UP IN THE SKY: IT'S SUPER RATINGSSunday's Super Bowl XL telecast from Detroit between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks did not break ratings records, but it was close enough. According to Nielsen overnights, the ABC telecast scored a 41.8 rating and a 62 share, down by about 4 percent from last year's 43.4/63 but up a tad from 2004's 41.4/63. (Because of the live nature of the telecast, with the West Coast viewing it three hours earlier than the East, final results, to be announced later today, could significantly alter the figure.) Sunday night's post-game show was up considerably over previous years, drawing a 36.0/52 from 10:00 to 10:30 p.m. That compared with a 25.5/40 last year and a 28.8/46 in 2004.


Critics had high praise for the quality of the commercials that advertisers paid ABC $2.5 million apiece to be broadcast during Sunday's Super Bowl telecast. New York Timesadvertising columnist Stuart Elliot said they represented a "marked improvement" over last year's lot and noted that most of them appeared to be "reaching for a higher form of hilarity or trying to tug at the heartstrings." The Bud Lightspot involving a revolving refrigerator won USA Today's Ad Meter poll, while FedEx's spot featuring a caveman crushed by a dinosaur was ahead in an online poll being conducted by The Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post's Tom Shales said that the most talked about spot was the one for Burger King, produced like a lavish dance number in a Busby Berkeley musical.


It did not rival the controversy that erupted over Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, but questions arose following The Rolling Stones' halftime performance during the Super Bowl telecast Sunday over who was responsible for some of the words of their lyrics being removed. USA Todayreported that Stones' leader Mick Jagger had been informed before the telecast that his microphone would be turned down during some sexually explicit lyrics. "We agreed upon it earlier this week. They were fine with it," an NFL spokesman told the newspaper. The New York Timesobserved that the 62-year-old Jagger showed off his "athletic prowess" and noted that "the television cameras could barely keep up. ... He was as limber as anyone on the field."


The report that Bob Woodruff was broadcasting for ABC's World News Tonight when he was struck by shrapnel from a roadside explosion was finally broadcast on the program Friday night. The footage, rescued from a damaged camera that Doug Vogt, who was also injured in the blast, was holding showed Woodruff riding in the turret of an Iraqi armored vehicle describing his observations about the preparedness of the Iraqi military. It did not capture the explosion. ABC News correspondent Dan Harris, who narrated the footage, said that the explosion must immediately have knocked out Vogt's camera and another that was mounted on the vehicle and operating automatically. Meanwhile, Woodruff remained in a drug-induced coma at Bethesda Naval Hospital while continuing to undergo treatment for his injuries. In an interview with TV Week, World News Tonightexecutive producer Jon Banner insisted that Woodruff and Vogt were both making progress. (Vogt, who was less seriously injured, has been talking with friends and family and was walking on Friday.) "We have every expectation and hope that Bob will be back," Banner said. "That's what we're planning for. There's no plan for any other scenario. He's coming back and going to pick up where he left off and be anchor of this broadcast." In an interview with today's (Monday)Los Angeles Times, ABC News chief David Westin said that the wounding of the two newsmen has prompted the news department to contemplate producing more stories about the nearly 17,000 U.S. soldiers injured in Iraq. "In an ironic sense, Bob is still reporting as an anchor," Westin told the newspaper. "He's shining a spotlight on this."


Appearing on CNN's Reliable Sourceswith Howard Kurtz Sunday, former World News Tonightexecutive producer Emily Rooney said that ABC's decision to add Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer to the show during Woodruff's absence betrays a lack of confidence in Elizabeth Vargas. "I think it's because they don't think she's strong enough," Rooney said, indicating that she herself agrees with that assessment. "I always have this kind of uneasy feeling that she doesn't quite have the depth. You know, the other night I was watching the State of the Union Address, and the minute she tossed to Charlie Gibson, I thought, well, they've brought the adult into the discussion. And I think there's no question about it, if this had been a reverse situation and, I hate to say, if Elizabeth had been wounded, I think Bob would be in the anchor chair solo." Rooney also opined that it was "patently ridiculous" to have two people anchor the nightly newscast.


