Paris Hilton has shown that she can draw a crowd on television as handily as she can on the Internet. On Tuesday, her new Fox show The Simple Life at 8:30 p.m. drew a 9.3 rating and a 13 share among households and a 5.9/16 among adults 18-49 years old. Some analysts suggested that viewers may have been attracted by the curiosity factor and that they would quickly fade away. However, Wednesday night's results seemed to prove them wrong, as the show drew even higher numbers -- a 10.0/15, landing in first place in its 8:30 p.m. time slot.
MODEST DEBUTS FOR OTHER PRIMETIME ENTRANTS
Other new shows debuting on Tuesday made less of a splash. NBC's The Tracy Morgan Show scored a respectable 7.8/12, placing third in its time slot at 8:00, while a second episode drew a 6.8/10 at 8:30. ABC's new Line of Fire also premiered to respectable -- but third-place -- numbers at 10:00, drawing a 7.1/11. On Wednesday, ABC's Trista and Ryan's Wedding scored a 9.2/13 against CBS's powerhouse The West Wing's 11.5/16. At 10:00, ABC's Celebrity Home Makeover constructed a sturdy 8.6/14 against NBC's Law and Order, which produced the best ratings of the night, a 14.4/22.
A "FAKER" HOST TO GREET "FAKER" CONTESTANTS
In a case of romantic fakery paying off in spades, Evan Marriott, the original "Joe Millionaire," has been named to host a reality show on the Game Show Network in which contestants will date two singles, one looking for romance, the other faking a romantic interest in hopes of winning a luxury vacation with his or her own mate. The show, Fake-A-Date, is due to premiere in March. Marriott, who pretended to be wealthy on the first Joe Millionaire show, said in a statement on Wednesday, "It will be fun to participate on a TV show where I get to watch other people struggle to keep a secret."
CBS SIGNS UP ANOTHER YOUNG CORRESPONDENT
With the comment, "This doesn't sound like your father's CBS News," TV Guide columnist J. Max Robins reported on the magazine's website Wednesday that former MTV News personality Serena Altschul, 33, is expected to become a CBS News correspondent, contributing to the CBS Evening News weekend edition and CBS Sunday Morning. Altschul left MTV last year to become a CNN correspondent.
RINGS GOES PRIMETIME
ABC News tonight is devoting an entire edition of its Thursday-night magazine show Primetime to the final installment of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, Return of the King, set for release on Dec. 17. In a statement posted on its website, the network said that Primetime spent a week and a half taping on the LOTR set, including an entire day with director Jackson and co-star Viggo Mortensen.
JACKSON: THE COUNTER-ATTACK
After hours-on-end of television news reports and magazine shows that appeared to assume that Michael Jackson was guilty of molesting a teenage boy at his Neverland estate, an attorney, representing the boy's father said Wednesday that he plans to confront the reports with a raft of evidence that the media has failed to present. Attorney Russell Halpern told the New York Daily News that the boy's father intends to show that his ex-wife instigated the charges against Jackson. "We're going to be bringing up a lot of things she wouldn't want public," Halpern told the newspaper. "She's been locked up in a mental institution, and she suffers from psychosis." The Daily News pointed out that the father himself pleaded no contest in 2001 to spousal abuse and in 2002 to child abuse. Meanwhile, today's New York Times, noting that Santa Barbara D.A. Thomas Sneddon has delayed filing formal charges against Jackson until Dec. 15, observed that "the case against him may have hit some snags."
THE REAGANS DRAWS ONLY 1.2 MILLION VIEWERS
Published reports said Wednesday that Showtime's airing of the controversial movie The Reagans drew 1.2 million viewers Friday night, roughly 10 percent of the number of homes that subscribe to the pay-TV service. The cable channel, while declining to confirm the number, said that the audience was the largest it had drawn for an original movie since another Reagan-themed movie, The Day Reagan Was Shot, aired in December of 2001. Nevertheless, trade and newspaper TV writers observed that the number was lower than expected. "It must come as a disappointment to Showtime," commented today's (Thursday) Hollywood Reporter. "Apathy, not outrage, was the reaction of viewers," commented Lisa de Moraes in theWashington Post. The New York Times observed that the "audience was no larger than Showtime gets for its successful seriesQueer as Folk and Soul Food." However, the channel pointed out that The Reagans will attract additional viewers when it airs again tonight and next Wednesday.
THE (EX) MOUSE THAT ROARS
Roy E. Disney has wasted no time taking his campaign to oust Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner to company execs. In an email on Wednesday, Disney said, "Michael Eisner has lost sight of the vision upon which the company was founded. ... The focus has shifted to the chase for the quick buck instead of a dedication to new and high-quality ideas." Today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times reported that the email message "spread like wildfire" throughout the entire company and received a mostly warm reception. However, some who sympathized with Disney's remarks, reportedly expressed concern that they would harm the company's stock. Any negative impact, however, was probably offset by word that the company had set a new record of more than $3 billion in worldwide box-office ticket sales in 2003. The total far exceeds the industry record of $2.86 billion set by Sony Pictures a year ago.
