SAWYER LANDS THE PRESIDENT
President Bush, who has granted an interview to Barbara Walters at Christmas time for the past two years, has agreed to be interviewed at the White House next week by Walters' ABC colleague, Diane Sawyer. The network said that the interview will air on Sawyer's Primetime program on Thursday and will also be excerpted for her Good Morning America. As with the previous Walters interviews, the president is expected to be joined by First Lady Laura Bush for part of the program. MSNBC.com's Jeannette Walls quoted an ABC insider Tuesday as saying that the Bush "get" represented "a pretty big coup for Diane." The source continued: "She's become the hot interview diva at ABC, getting the sort of sit-downs that used to be Barbara's exclusive domain. ... They'll deny there's any rivalry until they're blue in the face, but don't believe it for a second."
CASE AGAINST JACKSON APPEARS TO UNRAVEL
An investigation conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services concluded that allegations that Michael Jackson had sexually abused a young boy who is now accusing him of molestation were unfounded, according to a memo posted on thesmokinggun.com website on Tuesday. According to the memo, both the boy and his brother told child-welfare investigators that the singer had not abused them. The probe was touched off, the memo indicated, after the boy appeared in a British-made TV documentary that aired on ABC last February, saying that he had been a sleepover guest at Jackson's Neverland estate. The memo went on to say that the boy's mother, who is also accusing Jackson, defended the entertainer at the time against media personalities, who, she said, "had taken everything out of context." She said that her son had never shared a bed with Jackson and that, while they stayed in the same bedroom, Jackson slept "on the floor." Meanwhile, FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman reported Tuesday that Jackson will likely be interviewed by Ed Bradley on CBS's60 Minutes on Dec. 17.
THE REALITY: CBS'S RATINGS DOMINATION GROWS
CBS continued its domination of primetime last week as a rerun of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation remained the highest-rated program of the week and Survivor: Pearl Islands easily bested a rerun episode of NBC's Friends, according to Nielsen Research. (In a ratings anomaly, Survivor, which placed third, actually drew more viewers than any other show, since more viewers tune in at 8:00 p.m. when Survivor airs, than at 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m., when the No. 1 and No. 2 shows air.) Other reality shows also performed strongly last week, most especially NBC's Average Joe and Fear Factor, ABC's Trista and Ryan's Wedding and Fox's The Simple Life, all of which ended up in the top twenty. Even a poorly reviewed CBS Sunday movie, Undercover Christmas, which aired opposite the first half of HBO's critically acclaimed Angels in America, performed strongly, taking the fifth position on the Nielsen list. The HBO drama also performed well in the cable universe, drawing 4.2 million viewers and thereby becoming the most-watched made-for-cable production of the year.
The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 13.6/20; 2. E.R., NBC, 13.6/22; 3. Survivor: Pearl Islands, CBS, 12.9/20; 4. 60 Minutes, CBS, 12.1/19; 5. CBS Sunday Movie: Undercover Christmas, CBS 11.4/18; 6. Law & Order, NBC, 11.2/18; 7. Monday Night Football, ABC 11.0/18; 8. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 10.7/16; 9. CSI: Miami, CBS, 10.3/16; 10. Cold Case, CBS, 10.2/15.
SUPER BOWL SYNERGY
CBS has signed a deal with MTV for its corporate sibling to produce the Super Bowl's half-time show on Feb. 1 and has locked up AOL as the "presenting" advertiser, published reports said Tuesday. AOL reportedly will introduce three 30-second spots during the performances, which will be headlined by Janet Jackson. The online service is also buying two spots during the pre-game broadcast.
PIRATES CAPTURES TREASURE
With sales of 11 million DVDs and videocassettes, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl became the biggest live-action seller in home-video history, according to Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment. "Obviously, we're thrilled to be coming out with a record breaking week with Pirates of the Caribbean right on the heels of [Finding] Nemo," Bob Chapek, president of BVHE, said in a statement. "This has been a phenomenal year for the studio and a testament to our strength in turning these great movies into huge home entertainment success." Chapek added that the DVD format accounted for 90 percent of the sales.
SEINFELD TO MAKE A "BEE" MOVIE
Joking that for over ten years he has willingly put himself "in any number of potentially humiliating situations" in order to demonstrate to Jerry Seinfeld that he appreciates his talent, DreamWorks principal Jeffrey Katzenberg announced Tuesday that the studio is teaming up with Seinfeld to produce a computer-animated film titled Bee Movie, in which Seinfeld will voice the leading role -- a bee. "I have always been fascinated by bee society, the world's most harmoniously run organization, and now I finally am going to be in it," Seinfeld said in a statement.
WHEN A $150-MILLION MOVIE'S A BARGAIN
Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson considers the $150 million that Universal has agreed to pay in order to make a new version of King Kong a bargain. In an interview with the London Daily Telegraph, Jackson said, "There are six or seven movies in production at the moment that will cost $200 million, so Universal will get it $50 million cheaper than elsewhere." He added that, like the Rings films, he intends to approach the ape movie as if it were actual history, imparting "a reality and a grittiness" to the story. It will be set, he said, in 1933, the year the story first appeared. "I think that's the last time you could expect to go exploring the South Seas and find an uncharted island," he explained." Jackson said that he plans to begin production in New Zealand in August for a Christmas release the following year.
POLICE CAPTAIN ARRESTED FOR SELLING BOOTLEG DVD'S
Los Angeles police on Tuesday arrested one of their own, a decorated patrol captain, for allegedly selling bootleg DVDs, including the newly released The Cat in the Hat, to undercover officers. At a news conference, Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell remarked: "The message here is, it does not matter what rank you are. If you break the law, we will come after you." The officer, Julie D. Nelson, has served on the LAPD for 28 years. Arresting officers found a DVD cache of recent blockbusters at her home. "You name it, she had it, whatever was hot," a source told the Los Angeles Times.
THE (AWARDS) SHOW MUST GO ON
Following a judge's order to lift the movie studios' ban on screeners being sent to voters in awards contests, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association has decided to resurrect its annual awards dinner, which originally had been scheduled for Jan. 26. The group, which called off the dinner after the MPAA issued its ban, now says that it will take place within the next three to six weeks.
MOVIE REVIEWS: BIG FISH
The fish story that is Big Fish, director Tim Burton's new film about a terminally ill father (Albert Finney, played as a younger man by Ewan McGregor) who tells whoppers and the adult son (Billy Crudup) who resents him, is attracting mixed reviews as it opens in limited release today (Wednesday). A. O. Scott writes in the New York Times: "The film insists on viewing its hero [Finney] as an affectionate, irrepressible raconteur. From where I sat, he looked more like an incorrigible narcissist and also, perhaps, a compulsive liar, whose love for others is little more than overflowing self-infatuation." John Anderson in Newsdaywrites that Big Fish "flounders." On the other hand, Megan Lehmann in the New York Post calls it "dazzling" and concludes: "There are quirks aplenty in Big Fish, but spirited performances from a talented cast, led by a standout Finney as the slippery-fish raconteur, help domesticate the wall-to-wall weirdness." And Manohla Dargis comments in the Los Angeles Times: "Big fish often swim in small ponds, but in Tim Burton's wistful new film about a son, a father and the lies that come between them there are no small ponds -- just big, bright movie sets shimmering and bubbling with the director's imagination."