With CBS, the usual Thursday-night winner, drawing only so-so numbers with the new Survivor: Panama and two hours of reruns, NBC, which once dominated Thursday nights with its Must-See-TV lineup, was able to win the night for its coverage of the Turin Winter Olympics with an average 15.0 rating and a 22 share. Although it won the night, the Olympics coverage fell far short of earlier expectations, as it faced stiff competition from a Thursday-night American Idolspecial, which drew a 14.4/21 and a two-hour edition of ABC's Dancing With the Stars, which scored an average 12.3/17. At 10:00 p.m., ABC's Primetimedrew its best ratings of the season, as it registered an 8.6/13 with its interview with an Aruba man regarded as a suspect in the Natalee Holloway disappearance.


Despite receiving much critical praise while boosting ratings for the CBS Evening News, Bob Schieffer indicated Thursday that he has not even considered the possibility of becoming the permanent anchor of the CBS newscast. When asked by the Rocky Mountain News how he'd reply if he were asked to remain as permanent anchor, Schieffer at first responded, "I don't know what I'd say," then, after a pause, remarked, "I'd probably say no. Ten years ago I would have jumped at the chance. ... But at 69 -- well, anchoring a network newscast five nights a week is definitely a young man's game. Anyway, that offer is not going to be made." Asked about the rumors that he will be replaced by Katie Couric after her contract with NBC expires in May, Schieffer replied, "I really don't know if she'll become the anchor. I like Katie and I believe she'd be an asset to CBS News. I sometimes wonder if she's decided what she wants to do."


ABC News chief David Westin has told staffers that World News Tonightco-anchor Bob Woodruff "continues to make good progress." In an email sent Thursday, Westin said, "The doctors are slowly bringing him out of sedation and are very pleased with the progress they've seen so far, especially in the last few days." In the most specific bit of information yet disclosed about Woodruff's condition, Westin said, "Bob has been out of bed in a chair and his physical strength continues to impress his entire team. Bob's responses to Lee [his wife] and the children are even more heartening -- Lee told me that Bob 'reacts to their voices, returns their smiles and is initiating kisses.'" There was no word on whether he has regained his ability to speak. Meanwhile, it was reported that Doug Vogt, the ABC cameraman who was injured with Woodruff is returning to his home in France for further treatment and recuperation.


Turner Broadcasting, which made the Atlanta Braves virtually a national baseball club by distributing their games via satellite to cable systems all over the country, is selling Turner South, which currently carries the Braves' games in six states, to Fox Cable Networks for $375 million. Turner South is also the broadcast outlet for the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA and the Thrashers of the NHL. Fox Cable is a unit of News Corp, owned by Rupert Murdoch, the longtime nemesis of Turner Broadcasting's founder, Ted Turner, who sold his broadcasting empire to Time Warner in 1996. Last year the company sold the Thrashers and the Hawks and continues to look for a buyer for the Braves.


Bedeviled by digital video recorders that permit users to skip commercials, the Foote Cone & Belding advertising agency has developed a new commercial for Kentucky Fried Chicken that targets DVR users. A message is hidden in the new spot -- which can only be seen by DVR users who play it back in slow motion -- that tells how they can obtain a coupon for a free KFC Buffalo Snacker chicken sandwich. Scott Bergren, chief marketing officer at KFC, told the Associated Press Thursday that the ads will air on NBC's Winter Olympic telecasts and on several other network programs until March 3 -- and the secret message can not be detected when viewed at normal speed. "To the naked eye, it's a typical KFC television commercial," he said.


Radio and TV stations are not worth as much as they once were. That fact appeared underscored Thursday after CBS Inc. announced that it had taken a write off in the value of its station assets and posted a fourth-quarter loss of $9.14 billion. The write-off placed a value on CBS's television assets at $6.4 billion and on its radio assets at $3.05 billion.


Analysts are puzzling over whether Tyler Perry's second movie, Madea's Family Reunion, will exceed the (surprise) $21.9-million opening of his first outing, last year's Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Lionsgate is cautiously opening the film on 2,194 screens, half again as many as Diary, has found bookings for Perry on numerous talk shows, and set up print interviews with him. However, it did not screen Reunionfor the press, mindful perhaps of the nearly unanimous drubbing last year's film received. ("I've been reviewing movies for a long time, and I can't think of one that more dramatically shoots itself in the foot," wrote Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News called it "an absolute mess with no coherent tone, story or point of view." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post warned: "Stay clear of this mess.") Nevertheless, it opened at the top of the box office and turned Perry, who previously had been known mostly for his plays performed in black community theaters, into an overnight phenomenon. New Line is also playing it cautious with Running Scaredwith Paul Walker, opening it in only 1,611 theaters. It is not expected to earn more than $10 million. Finally, the Weinstein Co. is opening the computer-animated feature Doogalon 2,319 screens. The kiddie film is based on the classic British show The Magic Roundabout, which aired in Canada on the CBC in the 1970s. Assuming perhaps that Canadian critics may have had some familiarity with the show, the film's distributor, the Weinstein Company, screened it for them but not for U.S. critics. They need not have bothered. Bruce Kirkland in the Toronto Starsums up: "Not horrible, not insulting, just mediocre." Jason Anderson in the Toronto Globe and Maildescribes some of the "tinkering" that went into the American version of the film -- it was released in Europe last year under the Roundabouttitle and with a different voice cast -- then concludes, "It's hard to imagine the film could be rendered any more aggravating or less funny." And Peter Howell in the Toronto Star concurs, writing, "In attempting to turn a tiny Anglo-Franco amusement into a full-blown Yankee extravaganza, The Weinstein Co. has managed to choke every last bit of charm out of the characters and their setting, no mean feat for a show this enchanting."


