GRAMMY'S RAY-TINGS PLUNGE
CBS's telecast of the Grammy Awards may have turned into a heart-warming tribute to Ray Charles Sunday night (the late singer's album, Genius Loves Company, won eight awards, including album of the year), but that was clearly not what many of the younger TV viewers who are traditionally drawn to the awards telecast each year wanted to see. The four-hour special averaged an 11.0 rating and a 17 share -- down from a 15.3/24 last year and a 14.7/23 in 2003. The show was not even able to hold on to first place during all primetime periods, as it usually has done in the past, losing to ABC's Desperate Housewives in the 9:00 p.m. hour (which itself saw a ratings decline to a 14.0/20). Nevertheless, according to Nielsen overnight numbers, CBS won the night with an average 11.0/17, followed by ABC with a 9.7/15. NBC was third with a 6.9/11, followed by Fox's 3.5/5.
CNN CROSSES JORDAN OUT
Eason Jordan, CNN's chief news executive, became the latest casualty of Internet bloggers Friday as he resigned amid an online political storm over his reported assertion that U.S. troops in Iraq had targeted journalists "out of anger." His remarks, which were picked up by conservative blogs, were presented as further evidence of CNN's left-leaning bias. Virginia Senator George Allen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had suggested that an investigation of Jordan's remarks might be justified. In a memo to his staff on Friday, Jordan, who had spent 23 years at CNN, said, ""I never meant to imply U.S. forces acted with ill intent when U.S. forces accidentally killed journalists."
COURIC FIRES CORRESPONDENT AFTER HE APPEARS ON OPRAH
Steven Cojocaru, a correspondent for the Today show for four years, was fired last week after he appeared on Oprah Winfrey's talk show to discuss his recent kidney transplant surgery, the New York Post's "Page Six" column reported today (Monday). The Post cited an unnamed insider as saying that Today cohost Katie Couric "was furious when she found out Cojo was going on Oprah to talk about his surgery" and demanded that he be canned. According to the insider, Cojocaru was unaware of the fact that in some markets, including Chicago, Today and Oprah air at the same time. "Katie has always been very competitive with Oprah, but we can't believe she would be so petty," the "Page Six" source commented. Meanwhile, Kitty Kelley, whose celebrity gossip books include The Royals, has claimed that Larry King did not invite her to appear on his show to discuss the engagement of Prince Charles to Camilla Parker-Bowles as he has done in the past on major stories about the monarchy. In an interview with MSNBC.com's "Scoop" column, Kelley claimed that King had first snubbed her after publication of her book about the Bush family (in which she claimed that the current president had been a cocaine user). "I understand [King] didn't want to lose his friendship with the Bushes and interview me then. I didn't realize I'd be drop-kicked off the show forever," she said.
SURVIVOR MAKES CHANGES TO SURVIVE
Following complaints that the last Survivor series, Survivor Vanuatu, lacked the excitement and off-beat players that distinguished the earlier series, the producers of the series decided to make the new series "as different from Vanuatu as you can get," host Jeff Probst told Sunday's Orlando Sentinel. In the first episode of the new series, set to debut on Thursday, three players are sent packing. "It sends a shock through the game," Probst told the newspaper. "The whole key to keeping the show successful is keeping the survivors off-base." The show, he said, was filmed amid the wreckage of World War II planes and ships. "The wrecks are spectacular and completely eerie," Probst told the Sentinel. "Survivor is so hard on people. You do it in a place where there are remnants of real battle, it upped the stakes emotionally."
JAPANESE NETWORK OUTRAGED BY RUGBY REF'S LOGO
For a time on Saturday, it appeared that the publicly supported Japanese TV network NHK would not present a live telecast of a match in the Japan Rugby Championship Tournament because the referee was to wear a logo for the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun on his uniform. The newspaper had accused the broadcaster of knuckling under to political pressure to censor a documentary about Japanese soldiers and conscripted "comfort women" during World War II, an accusation that led to the resignation of NHK's president. NHK initially announced that it would air the program in the evening so that it could edit out shots of the referee's uniform. However, following a flood of complaints from rugby fans, NHK reversed its decision and covered the game live as originally scheduled.
AUDIENCES (HEART) WILL SMITH
Will Smith became the fresh prince of the box office this weekend as his latest movie Hitch took in $45.3 million, the most ever earned on an opening weekend by a romantic comedy. The only other film to open wide, Disney's Pooh's Heffalump Movie, took in just $6 million -- possibly because it was perceived to be a film for very young children; Disney's last Winnie the Pooh movie, featuring the character Piglet, took in about the same. Last week's winner, the fright film Boogeyman, slipped to second place with $10.8 million, performing far better than most movies of the horror genre in their second week. The family comedy Are We There Yet? continued to travel quite well, earning $8.5 million in its fourth week. It was definitely a remarkable weekend for Sony, which released all three top films. The top 12 films earned an estimate $107.5 million, 2 percent above the figure for the comparable week a year ago, according to Exhibitor Relations.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Hitch, $45.3 million; 2. Boogeyman, $10.8 million; 3. Are We There Yet?, $8.5 million; 4. Million Dollar Baby, $7.6 million; 5. Pooh's Heffalump Movie, $6 million; 6. The Wedding Date, $5.6 million; 7. Hide and Seek, $5.55 million; 8. Sideways, $4.75 million; 9. The Aviator, $4.6 million; 10. Meet the Fockers, $3.4 million.
STATES PROBE BLOCKBUSTER'S NO-LATE-FEES POLICY
Attorneys general in at least 35 states have launched individual investigations of Blockbuster's new no-late-fees policy following complaints by consumers that it is deceptive, Home Media Retailing magazine reported Friday. The trade publication pointed out that although Blockbuster's owned outlets have adopted the no-late-fees program, some franchisees have not. Moreover, it said, some customers do not understand that if they keep a title longer than seven days, their account is charged either the sell-through price or a previously viewed price and that they are also charged a restocking fee when they return the video. While Blockbuster issues a refund if the video is returned after seven days, it is issued as store credit, not cash -- something that has also raised the eyebrows of several blockbuster customers, the magazine indicated.
SCORSESE, LEIGH HONORED AT BAFTAS
Martin Scorsese's The Aviator and Mike Leigh's Vera Drake shared top honors at Britain's BAFTA awards, the U.K.'s counterpart to the Oscars, Saturday night. The Scorsese film was named best film of 2004, while Leigh was honored as best director and Drake star Imelda Staunton received the best actress award for her performance as a backstreet abortionist during the '50s. Jamie Foxx received the best actor award for his performance as Ray Charles in Ray. The best screenplay award went to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, written by its director, Charlie Kaufman. While The Aviator was produced for a reported $110 million, Vera Drake cost about one-tenth that amount, something that Leigh appeared to allude to in his acceptance speech. "It's an immense privilege to have been allowed the freedom to make as uncompromising a film as I think Vera Drake is with such a small budget," he said. Thus far, the film has grossed about $2.5 million in the U.S. and about an equal amount in the U.K.
CHEECH AND CHONG REUNITE, PLAN TO MAKE NEW MOVIE
Cheech and Chong, the original stoner comedians of the late '60s and '70s, are developing a script for a new movie, they told the Hollywood Reporter after their first stage reunion in 25 years at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, CO. It will have an "age- and time-appropriate feel," Cheech Marin told the trade publication. Tommy Chong said that the script has had many working titles, including Grumpy Old Stoners and Lord of the Smoke Rings.