TURIN TURNS AROUND NBC'S FORTUNES
Ratings for NBC's coverage of the first three days of the Winter Olympics from Turin, Italy may have been down 35 percent from the similar period of the Salt Lake City Games four years ago, but they were strong enough to put the network in first place in overall numbers for the first time in nearly two years. The victory came despite a strong pre-Olympics showing by Fox's American Idol and the best numbers ever for ABC's Grey's Anatomy and Fox's House. Those shows will be competing directly against the Games this week. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 17.6/26; 2. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 16.9/25; 3. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 16.3/24; 4. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 15.5/24; 5. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 14.6/20; 6. House, Fox, 13.6/20; 7. Winter Olympics Saturday, NBC, 13.5/23; 8. Without a Trace, CBS, 13.3/22; 8. Winter Olympics Sunday, NBC, 13.3/20; 10. Dancing With the Stars, ABC, 12.9/19.

BARGAIN BOWL?

Advertisers who waited until the last minute to grab the remaining spots for ABC's Super Bowl telecast this year received 40-percent discounts, Advertising Age reported Tuesday. Moreover, in what amounted to taking money from one pocket and putting it into the other, the second biggest advertiser on the telecast turned out to be the Walt Disney Co., ABC's parent, the trade magazine said. And despite widespread reports that 30-second spots on the telecast were priced at $2.5 million, traditional advertisers actually paid between $2.3 million and $2.4 million, according to AdAge, citing off-the-record talks to at least a dozen media buyers, advertisers and analysts.

CATHOLIC LEAGUE HEAD BLASTS OLYMPICS TELECAST, DAVID E. KELLEY

Catholic League President William Donohue has castigated NBC for not mentioning the Shroud of Turin during its coverage of the Winter Olympics. In an interview with USA Today, Donohue remarked, "If you asked the average American to name something about Turin, Italy, they'd name the Shroud. ... It's like having the Olympics in Fort Knox and not mentioning gold." NBC Olympics producer David Neal said that NBC is working on a feature about the Shroud, but noted that it is cutting back on all features in order to concentrate on the contests. Donohue also issued a news release blasting Tuesday night's episode of David E. Kelley's Boston Legal about a teenage girl who becomes pregnant after being raped and wants to sue a Catholic hospital for denying her emergency contraception. Kelley's negative treatment of Catholicism, Donohue wrote, "is so well known that we have a big fat file on him." He maintained that in this instance Kelley "has decided to hook up with the equally anti-Catholic folks at the ACLU," whose Pennsylvania office is providing a discussion guide about the episode.

AUSTRALIAN TV AIRS ADDITIONAL ABU GHRAIB PHOTOS

Australia's Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), a public broadcasting network, has aired previously unpublished photographs showing prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in 2002. The photos, broadcast on the network's Dateline program, appear to reveal even more horrible brutality than those that were released in 2004, including one of a man with his throat slit, another with massive head injuries, still others covered in blood, and others who appear to be dead. One photograph showed prisoners being forced to masturbate in front of the camera. Executive producer Mike Carey said that the program had obtained hundreds of pictures and plans to broadcast additional ones in upcoming editions. Carey indicated that other media outlets have probably had access to the same photographs but have declined to air them. Introducing the feature, Dateline host George Negus said, "Despite the currently overheated international climate, we're showing them because they show the extent of the horror that occurred at Abu Ghraib."

REDFORD TO PRESENT LIVE DRAMA ON SUNDANCE CHANNEL

Robert Redford is planning to use his Sundance Channel, which primarily presents independent films, to air live TV dramas based on classic books and short stories, the New York Daily News reported today (Wednesday). "I did the last Playhouse 90 that was ever done," Redford said, referring to the weekly live dramatic series that aired live from Hollywood in the late 1950s. (The Redford drama, In the Presence of Mine Enemies, aired in 1960.) Redford told Daily News TV writer David Bianculli that once he finds financial support, he plans to contact actors and directors and offer them the opportunity to do their favorite works of literature. "Why don't we plan to take artists like myself -- I would do it in a flash -- and do short stories, and put them on as originals on the channel?" Redford asked.