Running Scared

should have a good run indeed, if critics' reactions are any indication. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Timesgives the movie three stars and writes that it "goes so far over the top, it circumnavigates the top and doubles back on itself; it's the Mobius Strip of over-the-topness. I am in awe." Similarly, Roger Moore writes in the Orlando Sentinel: "Something about this way over the top dum-dum bullet of a movie hits. Call its boundary-busting badness a Tarantino parody or a 'message' or, as is most likely, an instant cult film, but you can't say it doesn't hit you like a big-bore slug at close range." But what Ebert and Moore regard as an asset, Deeson Thomson of the Washington Postregards as a definite deficit. "Running Scarednever met an over-the-top character, convoluted subplot or gruesome exit wound it didn't love. It's as if writer-director [Wayne] Kramer ... watched Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs repeatedly for 10 days straight, then sat at the word processor and kept typing until he collapsed." Indeed several critics compare the movie with those of Quentin Tarantino, with Kyle Smith in the New York Post observing: "It isn't so much imitation Tarantino as it is imitation imitation Tarantino," while Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer concludes, "Questions of originality notwithstanding, there's plenty of blazing going on here."


The Writers Guild of America - West, which, like the Screen Actors Guild, has been deeply divided into activist and moderate camps of late, has fired its chief spokesperson, Cheryl Rhoden. The Los Angeles Timesreported that Rhoden, who had served as communications chief of the guild for nearly 20 years and was an assistant executive director, was ousted after repeated clashes with interim Executive Director David Young, a former Teamsters official who took over the WGA's top administrative position last September when the guild's board ousted John McLean, who was criticized for not taking a tougher position with producers on the issue of DVD residual payments.


Film critics have expressed consternation over a Duke University study released Wednesday that 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. Chicago Sun-Timescritic Roger Ebert commented: "This study seems to be have been conducted without any knowledge of the real world film critics inhabit, and to incorporate statistics that seem flawed, if not downright goofy." Pat Saperstein, senior editor of Variety, remarked: "This study doesn't seem to understand the most elementary concept about film reviewers -- the top reviewers with the most seniority are assigned the highest-profile, most prestigious films, duh. Younger, more inexperienced reviewers get the films the top critic doesn't want." Concluded Susan Wloszczyna, a former USA Todaycritic: "I guess critics should celebrate the fact that an esteemed university is even bothering to study their profession, but these findings barely rate one star."


Sony Pictures on Thursday distributed the first poster art for Spider-Man 3, a movie that is not scheduled for release until May 2007. The poster shows Tobey Maguire, wearing a black Spidey costume, perched precariously on a pillar at night, while rain falls around him. The poster quickly was picked up by numerous film and sci-fi websites. Garth Franklin, who runs the DarkHorizons.com website, commented, "OK, so it's not as cool as, say, that Batman Begins poster with him swooping down from above ... but, as superhero teaser posters go, it's one of the best in years." And Joshua Tyler, editor-in-chief of CinemaBlend.com, remarked, "It's a huge departure from the previous two movies which were bright, and red, and blue. It's also gotten me all tingly about Spider-Man again. The image is just completely cool."


Germany's largest movie chain, CinemaxX, has pulled the hit Turkish film Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, following accusations that the film is anti-Semitic and anti-American. The film depicts American soldiers in Iraq as villains, with Billy Zane playing a sadistic U.S. officer and Gary Busey, a Jewish doctor who harvests the organs of Iraqi prisoners and sells them to clients in the West and in Israel. "The controversy surrounding this film has really heated up," CinemaxX spokesman Arne Schmidt told today's (Friday) Hollywood Reporter. "We didn't want to add oil to the fire, so we decided to pull the film." Earlier this week, Bavarian state premier Edmund Stoiber called on all German theater owners "to pull this racist and anti-Western hate film immediately." However, Anil Sahin, head of Maxximum, the film's distributor, told the trade publication. "This is being used as a political football to score points. I wonder if any of the politicians has [sic] actually seen the movie. It's just a fun, silly action flick -- Rambo told from the other side."