ANATOMY SCORES POST-GAME VICTORY
ABC's Super Bowl XL telecast on Sunday averaged 90.72 million viewers making it the biggest audience draw on television since the Super Bowl telecast in 1996. At one time or another during the game, 141.4 million people tuned in -- a figure second only to the 2004 Super Bowl Game. The game also gave a big boost to Grey's Anatomy, which followed the post-game show with a 19.2 rating and a 32 share, the best performance for a post-Super Bowl entertainment show since the debut of CBS's Survivor: The Australian Outback in 2001. And ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live, which aired beginning at midnight, drew 7.39 million viewers, establishing a new record.
BIG BIRD FACING THE AXE AGAIN
The Bush administration has once again called for huge cuts in funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Under budget proposals sent to Congress on Monday, $53.5 million would be cut from the $400 million due to be doled out to public TV and radio stations in 2007 and another $50 million in 2008. In a statement, CPB chief Patricia Harrison said she was disappointed in the administration's proposal. Harrison, a past co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said that she nevertheless understood that "the hard choices facing the administration, Congress and the nation as hurricane reconstruction, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue and entitlement spending take up a growing share of federal dollars." A far stronger statement came from Jeff Chester, executive director of the public-interest group Center for Digital Democracy. "The Bush White House is taking an axe to help chop off Big Bird's head and turn Elmo out into the streets," he said, adding that he thought the primary goal was to curtail the ability of public broadcasters "to critically report the news." Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey complained, "In a world of fast-and-furious television with content often inappropriate for young children, the public broadcasting system represents the last stronghold of quality, child-oriented programming -- we owe this free over-the-air resource to America's children and their parents."
CHRISTIAN ACTIVIST GROUP SAYS IT BLOCKED BRITNEY SITCOM EPISODE
The Rev. Don Wildmon's American Family Assn. (AFA) is taking credit for killing a planned Will & Grace episode on NBC that reportedly was to feature Britney Spears as a Christian conservative co-host with Jack, the gay character portrayed by Sean Hayes, on Jack's Out TV cable channel. According to an early NBC news release, she was to appear in a cooking segment of the show called "Cruci-fixins." The network later said that the script for the episode had yet to be written "and the story line will not contain a Christian characterization at all." In a statement on Monday, the AFA said, "When NBC said that the script 'has yet to be written,' what they didn't tell you is that the 'story board' had been completed, and the offensive material was scheduled to be a part of the episode." Wildmon himself was quoted in the statement as saying, "Plainly put, NBC heard from their affiliates that they did not want to go through another Book of Daniel situation while losing millions in advertising revenue." NBC recently canceled The Book of Daniel following an AFA letter campaign that, the organization claims, generated hundreds of thousand of written protests.
TV NEWS PIONEER REUVEN FRANK DIES AT 85
Reuven Frank, once described by New York Times TV writer Bill Carter as one of the founding fathers of broadcast journalism "who made up the rule book of television news as they went along," has died of complications from pneumonia in Englewood, New Jersey at the age of 85. He is credited with pairing Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC's nightly newscast in 1958 and later installing Tom Brokaw at the anchor's desk. In a statement on Monday, Brokaw said, "I am forever grateful for what I learned from him. Reuven had an uncanny ability to balance the serious imperatives of journalism with a keen appreciation for the absurd. As a result he was always not just wise, but entertaining. When he later selected me to be the sole anchor of The NBC Nightly News, I was personally grateful and professionally proud to have earned his trust."
