Hoping that they'll still be able to turn up what an Associated Press exec described as "the definitive shot, the wall of water," TV networks and news channels are competing for amateur footage of the Asian tsunami, taken by tourists and residents of the affected areas. Sandy MacIntyre, director of news for AP Television News in London said Monday that he had dispatched producers to six airports in Europe and Asia to ask returning tourists if they had captured scenes of the initial devastation on their video cameras. Today's (Tuesday) New York Timesobserved that there has been no dearth of footage of the disaster. It quoted Robert Muir, acting news editor of Reuters Television in Washington as saying, "We found many people who were willing to part with video just so the story could be told." Nevertheless, New York PostTV writer Linda Stasi was among those who called coverage of the disaster a disaster in its own right. Pointing out that a CNN anchor, after asking a seismologist what fascinated him most about the tsunami, quickly switched to a report about travelers dealing with holiday delays at airports, Stasi commented: "Think about the difference in the solemnity with which 9/11 was reported and how this disaster was reported. Can you imagine switching from Ground Zero coverage in the first few days to, say, back-to-school shopping sprees?"


Thanks to the Monday Night Football game between the St. Louis Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles and the fact that all of the other networks were airing reruns, ABC wiped out the competition Monday night. The network averaged a 9.0 rating and a 15 share, well above CBS's 7.9/13 and almost double NBC's 4.7/8. Fox trailed with a 3.0/5. ABC preceded the football game with a reairing of its Blunderful World of Sports,which topped CBS's Still Standing and Listen Up and NBC's Fear Factor.


The fact that neither CBS nor NBC has commented about a trade report that CBS chief Les Moonves is courting Katie Couric to replace Dan Rather as anchor of the CBS Evening News has increased speculation that such a deal may be in the works. Orlando SentinelTV critic Hal Boedeker recalled in his column today (Tuesday) that Couric remarked on the Todayshow on the day after Rather announced he was stepping down as anchor: "Whoever anchors those newscasts is really the face of the entire network news division. ... Why is it always white guys we're talking about?" Boedeker quotes former NBC News exec Joseph Angotti, who now runs Northwestern University's journalism department, as saying that it is time for the networks to get over their reluctance to hire a woman as sole anchor of the evening news. "Women anchors are now so common on cable shows that I think the whole perception of viewers has changed," Angotti said. Andrew Tyndall, who tracks network news programs for his The Tyndall Report, commented that if Couric "wanted to do it, she's got the clout to get the deal she wants."


Saying, "Nobody has done a real adult TV station that's like real TV, supported by advertisers and free to viewers," the founders of Adultinternet.TV have begun beta testing such a station on the Internet, aiming to launch it officially on Jan. 6, Wiredmagazine is reporting on its website. The "station" is presenting streaming reality shows, commercials, sitcoms, soap operas, news shows and cartoons -- all in an adult (i.e. pornographic) vein. The site is partnering with a company called Abacast that has created a distribution system for video streaming that, unlike similar systems, allows virtually an unlimited number of persons to view a video stream simultaneously. Wiredcommented that the system is likely to receive scrutiny from Hollywood producers, waiting for it to become refined enough for them to join in and distribute programs of their own worldwide without FCC regulations or cable and satellite fees.


During a week of low TV viewing, NBC has decided to blow off three unaired episodes of its animated flop Father of the Pridetonight (Tuesday). (All other network shows airing tonight are reruns.) "The network is hoping to lull you into suspended animation," the Boston Globequipped. Commented the New York Daily News: "Clearly, the network is looking forward to the day when it has noPride left. Memo to NBC: With a schedule that includes this show and the likes of The Biggest Loser, you're already there."


Many studios discarded their box-office estimates for the holiday weekend like unwanted Christmas presents Monday. Twentieth Century Fox's Fat Albert, which the studio figured would make about $12.7 million, wound up making only $10 million. As a result, the final tally put Albertin third place instead of second in the box office race. The Miramax/Dimension film Darkness, which the studio had estimated would earn $6.4 million, took in $6.2 million. The discrepancy was enough to drop it to seventh place and move The Polar Expressinto sixth. The biggest miscalculation was the estimate for the No. 1 film, Meet the Fockers, which actually took in significantly more than the original figure. Fockersmet with a three-day total of $46.1 million, versus Universal's original prediction of $44.7 million. In reporting on the disparity between what was forecast and what was actually earned, Daily Varietysenior writer Gabriel Snyder commented today (Tuesday), "The screwy holiday schedule, with Christmas Eve dampening normally buoyant Friday biz and then Christmas inflating receipts on Saturday, threw an industrial-sized monkey wrench into the studios' system for producing the estimates they release on Sunday."

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

1. Meet The Fockers, Universal, $46,120,980, 1 Wk. ($70,517,720 -- From Wednesday); 2. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Paramount, $12,611,876, 2 Wks. ($59,411,366); 3. Fat Albert, 20th Century Fox, $10,021,510, 1 Wk. (Opened Saturday); 4. The Aviator, Miramax, $8,631,367, 2 Wks. ($9,986,105); 5. Ocean's Twelve, Warner Bros., $8,401,175, 3 Wks. ($86,600,224); 6. The Polar Express, Warner Bros., $6,527,163, 7 Wks. ($140,233,149); 7. Darkness, Miramax, $6,163,306, (New); 8. Spanglish, Sony, $4,641,492, 2 Wks. ($18,181,748); 9.The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Disney, $4,547,181, 3 Wks. ($4,955,054); 10. Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, Warner Bros., $4,001,890, 2 Wks. ($6,323,567).


Oscar contenders in limited release performed strongly over the weekend. Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby took in $212,104 on eight screens -- or $26,513 per screen. Hotel Rwanda, starring Don Cheadle, drew $110,999 in seven theaters, or $15,857 per theater. And The Woodsman, starring Kevin Bacon, $61,200 on six screens, or $10,200 each. Although no major studio releases are scheduled for wide release on Friday, several much-talked-about indies will receive limited openings. They include A Love Song for Bobby Long, starring John Travolta, in eight theaters; The Assassination of Richard Nixon, starring Sean Penn, in four theaters; William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venic, starring Al Pacino, in four theaters; and In Good Company,starring Dennis Quaid in three theaters.


The check (boxes) are in the mail. The motion picture academy on Monday mailed out nomination ballots to its 5,808 voting members. Members have until 5:00 p.m. on Jan. 15 to make their choices and return them to the academy's offices. Nominees will be announced on Jan. 25. The academy also sent notices to studios, reminding them that in order to be eligible for Oscar consideration, films must be screened for a minimum of seven days in Los Angeles County beginning no later than Friday (the last day of the year).