some viewers have felt the program to be inappropriate and we are sorry if any upset has been caused."


Corporate raider Carl Icahn is expected to put up $1.5 billion of his own money in his effort to pressure Time Warner into spinning off its cable assets and focus on its movie studios, cable networks, and print divisions, published reports said today (Wednesday). The reports maintained that Icahn is attempting to recruit investors who would put up an additional $6.5 billion to buy a 10-percent stake in the media giant. Shares of Time Warner, which had barely fluctuated in recent months, shot up 2.58 percent on Tuesday, but began retreating in early trading today (Wednesday) after a New York Timesreport indicated that analysts are skeptical that Icahn will emerge with a tender offer and that all of the speculation may have been contrived to put pressure on Time Warner to sell its cable business.


Art-house chain Landmark Theaters, operated by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's 2929 Entertainment, has signed a deal with Ford Motor Company's revived Mercury division under which the auto manufacturer has agreed to sponsor a series of largely unspecified film "events," including in-theater discussions between filmmakers and their audience. Eventually, the Los Angeles Timesobserved today (Wednesday), that this could lead to sponsored screenings, under which filmgoers would be admitted free. Lincoln-Mercury marketing exec Linda Perry-Lube said: "We're relaunching the Mercury brand for the quirkier customer who's seeking something different -- the sensibility reflected in independent film. ... And Landmark is in our strongest markets, the Northeast and West. We're doing a slow dance, making sure that what we do is relevant and engaging rather than off-putting."


Hong Kong director Tsui Hark's Seven Swords, a martial-arts thriller, was scheduled to open the 62nd annual Venice Film Festival today (Wednesday), the first of 56 films in this year's lineup. Nineteen of the films will be competing for the top prize, the Golden Lion. Writers have taken note of the "distinctly Asian flavor" of this year's festival, which includes films from Hong Kong and Beijing China; Seoul, Korea; Tokyo, Japan; and Bangkok, Thailand. Legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki will be presented with the festival's lifetime achievement award.


Ahmed al-Maktoum, an Olympic Gold Medal-winning shooter from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, has demanded that all references to him in the Bollywood film Sarkarbe removed. According to published reports, a hired assassin in the movie is described as an Olympic Gold Medal-winning shooter from Dubai, although he is not specifically identified as al-Maktoum. Indian shooter Moraad Ali Khan was quoted as saying that he had informed al-Maktoum about the movie. "He feels that this reference should immediately be removed so that it does not insult him and any other achievers who have excelled in the Olympics for their country," Moraad told Agence France Presse, the French wire service. "Although his name has not been mentioned in the movie, he took it as a direct insult as there is no other gold medalist in shooting in Dubai and the whole of UAE."


After a summer of mostly second-rate movies, the fall movie season gets off to an early start today (Wednesday) with the release of the movie version of John le Carré's The Constant Gardener, directed by Fernando Meirelles and starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz. Stephen Hunter in the Washington Postpraises it as "an adult pleasure: Never cheap, wise in the ways of the heart, able to keep a number of balls in the air without letting them blur into incoherence, evocative of a hellish, desperately damaged place and gripping as a pinched nerve." Equally enthusiastic is Claudia Puig in the New York Times, who writes that the film is "a masterwork of suspense, romance and political intrigue. It is a taut and gripping thriller that dazzles the eyes and engages the brain in a way that few recent films have come close to approaching." A. O. Scott comments in the New York Times: "This is a supremely well-executed piece of popular entertainment that is likely to linger in your mind and may even trouble your conscience." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily Newscalls it: "a slick, fast-paced production with first-rate performances and an emotional punch you won't soon forget." Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun begins his review this way: "A thriller from the inside out, a romance from the outside in: that's the double-edged brilliance of The Constant Gardener." And Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times ends his this way: "This is one of the year's best films." But Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mailbegs to differ, writing: "Yes, the cast is certainly seductive, and the direction often beguiling, yet ultimately we're left with a distinct sense of abandonment, of a story insufficiently told. That's because there's too much to tell, too much material squeezed into a two-hour running time. So the fault lies in the scope -- it's a rare film, these days, that suffers from a surfeit of ambition."