NBC RETURNS TO THE VICTORS' STAND
NBC could thank the Winter Olympics for bringing it victory at last in the weekly Nielsen ratings contest. The last time it won came in August 2004 -- when it carried the final week of the Summer Olympics from Athens. Still, no hour of the Olympics' coverage ended up in first place on the ratings list -- the first time in history that's ever happened. Instead, the ratings crown went to Fox's American Idol, which not only took Nielsen's equivalent of the gold medal for its Wednesday edition, but the silver as well for the Tuesday edition. And the bronze was won by ABC's Grey's Anatomy. In fact, Olympics coverage does not appear on the Nielsen list until half-way down the list, at No. 5 (following ABC's Desperate Housewives), and it occupies only two other positions in the top ten: No. 7 and No. 9. Still, overall, NBC averaged an 11.7/10 for the week, far ahead of second-place ABC, with a 7.3/11 average. CBS placed third with a 6.7/10, followed closely by Fox, with a 6.3/10. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 16.5/25; 2. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 15.5/24; 3. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 15.0/23; 4. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 14.2/20; 5. Winter Olympics Monday, NBC, 12.8/19; 6. Dancing With the Stars, ABC, 12.2/18; 7. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 11.9/17; 7. Winter Olympics Thursday, NBC, 11.9/19; 9. Winter Olympics Sunday, NBC, 11.6/18; 10. House, Fox, 11.5/17.

IDOL TROUNCES OLYMPICS ON WEDNESDAY

Once again Fox's American Idol won an overwhelming victory over NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics Wednesday night. The talent contest averaged a massive 18.6/27 over its two-hour time period, while the Olympics could muster no more than an 11.2/17. To indicate how far the Olympics telecasts have fallen, the comparable night for the 2002 Olympics from Salt Lake City registered a 21.4/31, while the 1998 contest from Nogano, Japan drew an even higher 22.6/32.

EUROPEAN AUDIENCES REMAIN LOYAL TO OLYMPICS

Audiences in the U.S. for the Winter Olympics may have turned out to be significantly smaller for the Turin Olympics than for any previous Olympics competition, but viewership has proven to be huge in Europe, the IOC said Wednesday. The Olympics committee noted that ratings were particularly high for the Games in Italy, the host country, although "impressive" ratings were recorded elsewhere. It also noted that online videos have attracted 4.3 million viewers to Olympics websites -- a number higher even than those who downloaded video from the summer Olympics in Athens two years ago.

WRESTLERS RETURNING TO PRIMETIME

Professional wrestling, which in the early days of television, was invariably included in the program line-ups of virtually every local TV station but which has not had a regular spot on any broadcast network in 13 years, is returning. NBC announced Wednesday that it had signed a deal with World Wrestling Entertainment to bring back Saturday Night's Main Event between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. on Saturdays, beginning March 18. In a statement released by the network, WWE chief Vince McMahon said, "The original Saturday Night Main Event was a pop culture phenomenon with a rich history of big moments. We promise to make the new Main Event in prime time on NBC even bigger and better." Previously, the network had announced that it was moving its magazine show Dateline into the 8:00 hour on Saturdays from its current slot on Fridays.

FOX TO LAUNCH NEW NETWORK -- SORT OF

After first denying that it planned to create a new network to fill the programming holes created at stations that lost their affiliation with UPN or The WB as a result of the recent merger of the two, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp on Wednesday unveiled My Network TV, which will air just two programs, both primetime soaps, Desire at 8:00 p.m. and Secrets at 9:00 p.m. They are due to air beginning Sept. 5, Monday through Friday, with a recap on Saturday. Ten Fox-owned stations in major markets will be among those carrying the new network. They include stations in the nation's top three markets, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. News reports said that the soaps, to be produced by News Corp's Twentieth TV, will be based on popular Spanish-language "telenovelas" and will have a limited run of 65 episodes (13 weeks). Informing affiliates of projected plans two weeks ago, Fox Television Stations President Jack Abernethy said that News Corp would not be launching a traditional network but an "alternative national programming service." And indeed, Shari Anne Brill, programming director for ad buyers Carat USA, told today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times: ""Given that they were left out in the cold by the formation of the CW network, they had to do something to take care of their own stations. ... They had to fill a gap. This is essentially a syndication buy cleared for prime time."