Twenty-three writers will share the Writers Guild of America drama series award announced Saturday. They were last season's writers of ABC's Lost. By contrast only one writer takes home the comedy series award -- Larry David, for his HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm.The HBO drama Warm Springs, written by Margaret Nagle, received the award for best long-form adapted screenplay, while The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, took the award for best long-form original screenplay. A new award for best new series went to ABC's Grey's Anatomy.


On the heels of reports that CBS was "cutting out the middleman" and going it alone by distributing episodes of Survivoron its own website, the president of CBS Digital Media said Friday that the series might wind up on Apple's iTunes Music Store as well. Larry Kramer told MarketWatch (which he founded) that CBS was considering several companies, including Apple, to distribute CBS shows on the Internet. Analysts questioned the network's strategy, however, pointing out that its plans for Survivorpermit viewing for only 24 hours, while all other programs being made available through Apple may be permanently stored on a PC or on Apple's video iPod.

STRANGER CAUSES BUSY SIGNAL AT BOX OFFICEYet another low-budget horror flick, this one aimed at younger women, knocked over all the Oscar nominees, as When a Stranger Calls, which cost $15 million to produce, earned an estimated $22 million during its Super Bowl weekend debut. The figure was well above analysts' predictions and represented the biggest box-office take for any film on a Super Bowl weekend in history. It was the third weekend in the past five that a horror film opened at the top spot. Daily Variety reported that 58 percent of the audience was under 21 and 55 percent was female. The only other newcomer had far less success (although it received mostly positive reviews). The interracial romance Something New, opened at No. 7 with just $5 million. Last week's box-office champ, Big Momma's House 2, slipped to second place with $13.4 million, while the G-rated Nanny McPhee fell to No. 3 with $9.9 million. After receiving eight nominations earlier in the week, Brokeback Mountain rose to fourth place in its ninth weekend as it took in $5.7 million. Despite expanding into 2,089 from 1,654, business for the film was down some 16 percent. Analysts had indicated that while straight males may have been persuaded to see the film because of the strong reviews and awards it received, it was unlikely that it would be the sort of fare they'd seek out on Super Bowl weekend. Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg's Munich continued to perform better abroad than at home, leading the overseas box office for the second weekend in a row with $13.3 million. It grossed $1.5 million domestically, despite receiving five Oscar nominations, including best film. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations: 1. When a Stranger Calls, $22 million; 2. Big Momma's House 2, $13.35 million; 3. Nanny McPhee, $9.9 million; 4. Brokeback Mountain, $5.7 million; 5. Hoodwinked, $5.3 million; 6. Underworld: Evolution, $5.1 million; 7. Something New, $5 million; 8. Annapolis, $3.5 million; 9. Walk the Line, $3.4 million; 10. Glory Road, $3 million.


Film critics, who were not shown When a Stranger Calls before it was released on Friday, got a look at it over the weekend and unloaded the expected barrage of negative reviews. In the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday wrote, "When a Stranger Calls has been remade -- with undistinguished if inoffensive results -- by Simon West, who is quickly becoming a reliable purveyor of Hollywood's dreckiest dreck." Jason Anderson in the Toronto Globe & Mail suggested that the 1979 original was imitative enough in its own right. "That this remake is perfunctory is hardly surprising but it needn't have been quite so dull," he wrote. Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe predicted: "Audiences are bound to exit Stranger booing, knowing full well the movie belongs on their do-not-call list."


Brokeback Mountain added another trophy to the mountain of others it has received when the Writers Guild of America handed Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana its award for the best adapted screenplay of 2005. Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco received the best original screenplay award for Crash.


Forget all the high-tech computer-generated stuff. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, produced using the claymation technique introduced in animated movies nearly a hundred years ago and popularized 60 years ago in George Pal's "Puppetoons," swept the 33rd annual Annie Awards Saturday. The film received 10 awards, including best feature. Creators Nick Park and Steve Box received the directing awards.


Analysts are predicting that the Walt Disney Co., despite showing a marked improvement at its ABC television division, will probably report a sizable drop in first-quarter profit. Bloomberg News reported today (Monday) that Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen has advised clients that the movie unit's profits probably dropped 78 percent to $70 million from last year's $323 million in the company's first quarter. Another analyst, Elizabeth Miller at New York-based Trevor, Stewart, Burton & Jacobsen, commented "Their film unit has been stale. ... The Pixar purchase is an attempt to improve content in animation."