NEW DISNEY DIRECTOR CHIDES ROY DISNEY
Sybase CEO John Chen, the newly appointed independent director on the Walt Disney Co. board, has strongly criticized Roy Disney and fellow board member Stanley Gold for criticizing Disney Chairman Michael Eisner following their decision to step down from the Disney board. In an interview in Shanghai with Reuters, Chen said, "If they really have a point and have a desire to do something about it, they should stay and fight. Since they've decided to leave, they shouldn't take potshots at the board." Chen declined to give his own appraisal of Eisner's performance. "I don't know if Michael is the right or wrong guy for the company," he said, "but for them to indict him in the press, it's uncalled for."
MYSTIC RIVER NAMED BEST FILM BY NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW
The National Board of Review, which launches the movie award season annually, named Clint Eastwood's Mystic River the best film of the year. Sean Penn was named best actor for his performance in that film and also in 21 Grams. Diane Keaton was named best actress for her role opposite Jack Nicholson in Something's Gotta Give, while Edward Zwick was named best director for The Last Samurai. Canadian director Deny Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions was awarded best foreign-language film. Meanwhile, nominees were announced Wednesday for this year's Independent Spirit Awards, which honor independently produced movies. The nominees in the best-picture category were: American Splendor, In America, Lost in Translation, Raising Victor Vargas, and Shattered Glass.
250,000 BOOTLEG DVD'S SEIZED IN LONDON
Britain's Empire magazine reports that early Christmas shoppers who may have hoped to stock up on DVD gifts from vendors operating out of the trunks of cars may find things rough going. It noted that the MPAA's Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), accompanied by police, raided an address in North London where they seized over 250,000 DVDs valued at about $6.5 million. FACT spokesman James Angell said, "A seizure of this size will have a major impact on illegal market traders ... thereby impeding the distribution of this counterfeit product to unsuspecting Christmas shoppers." Just how "unsuspecting" those shoppers might have been may be debatable, given the fact that several of the seized films, including Brother Bear and The Cat in the Hat, haven't even been released in theaters in the U.K. yet. Meanwhile, today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Timesreported that bootleg copies of virtually every major new film in release is currently available for downloading on the Internet. Commented the Times: "Hollywood's all-out war against movie piracy is turning into a big-budget bomb."
NAOMI WATTS WILL PLAY FAY WRAY'S ROLE IN NEW KING KONG
Director Peter Jackson has disclosed that he's close to signing Australian actress Naomi Watts to play Ann Darrow in his forthcoming remake of King Kong. The role was originally played by Fay Wray in 1933. Wray is now 96 and lives in the Century City area of Los Angeles, once the site of the 20th Century Fox backlot, which was abandoned when the studio began shooting in actual locations. Jackson's King Kong is likely to be shot entirely in New Zealand. In an interview with today's (Thursday) Wellington Dominion Post, Jackson expressed confidence that Watts would sign on. "Naomi's the only person that we've really approached," he said.
STREISAND CHASTISED BY COURT
In a stinging rebuke to Barbra Streisand, who has often championed environmental causes, a Los Angeles judge on Wednesday threw out her $10-million lawsuit against Kenneth Adelman, a millionaire environmentalist who has posted helicopter photographs of the California coastline on his website , that include one of Streisand's estate. Streisand had accused Adelman of violating the state's anti-paparazzi law and invading her privacy. However, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Allan Goodman ruled Wednesday that her suit, if allowed to come to trial, would have a chilling effect on Adelman's free-speech rights and ordered her to pay his legal bills. In his response to Streisand's suit, Adelman said that contrary to Streisand's claim that thousands of persons had accessed his site to view her estate, only six downloads had been executed, two by her own attorney. In a further statement posted on his website Wednesday, Adelson said, "This decision sends a message ... that the court will not tolerate threats of intimidation whether it comes from corporate polluters like Texaco or Shell Oil or a celebrity who believes that her personal interests are more important than the public's constitutional right to free speech."
ACTOR DAVID HEMMINGS DIES ON MOVIE SET AT 62
British actor David Hemmings, who made a sensational starring debut as a fashion photographer in Michelangelo Antonioni'sBlow Up in 1966, died in London today (Thursday) of an apparent heart attack on the set of his latest movie, Samantha's Child. He was 62. After turning to directing in the '80s and '90s, Hemmings resumed his acting career in 2002, appearing as Cassius in .Gladiator. He later was featured in Gangs Of New York, and The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.