CBS REGAINS THURSDAY
CBS, which had been finding it difficult coming up with a solid replacement for Survivor in the 8:00 p.m. hour on Thursday nights, simply plopped a rerun of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation into the time period and wound up with a big enough audience to win the night, according to overnight ratings from Nielsen Research. In fact, the network won every half-hour of primetime Thursday, including the 10:00 hour, where Without a Trace drew a smashing 12.7 rating and a 21 share versus usual champ E.R.'s 11.5/19
WHY DIDN'T RATHER DO MORE?
A former national political correspondent for the New York Times has criticized the Thornburgh/Boccardi report on the botched 60 Minutes story about President Bush's National Guard Service for failing to address numerous issues that go to the heart of TV news's collaborative journalism. Adam Clymer (who was once famously referred to by Bush himself as the "major league a**hole from the New York Times" when Bush failed to realize that a microphone in front of him was live) writes in the current Columbia Journalism Review that while the report observes that Dan Rather had spent little time on the feature because he had just come from the Republican convention and a hurricane in Florida, it "never asked why CBS News assumed it was more important for him to do a stand-up in high winds than get deeply involved in a delicate story about a president during a fierce campaign for reelection. Rather may have reveled in the hurricane story, but anyone could have done it. Being a [CBS] Evening News anchor should be a full-time job. Getting him more exposure on a magazine show, where producers often do most of the work, may have been a marketing decision made a long time ago, but it asked for trouble."
SENATOR DEMANDS TAPE OF CNN CHIEF'S REMARKS
Virginia Senator George Allen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is demanding the release of a videotape of a talk by CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan in which he allegedly claimed that U.S. troops in Iraq had targeted journalists "out of anger." Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank had said earlier this week that he heard Jordan make the charge during an address to the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. Sen. Allen told CNSNews.com, a unit of the conservative Media Research Center, that if Frank's recollection of Jordan's remarks are correct, they would play into the hands of terrorists and enemies of the United States. CNS said that Monroe's speech had been videotaped but that the videotape had not been released. A statement by CNN said: "The Pentagon has acknowledged that the U.S. military on occasion has killed people who turned out to be journalists. ... Mr. Jordan emphatically does not believe that the U.S. military intended to kill journalists and believes these accidents to be cases of 'mistaken identity.'" And Jordan himself released a statement to the Associated Press, saying "I never in my life thought or meant to suggest that the military was trying to deliberately kill journalists."
CABLE WINS MUST-CARRY DECISION
Cable operators won a big victory over broadcasters Thursday when the FCC voted that only a local broadcaster's "primary video channel" must be carried by a cable company, not all of the digital channels that the broadcaster may be offering. Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein told Reuters that he had cast his vote against the broadcasters after they refused to accept his proposed rules that would have required them to air more public-interest programming. "When I call upon the industry to do more and they don't, there are consequences," he told the wire service. "And we are seeing one of those consequences here today."
FTC WON'T RULE ON PRODUCT PLACEMENT
The Ralph Nader-founded Commercial Alert has failed in its efforts to persuade the Federal Trade Commission to force TV and movie producers to label product placements as ads. The FTC observed that it is in the business of determining whether TV ads are unfair or deceptive, not if they should exist at all. Commercial Alert has another case pending with the FTC, one that would require celebrities who promote prescription drugs on TV to disclose that they have financial ties with those drug companies.
BRITISH AUDIENCES RUSH TO SETS FOR ENGAGEMENT ANNOUNCEMENT
British TV networks rushed to produce instant news specials Wednesday about the announced wedding engagement of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. Beginning at 10:00 a.m. BBC News 24 began reporting virtually non-stop on the engagement, then airing a half-hour Charles and Camilla special at 12:30 p.m. Another BBC special at 7:00 p.m. attracted 4.1 million viewers, representing 19 percent of the British audience. ITV, the commercial channel, went on the air a half hour later with its own special, attracting 3.5 million viewers.
OSCAR SCREENERS TURN UP ONLINE
Despite the severe punishment meted out last year to a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who turned over his Oscar screeners to a friend, who in turn posted them on the Internet, there are even more Oscar screeners turning up online this year than last, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Friday). The newspaper said that screeners for all five films nominated for best picture are currently available for online downloading. Contributing to the wholesale piracy, the Times said, is that some studios did not ask members who received the screeners to sign a pledge not to share them or warn them of the potential consequences if they did. Some studios also chose not to go to the expense of having the screeners "watermarked" so that they could be traced to the source.