STRANGER DIALS UP $21.6 MILLION
Once again raising the question of why studios should bother to produce expensive adult-oriented films when cheapo horror flicks can garner far greater profits, Sony's When a Stranger Calls, which cost only $15 million to make, debuted in first place at the weekend box office with $21.6 million. It was particularly ironic for Sony, which reported a 25 percent plunge in profits in its last quarter, with particularly disappointing results for Memoirs of a Geisha and Zathura.Memoirs, which reportedly cost $85 million to make has taken in only $54 million at the domestic box office. Zathura, which cost about $65 million, grossed only $28 million. Another low-budget film, Big Momma's House 2, dropped to second place with $13.6 million. In two weeks, it has earned $45.7 million. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. When a Stranger Calls, Sony, $21,607,203, (New); 2. Big Momma's House 2, 20th Century Fox, $13,600,645, 2 Wks. ($45,661,165); 3. Nanny McPhee, Universal, $9,796,465, 2 Wks. ($26,535,740); 4. Brokeback Mountain, Focus Features, $6,003,544, 9 Wks. ($60,102,890); 5. Hoodwinked, Weinstein Co. $5,307,334, 4 Wks. ($44,101,550); 6. Underworld: Evolution, Sony, $5,302,601, 3 Wks. ($52,950,739); 7. Something New, Focus Features, $4,879,736, (New); 8. Annapolis, Disney, $3,415,500, 2 Wks. ($12,883,153); 9. Walk the Line, 20th Century Fox, $3,287,475, 12 Wks. ($110,611,645); 10. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Disney, $3,072,090, 9 Wks. ($281,934,379).
MUNICH LEADS OVERSEAS BOX OFFICE FOR SECOND WEEK
While Steven Spielberg's Munich remains a tough sell domestically -- despite receiving a best-picture Oscar nomination -- it returned for a second week to the top of the international box office. The film earned $11.6 million from 31 countries. Disney decided to release its hand-drawn animated Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest theatrically in nine countries, where it performed nicely, earning $4.1 million, including $2 million in France, where it debuted in second place. The sequel to Disney's 1942 original is being released today (Tuesday) on DVD domestically under the title Bambi II.
PELLICANO, 6 OTHERS INDICTED IN HOLLYWOOD WIRETAP CONSPIRACY
A 60-page indictment was unsealed Monday against private detective Anthony Pellicano, who was one day shy of completing a 30-month sentence for illegal possession of explosives, charging him with conspiring to wiretap, blackmail, and intimidate numerous Hollywood figures. He was ordered held without bail. Six others were also named as co-conspirators, including former LAPD Sgt. Mark Arneson and telephone company employee Rayford Turner. However, Pellicano was singled out as the leader of the conspiracy, saying that he acted on behalf of clients who included "entertainment celebrities and executives, attorneys and law firms." Today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times observed that many of the alleged victims, including Sylvester Stallone and Garry Shandling, are persons who battled clients of famed show-business attorney Bert Fields, whose "shadow," said the newspaper, "looms over the case." Fields himself commented to the newspaper, "It's something I want to stay out of. I try to keep practicing law and not pay a lot of attention to it." A partner in Fields' law firm commented, "If Mr. Pellicano engaged in any illegal activity, he did so without their or the firm's knowledge or authorization." In its report, the Times observed, "Although the indictment does not specify which cases Pellicano was working on, names cited in the charges read like a road map leading to Fields and his firm."
DISNEY SELLS OFF MOST OF ITS RADIO BUSINESS
After shelling out $7.4 billion to purchase Pixar Animation, the Walt Disney will see its coffers partially refilled when it completes a $2.7 billion sale of its radio stations to Citadel Broadcasting, announced Monday. The deal gives Citadel 22 of ABC's 71 stations and the ABC Radio Networks. It excludes the stations that carry programming from Radio Disney and ESPN. Disney on Monday also reported a 7-percent rise in profits during its last quarter to $734 million, well above analysts' expectations. While filmed entertainment fell 60 percent, earnings from its ABC television network were up 87 percent and admissions at its theme parks rose 60 percent.
GILLIAM GRIM ABOUT MIRAMAX'S GRIMM PROMOTION
Director Terry Gilliam has accused the Weinstein brothers of abandoning his 2005 movie The Brothers Grimm because, he said, Miramax was paralyzed in its final days under the Weinsteins' leadership. Speaking at the Rotterdam Film Festival, Gilliam charged that the Weinsteins "seemed to be trapped in their own exit. They walked away with a lot in their pockets, but [many] films were abandoned. That's disgraceful. I hope Bob and Harvey are spending their pocket money happily." Today's (Tuesday) New York Post, which reported Gilliam's remarks, observed that critics by and large panned the film, including the Post's own critic. To which Gilliam responded: "All I can say is, we made some noise. The film is at $103 million at the moment, so we're not a flop. It just didn't do what it should have done. In almost every country in the world where the Weinsteins or Disney aren't involved, it opened at number one. That is the irony."