IT'S STRICTLY BALLROOM AS OLYMPICS FIZZLE OUT
Faced with little competition from rival networks on Friday and Saturday, NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics from Turin, Italy easily dominated the ratings. But the Olympics ratings remained well off those produced by the last two Winter Games, with Friday averaging a 9.5 rating and a 16 share and Saturday, a 9.1/16. On Sunday, facing the finals of ABC's Dancing With the Stars, ratings for the closing ceremonies of the Olympics collapsed. The ballroom dancing contest, won by former 98 Degrees singer Drew Lachey, who beat out female wrestler Stacy Keibler and football star Jerry Rice, recorded a 14.5/21 in the 8:00 hour, about twice the 7.4/12 registered by the Olympics coverage. At 9:00 p.m., Dancing soared to a 17.4/24 versus the Olympics' 9.3/13. At 10:00 p.m., Grey's Anatomy dominated with a 15.0/23 as the Olympics faded into history with a 9.1/14.
WILL IT BE THE REAL DEAL FOR NBC?
NBC will segue from contestants taking their chances on the ice and snow to contestants taking their chances on numbered suitcases this week as it revives the December hit Deal or No Deal, with host Howie Mandel. The show will air this week each night at 8:00 p.m., then become a fixture at 8:00 p.m. on Mondays beginning March 6. The network has vowed not to over-expose it as ABC did with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire six years ago. "I think everybody in the business learned a lesson about Millionaire," David Goldberg, president of Endemol USA, the show's producers, told today's (Monday) USA Today. "You've got a game show that seems to be viable, but if you get piggish, you'll burn it out. In discussions with NBC, they seem to aware of that possibility."
CBS NEWS APOLOGIZES FOR ALTERED PHOTO
In yet another embarrassment for CBS News, the executive producer of 48 Hours Mystery has apologized after the magazine program aired a doctored photograph of an edition of the Chicago Tribune. The producer, Susan Zirinsky, told the Tribune that she had not been aware that the photo had been altered until she received a complaint from the newspaper's managing editor, Jim Robertson. She maintained that while allowing the photo to air was "an egregious oversight," it did not change the editorial value of the story. She later told the CBS News blog Public Eye that the alteration was the work of a freelance editor, who had only worked on one previous program and was was not sufficiently aware of CBS News's standards. "If it had been brought to anyone's attention, it never would have made the light of day." She added, "This kind of thing has never happened at 48 Hours before because most of our people have been here a long time." Linda Mason, who in the wake of the Dan Rather "memogate" scandal, was appointed to the newly created post of vice president for standards and special projects at CBS News, told the Public Eye blog, "We consider this a very serious offense and disciplinary action will be taken." However, it was not clear whether such action would be limited to the freelance editor or to others involved in the news magazine's production.
JOURNALISTS' DEATH TOLL RISES TO 82 IN IRAQ
Three more journalists working in Iraq, a correspondent for al-Arabiya TV, her engineer and a cameraman, were shot and killed while reporting from Samarra Saturday, bringing to 82 the number of journalists and other news personnel who have died covering the war since it began nearly three years ago, according to the international organization Reporters Sans Frontières. In the 20 years of fighting in Vietnam from 1955-1975, 66 journalists were killed. The correspondent, Atwar Bahjat, was the seventh female journalist to die in Iraq. She and her crew were killed by unidentified gunmen as they covered the destruction of the Golden Mosque.
TED TURNER SAYS HE'LL LEAVE TIME WARNER BOARD
Ted Turner, who had been increasingly marginalized by the leadership of Time Warner since he sold Turner Broadcasting to the company in 1996, will step down from its board after its upcoming annual meeting, he said on Friday. In a statement, Turner, who remains Time Warner's largest individual shareholder, gave no reason for his decision, saying only that he had reached it "after much deliberation." Some analysts speculated that Turner may have been particularly upset over Time Warner's recent decision to sell some of the businesses that had long been an integral part of the Turner Broadcasting empire, including its sports teams and a sports cable network.
COMEDIAN DON KNOTTS DIES AT 81
Don Knotts, best remembered for his role as Barney Fife, the nervous deputy on the long-running Andy Griffith Show in the 1960s, died Friday of lung cancer at the age of 81. He also appeared in another long-running show, Three's Company, as Ralph Furley, the blustery landlord, in the 1970s and '80s.
DARREN MCGAVIN, WHO STARRED IN FIRST TV SERIES IN 1951, DIES AT 83
Darren McGavin, who had one of the longest careers of any television actor, including that of Casey, Crime Photographer in the Sidney Lumet-directed TV series in 1951 and Kolchak: the Night Stalker in the 1970s, died Saturday in Los Angeles at the age of 83. His most memorable film role was as the father in the 1983 family movie A Christmas Story.