FCC REPORTEDLY WILL BAN ANOTHER FOUR-LETTER WORD

The FCC will ban from the airwaves "a common expletive for excrement" and issue some 40 indecency rulings during upcoming sessions, Bloomberg News reported today (Thursday), citing four unnamed FCC officials. According to the wire service, the rulings will include six fines and several sanctions against Fox, NBC, and CBS, the report said, noting that they are expected to help broadcasters "identify what constitutes an infraction." (A "common expletive for excrement" came first in comedian George Carlin's famous rendition of the "seven words you can never say on television," although the FCC has never formally specified which words are forbidden.)

U.S. OFFICIALS SILENT RE SUCCESS OF ANTI-AMERICAN FILM
U.S. officials are keeping a low profile regarding the Turkish movie The Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, even as the film continues to attract huge audiences in Turkey and Germany. Today's (Thursday) European edition of the U.S. Army newspaper Stars and Stripes quoted Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as saying, "It is a fictitious movie. ... It clearly does not have any basis in fact, and there is no reason for us to comment on fiction." In fact, however, the movie is based on an incident that occurred on July 4, 2003 when U.S. soldiers arrested 11 Turkish officers, pulled bags over their heads, and detained them for questioning. (The action was never explained; the officers were later released.) Other characters in the film, however, are clearly fictional, including a murderous U.S. officer played by Billy Zane, and a Jewish doctor, played by Gary Busey, who harvests the organs of Iraqi prisoners, which he sells to wealthy clients in Israel and the West. In the conservative National Review, writer Jim Geraghty commented, "Pardon my French, but Billy, Gary... you're whores. You will contribute to the vilest propaganda for a pile of cash." The BBC's Middle East expert, Cengiz Candar, remarked, "This film poisons the climate in a way that it enhances jingoistic nationalism among Turks." But the English-language Turkish publication Dogan Daily News said on its website today, "However hostile the film may be, it is more likely to be the product of anti-American feelings in Turkey than the cause of it. A study shows that favorable views of America declined from 52 percent of Turks in 2000 to 15 percent in 2003." And Bulent Arinc, president of the Turkish National Assembly, praised it in an interview with the Anatolia news agency. "It is an extraordinary film that will go down in history," he said.

WEBSITE DISPLAYS LOWEST PRICES OF DVD'S

A Vancouver company has launched a website where consumers can compare prices of DVDs offered by various business and individual sellers. In an interview with Home Media Retailing magazine, Brian Holden, marketing manager for DVD Marketplace, said, "There are a lot of companies out there saying they can go up against Netflix. We're not trying to do that. ... As prices come down, renters are going to start closing their accounts and buying. We think the transition is happening now." Companies featured on DVDMarketplace.com pay a 10-percent commission for each DVD sold through the site. Individuals who list their used copies pay 15 percent.

WHAT CRITICS DON'T WRITE ABOUT SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS, SAYS STUDY

A Duke University study has concluded that many movie critics, faced with a huge number of films that that they are required to watch, often avoid writing reviews of the bad films they've seen while others avoid writing reviews of good films if other critics have already given them "thumbs up" notices. "Our model demonstrates that the fact that an expert is silent about a product may imply a positive or a negative review, depending on the expert," the study said. The study appraised the work of 46 critics and what they had to say -- or didn't have to say -- about 466 movies. One of the researchers, Peter Boatwright, said later that he and his colleagues did not take into account the fact that many critics mentioned in their study have little say about the selection process, since they are assigned movies to review by their editors, and that in the case of many major newspapers, a lead critic is expected to review the films that attract the greatest pre-release publicity.

BIG NEWS: THE $100,000 SHIRTS

News outlets all over the world featured reports on Wednesday about the eBay auction sale of two cowboy shirts worn by Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain for more than $100,000. Buyer Tom Gregory, described in the reports as a longtime gay activist, was quoted as saying, "They really are the ruby slippers of our time," referring to the iconic slippers that Judy Garland clicked for protection in the Wizard of Oz. The shirts were featured, one hanging over another, in a key scene in Brokeback. "I would never wear them," Gregory said, "or separate them." Proceeds from the sale were to benefit Variety Clubs International's Children's Charity.

BOND STAR SINKS TEETH INTO ROLE

Former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan has expressed sympathy for Daniel Craig, the current Bond, who reportedly had two teeth knocked out during a fight scene being filmed for Casino Royale in Prague. Interviewed in London at the premiere of his new film The Matador, Brosnan remarked, "I got stitched up and sewn up a few times, it just didn't get in the papers. ... There's going to be mishaps." Asked about the growing complaints by Bond fans about the casting of Craig in the new movie, Brosnan replied, "I think Daniel is a very fine actor. These are rocky waters and they're going to get him one way or another, but I think he will have the last laugh at the end of it."

Cinemark Movie Club