In advance of the completion of its merger with Vivendi Universal Entertainment, NBC has expanded the responsibilities of several of its key executives, most notably Jeff Zucker, who was given the new title of President, Entertainment, News and Cable Group. He had previously been president of NBC Entertainment. His new title in particular makes him the company's chief news executive with oversight over NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC. His entertainment responsibilities will now encompass NBC, Bravo and the Spanish-language network Telemundo. Once the VUE deal is completed, he would also be likely to oversee the USA Network, the Sci Fi Network, and Bravo. But it was not yet clear what his role would be in relation to Universal's TV production company, whose assets include the Law & Order franchise, and the syndication operation, which handles such shows as Maury and The Jerry Springer Show.


MSNBC.com, the principal Web address for NBC, switched to a new design on Monday, saying that it was intended to make the site more user-friendly. The site is now laid out in a way to allow users to gain access to popular NBC sites, such as NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, with a single click.


ABC has decided to move up Diane Sawyer's interview with President Bush to tonight (Tuesday), a decision that will no doubt draw a huge audience as people tune in to learn how the president thinks the capture of Saddam Hussein will affect political and military conditions in Iraq and how he believes the U.S. ought to handle the former dictator. In an interview with today's New York Post, Katz Media Group's Bill Carroll remarked that, for ABC and Sawyer, being able to interview Bush at this moment is "winning more than the lottery, it's like winning the powerball lottery. ... It helps the prestige of the network and the reporter, and we know it's going to make news. As a result, all papers will be reporting the next morning something that was part of that conversation. You can't buy that kind of visibility."


Despite a Monday Night Football game featuring two strong contenders, ABC was edged out in the ratings Monday by CBS's sitcoms and by a seemingly unbeatable drama. The Miami Dolphins may have lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the game, but CSI: Miami was a big winner for CBS, drawing a 12.5 rating and a 20 share. CBS averaged a 10.4/16 share for the night, outscoring ABC's 10.0/15.


Actress Doris Burns has sued MTV and performer Snoop Dogg for allegedly doctoring her performance on the channel's Doggy Fizzle Televizzle so that she would appear to be naked and engaging in a sex act. The suit claims that although Burns was dressed in a robe and holding hands with an actor playing her husband during the actual taping, her torso was later blurred in order to suggest that she was naked and her hand was also blurred to make it appear as if she were "playing with her husband's genitals." Burns also claimed to have suffered "severe emotional and physical distress" when she watched the program with her 10-year-old son.


Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs Christian values group run by radio commentator James Dobson, has called on Congress to replace the current members of the FCC for failing to act following a recent live broadcast of the Billboard Music Awards, in which The Simple Life co-star Nicole Richie used the f-word on stage. (Her remarks were bleeped in the time-zone delayed West Coast broadcast.) The group had earlier denounced an FCC decision that held that singer Bono had not violated the commission's indecency standards when he used the words "f*****g brilliant" during the Golden Globe Awards. "We feared that ruling would open the floodgates to a further coarsening and degradation of the nation's airwaves, and what happened Wednesday confirms those fears," said Tom Minnery, a Focus on the Family executive, adding: "Congress needs to clean house at the FCC and remove those responsible immediately."


The Game Show cable network is about to become more than an outlet for new and old TV game shows, according to Television Week. The trade publication reported Monday that the cable outlet is about to add video games and casino gambling to its programming. In doing so, TW said, the network will change its name and adopt a new logo.


Lost in Translation, which earned high critical praise but failed to make much of a splash at the box office during a "platform" release last October, has taken another fistful of awards, this time from the New York Film Critics Circle, which awarded its best director award to Sofia Coppola and its best actor award to star Bill Murray. The top honor, however, went to New Line Cinema's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which was named best film. Hope Davis, who starred in New Line's American Splendor, was voted best actress. In a surprise decision, writer-comic Eugene Levy won the best supporting actor award for his performance in A Mighty Wind, which he co-wrote. Shohreh Aghdashloo received the best supporting actress award for her work in DreamWorks' upcoming House of Sand and Fog.


Weekend estimates that Sony's top-ranked Something's Gotta Give had taken in $17 million proved to be a bit optimistic as final results indicated that the forecast was off by nearly a million dollars. Estimates for most of the other top ten films were also off significantly as moviegoers apparently decided to spend the weekend shopping and otherwise preparing for the upcoming holiday.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. Something's Gotta Give, Sony, $16,064,723, (New); 2. The Last Samurai, Warner Bros., $14,087,074, 2 Wks. ($46,874,330); 3. Stuck On You, 20th Century Fox, $9,411,055, (New); 4. Love Don't Cost a Thing, Warner Bros., $6,315,311, (New); 5. The Haunted Mansion, Disney, $6,139,023, 3 Wks. ($53,749,464); 6. Elf, New Line, $6,017,341, 6 Wks. ($147,507,398); 7. Bad Santa, Miramax, $6,012,550, 3 Wks. ($35,715,007); 8. Honey,Universal, $4,860,975, 2 Wks. ($19,776,370); 9. The Cat in the Hat, Universal, $4,166,590, 4 Wks. ($90,728,185); 10. Gothika, Warner Bros., $2,725,221, 4 Wks. ($53,933,915).


Toronto-based Lions Gate Entertainment has acquired Artisan Entertainment for $220 million, including the assumption of $60 million in debt, thereby forming the largest independent film studio. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times, Lions Gate CEO John Feltheimer remarked: "At the size we're going to be -- a $600 million to $700 million company -- we need to keep our eye on the ball. ... We're running a business. It's what most independents haven't done for the last 20 years, and most of them aren't around."


The chief rival of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King may be the expectations that audiences will have for it -- especially after reading numerous reviews praising it as one of the greatest films of all time. ("A landmark in our ongoing experience of cinema," is the way John Anderson describes it in Newsday.) Indeed, Ty Burr in the Boston Globe remarks early on in his review of the movie, "Hopes have been awfully high -- unfairly high -- for this crowning chapter, and a lot of us have been devoutly wishing for a grand slam. Only in that context can an inside-the-park home run be viewed with faint disappointment." Several critics' complaints about this final film in Peter Jackson's trilogy relate to its very finality. Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post, for example, writes: "I suppose if you're essentially making one 558-minute movie you're entitled to six endings. And for the members of the [Rings] cult, each of those endings ties up a storyline and will produce unbelievable poignancy. For us outsiders, it seems like too much of a good thing. You keep awaiting the wondrous magical elven words 'The' and 'End' to bring the enchantment to a finish. Instead your mind's eye produces 'But Wait: There's Still More Stuff!'" Still, Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times, while also noting that the closing section "extends longer than it should," concludes nevertheless: "As a model for how to bring substance, authenticity and insight to the biggest of adventure yarns, this trilogy will not soon, if ever, find its equal." And Elvis Mitchell in the New York Times seems reluctant to remark on the multiple conclusions, writing: "It is evident that the grip of The Return of the King on Mr. Jackson is not unlike the grasp the One Ring exerts over Frodo: it's tough for him to let go, which is why the picture feels as if it has an excess of endings. But he can be forgiven. Why not allow him one last extra bow?"

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