FAMILY FARES WELL
Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion became just as big a hit over the weekend as his Diary of a Mad Black Woman was a year ago. The new film took in an estimated $30.3 million on 2,194 screens, averaging $13,788 versus $14,771 for Diary, which opened on 1,483 screens. Two other new films tanked. The Weinstein Co.'s animated Doogal grossed just $3.6 million, while New Line's Running Scared scared up only $3.1 million. Disney's doggy adventure Eight Below placed second in its second weekend with about $15.7 million, dropping only 22 percent from its opening weekend, while the third weekend of Sony's The Pink Panther took in $11.3 million, to bring its gross to $61 million. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion, $30.25 million; 2. Eight Below, $15.7 million; 3. The Pink Panther, $11.3 million; 4. Date Movie, $9.2 million; 5. Curious George, $7 million; 6. Firewall, $6.3 million; 7. Final Destination 3, $5.35 million; 8. Doogal, $3.6 million; 9. Running Scared, $3.1 million; 10. Freedomland, $2.9 million.
CHURCHES HELPING TO BOOST MOVIES
In an interview with Bloomberg News, Walt Borchers of MovieTickets.com credited Tyler Perry's strong appeal among black churchgoers with the success of Madea's Family Reunion. "Everything that's being rolled out now that's targeted to the religious sector is doing well," Borchers said. Daily Variety observed that African-American women 35 and over comprised 52 percent of the film's audience. The film was not screened for critics, who had few complimentary things to say about Perry's earlier Diary of a Mad Black Woman and even fewer nice things to say about the current one. Typical is Geoff Pevere's in the Toronto Star, who describes the movie as "an exercise in Christian inspirational healing" and "an entertainment engineered for a pretty specific audience." Pevere suggests that he, as a "middle-aged Canadian white guy," is certainly not a part of that target audience. But Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe, one of the country's few black critics, says that Family marks a significant improvement over Diary, writing: "Rather than push for sitcom nonsense, Perry spins a mean, satisfying soap opera."
UNIVERSAL STUDIO CHAIRMAN STACEY SNIDER QUITS -- JOINS DREAMWORKS
In the latest blow to the NBC Universal empire, Universal Studio Chairman Stacey Snider announced on Sunday that she has decided to leave the studio to become CEO and co-chairman (with David Geffen and Steven Spielberg) of DreamWorks. Viacom's Paramount Studios acquired DreamWorks in December for $1.6 billion, snatching the studio away from Universal, which had been negotiating to buy it, but whose corporate parent, GE, had reportedly blinked at the pricetag. The Wall Street Journal observed in its weekend edition that some senior executives at Universal, presumably including Snider, had staked their careers on the deal to acquire DreamWorks, "and came to believe, after it fell through, that GE doesn't consider the movie business a priority." Snider told today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times that after making frequent presentations to GE brass, she concluded that the corporate style did not "suit my personality" and that losing the deal to buy DreamWorks "forced me to think about my future differently." In an interview with Daily Variety, Paramount Chairman Brad Grey said that Snider's contract will not start until her contract with Universal expires in December. "If she's free sooner than that, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it." In a statement to the Times, Spielberg said: "Stacey has a unique combination in a film executive in that she recognizes a need to make commercial movies, but also aspires to make art. She recognized that balance is good." The newspaper observed that she will earn a base salary of $2.5 to $3 million annually, far less than her Universal paycheck but certain lucrative incentives were believed to have been written into her new contract.
WOULD APPLE BUY DISNEY?
Rumors spread flood-like through the Internet over the weekend that Apple Computer might make an attempt to acquire the Walt Disney Co. The rumors were touched off by an item in Barron's, the Dow Jones weeklymagazine, by Mark Veverka, its Silicon Valley-based correspondent. It noted that Apple now boasts a stock-market value of more than $60 billion -- $10 billion more than Disney's, and that when Disney completes its acquisition of Pixar, Steve Jobs, who heads both Pixar and Apple, will become Disney's largest shareholder, with four times the stake of Michael Eisner and seven times that of Roy Disney. (Veverka incorrectly identifies Disney as the brother of Walt; he is Walt's nephew.) The article quotes Institutional Risk Analytics analyst Christopher Whalen as saying that it would be "an open option" for Jobs to make a run at Disney, adding, "Disney is badly undervalued right now. Jobs might get an opportunity to take it out." Moreover, several analysts forecast that Disney will soon develop a movie downloading service for its video iPods, which are expected to sport larger screens in their next evolution. "From an intellectual property standpoint, [an Apple-Disney merger] would be a match made in heaven," Washington D.C. intellectual-property attorney Alan Fisch said in the Barron's article.