DEVELOPER PLANNING STUDIO ON THE RANGE

Austin, TX developer David Cuddy has unveiled plans to construct a new movie studio on 257 acres of land he owns near the suburb of Niederwald, the cable-TV news outlet News 8 Austin reported. He said that the complex will include sound stages, buildings for pre- and post-production, as well as living facilities for stars and crews. "We're looking at more of the smaller independent projects to get started like cable TV, the Sci-fi channel and Lifetime movies. We're interested in bringing any of those types of developments that we can get," Cuddy said.

WERE OVITZ'S ENEMIES WIRETAPPED?
Several Hollywood figures whose telephone conversations were allegedly recorded by private detective Anthony Pellicano were involved in legal battles with former super agent and Disney president Michael Ovitz, the New York Times reported today (Wednesday). Still others battling Ovitz had their backgrounds checked illegally in law-enforcement databases, according to prosecutors who talked to the newspaper. The revelations come just days after it was reported that Ovitz had been called to testify before a grand jury about his dealings with Pellicano. The newspaper said that one of its own reporters, former Hollywood-based correspondent Bernard Weinraub, may have been targeted by Pellicano, who -- using a police source -- illegally ran his name through the FBI's National Crime Information Center database. Another reporter, Anita Busch of the Los Angeles Times, also had her phone conversations tapped by Pellicano, the New York Times said.

FIRST A GAY COWBOY MOVIE; NOW A GAY COWBOY SONG

The breakthrough gay-romance movie Brokeback Mountain may have produced a never-to-be-expected consequence in country music, as well. According to the Associated Press, country-music icon Willie Nelson on Tuesday (Valentine's Day) released what the wire service described as probably "the first gay cowboy song by a major recording artist." The song, "Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly (Fond of Each Other)" was made available on Apple's iTunes Music Store after first being played on Howard Stern's satellite radio show. A.P. did not indicate whether the recording will have a more general release. Nelson sings "He Was a Friend of Mine" on the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack.

MOVIES ON DEMAND -- FOR LESS THAN $1.50 A POP

The Australian telecommunications giant Telstra is planning to launch a movies-on-demand feature next month on its BigPond Internet service that will allow users to download a movie for as little as US$1.45. The company said that it will concurrently offer a new, super-highspeed Internet service, called Extreme, that will provide speeds of up to 8Mbps, more than ten times the average speed of the most popular cable and DSL services available in the U.S. (A rival Australian cable company, Neighborhood, has said that it plans to offer a 30Mbps Internet service.) Titles of the movies were not disclosed, although the company did say that the films will be released on the service only after they have already been out on DVD.

FAMED POLISH DIRECTOR ASSESSES POLITICAL MOVIES

Famed Polish director Andrzej Wajda, whose films have often grappled with political subjects even when they were made under Communist rule in his country, observed today (Wednesday) that it is difficult to make such films these days because filmmakers have been preempted by uncensored television news. In the past, he said, millions of his countrymen packed theaters to see his films, especially during the days of the Solidarity movement. "We were the voice of the workers," he said. Now, he indicated, there is little interest in such films. Nevertheless, Wajda, who is due to receive an Honorary Golden Bear award for lifetime achievement at the Berlin Film Festival, told a Berlin news conference that he believes there are subtle ways to approach political themes that can still interest modern audiences. He said that he is currently working on a film about the 1940 Katyn massacre, in which 15,000 Polish officers -- his own father among them -- were rounded up by the Russian Army in the Katyn Forest and summarily executed. He said he intends to tell the story from the viewpoint of an ordinary family (presumably his own) that was affected by the bloodbath. "I don't think films can change the world," he said. However, he added, "I think cinema can speak to people's consciousness. ... I don't think I've wasted this life."