EISNER WAS WRONG ABOUT NEMO, TOO, SAYS BOOK
Michael Eisner predicted in writing that Pixar's Finding Nemo would break the computer animation studio's string of hits, the upcoming James Stewart book DisneyWar reveals, according to the New York Daily News. The News revealed that latest tidbit from the highly anticipated book one day after the New York Times disclosed that Eisner had written off the potential of Lost, which, as it turned out, became one of ABC's biggest hits this season. Likewise, Finding Nemo earned close to $1 billion for the studio. The book cites a memo that Eisner wrote to the Disney board after he saw Nemo a second time. "This will be a reality check for those guys [Pixar]. ... It's OK, but nowhere near as good as their previous films. Of course, they think it's great. Trust me, it's not, but it will open." During a conference call with analysts following the release of Pixar's fourth-quarter results, Pixar chief Steve Jobs called Eisner a "loose cannon"
SWANK SAYS SHE DOESN'T ALWAYS AGREE WITH HER CHARACTERS
Hilary Swank, the much-honored star of Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, is speaking out about the controversy surrounding a plot twist in the movie and the decision by numerous conservative commentators to reveal it, hoping it will discourage others from buying a ticket to see it. (Eastwood himself has said that he doubts that knowing about the plot twist will spoil the movie for viewers.) Swank denies that the movie was intended to promote euthanasia, as the critics contend. The online edition of TV Guide quotes her as saying, "I don't take on roles necessarily because they reflect my own opinion or my ideas of life. ... The great thing about acting is [that] we get to explore so many different ideas and expand our view of the world. Whatever was portrayed in the film is not necessarily Clint's or my or Morgan [Freeman]'s outlook on anything. My job is to service the story and get out of its way."
NEW LION TAMER
The current chief financial officer of MGM will become the head of the studio when its takeover by Sony Corp. is completed later this year. Dan Taylor will succeed his current bosses, CEO Alex Yemenidjian and COO Chris McGurk. In an interview with Reuters, Taylor said that MGM will operate as an independent unit of Sony Pictures Entertainment and, as in the past, will be free to develop partnerships with other studios to finance film projects.
Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: HITCH
In honor of the upcoming Valentine's day, presumably, Hollywood has broken its weekly release of horror films, a practice it successfully introduced more than a month ago, and is instead premiering a film about a male matchmaker and another about a lovable heffalump. The former film is titled Hitch, and it stars Will Smith in the title role. In fact, most critics agree that the film would be nothing at all without Smith in the charming lead. Gene Seymour in Newsday, for example, writes: "Will Smith makes movie stardom look easy. Maybe too easy, given that he brings so much live-wire energy to even the most flaccid material that he makes the movies he's in seem much smarter than they are." Ty Burr in the Boston Globe remarks that the movie "provides Will Smith with an opportunity to do what he does best, which is be Will Smith." The biggest problem with Hitch, writes Chicago Tribune critic Michael Wilmington, is that you've seen all the good stuff in the movie trailer. "In fact, watching those ads, with their crisp gags and plush Manhattan settings, you can't see how he, or the movie, could possibly miss. But they do," he writes. But Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times disagrees, commenting "the previews do not, as it turns out, contain the only three funny moments in the movie. They contain portions of three funny moments -- but, remarkably, there's more to the scenes you've by now surely seen 500 times in previews. In this day and age, leaving some of the funny stuff for the movie seems like an incredibly gallant gesture, and one you have to appreciate." However, Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times is not appreciative at all. "It's not that I dislike it; it's that it just doesn't seem entirely necessary," he remarks.
Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: POOH'S HEFFALUMP MOVIE
"Cute" is the adjective that is sprinkled through most of the reviews for Disney's (hand-drawn) animated Pooh's Heffalump Movie. As in "too cute for words," the description Anita Gates gives to the "real" heffalump in the New York Times. She also reports on the reaction of two 4 1/2-year-olds sitting near her. "The loudest children's laughter in the theater followed Pooh's falling out of bed and into a honey pot," she reveals. Chicago Tribune critic Monica Eng brought her six-year-old to the press screening. "He almost didn't come to the film, pooh-poohing it as a 'baby movie.' But as soon as it started, my son became entranced, laughing and worrying along with the other kids, even applauding at the end. My 20-month-old showed her approval by not making a peep through the whole movie." Billy Heller in the New York Post warns that "kids older than 8 may be too jaded to sit through this cute flick" but for the younger ones, "Heffalump is better than none." Glenn Whipp of the Los Angeles Daily News, donning the mantel of ever-jaded critic, concludes that the "funny and adorable" "Lumpy" carries the film "especially in the eyes of little ones who will discover a new character to love (not fear) -- and to ask mommy and daddy to buy for them next time they're at Disneyland. Which, of course, may be the primary concern of the film."