ABC PONDERS, WHY NOT CANCEL IT NOW?
Touching off speculation that ABC is about to set a record for quick cancellation of a series, the network announced Thursday that its new sitcom, Emily's Reasons Why Not, along with Jake in Progress (in its second season),will be preempted next Monday by a repeat of last week's season premiere of The Bachelor. Both yanked sitcoms, which replaced the first hour of Monday Night Football, drew miserable ratings in their season debuts. They would have had to compete against NBC's telecast of the Golden Globe Awards next Monday. ABC's announcement indicated that the both shows are due to return on Jan. 23, but some analysts expressed skepticism, suggesting that if they do, it will probably only be until ABC can find replacements for them.
NBC STATIONS BRACE FOR MORE COMPLAINTS ABOUT DANIEL
Brent Bozell, whose Parents Television Council generated 99.9 percent of all the indecency complaints lodged with the FCC in 2003, has joined televangelist Don Wildmon and Focus on the Family's James Dobson in denouncing the NBC series The Book of Daniel. In a commentary posted on the conservative Townhall.com website, Bozell called the program "anti-Christian in the most fundamental way" because "it mocks God, and the Word of God, " and he charged that it represents "the gospel of Hollywood." NBC stations are being deluged with complaints about the series, whose second episode airs tonight (Friday). Dale Woods, manager of KWWL-TV in Waterloo, Iowa told the Press-Citizen there that the station had begun receiving complaints before the first episode ever aired. Some of the messages, he said, "were just cut and paste." The Springfield, MO News-Leader quoted Mike Scott, general manager of KY3, as saying that ratings will decide whether the show remains on the air. "We think our viewers should be able to make that decision for themselves," Scott told the newspaper. "I don't think I'm the one to make that decision."
TOP CBS SHOWS TO BE MADE AVAILABLE ON DEMAND
Comcast's cable subscribers who miss episodes of CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, NCIS, Survivor or The Amazing Race will now be able to watch them on demand as early as midnight following the actual broadcast, the cable company announced Thursday. Viewers may watch any of the shows as many times as they want for up to 24 hours after they select them and agree to pay a 99-cent fee. Each episode of CSI and NCIS will be available until a new one airs the following week, but episodes of Survivor and The Amazing Race will remain available throughout the entire season.
WHAT'S IN A SPELLING?
Time Warner Cable on Thursday won a temporary restraining order in federal court in San Diego against L.A. Activations, a Santa Ana company selling the DirecTV satellite service, which had listed itself in numerous phone directories under variations of the Time Warner name. Each name was framed in such a way that it would precede the actual listing for Time Warner, and included: "Time Warn," "Time Warne," "Time Warned," etc. Anyone not paying strict attention to the spelling who called the listed numbers would reportedly receive a sales pitch for DirecTV. Time Warner alleged that the intent of the phony listings was "to deceive Time Warner customers into using [the DirecTV] service." A hearing on Time Warner's request for a permanent injunction was set for Jan. 23.
THE DUMPED WANTS THE DUMPER DUMPED
The female-oriented Lifetime cable network, which was dumped by EchoStar's DISH satellite service, is now calling on subscribers to dump DISH. An ad campaign, comprising radio, TV and print messages launched on Wednesday included copies of a letter sent by Lifetime to Echostar's Charlie Ergen, saying that as a result of DISH's decision to remove the network, "millions of women will not get the inspiration and support they need and deserve." However, a DISH spokesman noted on Thursday that Lifetime was demanding a 76-percent fee increase, and he called for Lifetime to waive the right to pricing confidentiality. Lifetime countered, however, claiming that the proposed deal called for an additional payment of just four cents per customer.
CNN HANDS OVER $100,000 TO GAY SCHOLARSHIP FUND
CNN has contributed $100,000 to the National Association of Lesbian and Gay Journalists' college scholarship fund, the gay-oriented PageOneQ website said Thursday. In a statement, CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton said, "CNN is only as strong as its journalists and this donation helps ensure that we not only support an outstanding organization of journalists but a deep resource for hiring future CNN anchors, correspondents and producers." The organization said that the gift was the largest it had ever received from a media company in its 15-year history.
NBC'S ANCHORS AND CORRESPONDENTS QUIT AFTRA
Unhappy with AFTRA's pension and health plans, NBC's 59 news anchors and correspondents voted Thursday to decertify the union as their collective bargaining representative, joining an in-house bargaining group that includes talent at MSNBC, CNBC and various NBC-owned TV stations. AFTRA issued a mild statement saying that it "understands that the NBC Network newspersons certainly have the right to exercise their legal rights under this process as workers" and wished the departing NBC newspersons the best of luck and said it looked "forward to the day when they will again be part of the community of AFTRA's broadcast journalists."
ABC CALLS ON WALTERS TO KEEP OSCAR FEVER ALIVE
Although ABC's Oscars telecast -- usually the second-highest-rated show of the year after the Super Bowl -- will air four days after the February sweeps, the network still intends to get ratings mileage out of it by airing Barbara Walters' Academy Awards special on March 1, the last day of the sweeps. In a statement, Steve McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment, said, "We've been wanting to expand the celebration of the Oscars for some time, and moving Barbara's special to Wednesday as part of our strategy for the February sweep makes it the true national kick-off event for the Awards broadcast."
ACTRESS CLAIMS SOAP STARS ARE "KILLED OFF" WHEN THEY BECOME PREGNANT
Actress Kari Wuhrer has sued ABC, charging that her character on General Hospital was killed off and she was dismissed last year after she became pregnant. As reported by today's (Friday) New York Times, Wuhrer claims in the lawsuit that other actresses on daytime programs have faced similar situations. "Even one whiff that an actress on an ABC daytime soap has conceived a child is enough to have her character killed off the show," her complaint alleges. She indicated that she intends to call as a witness another General Hospital actress, Lesli Kay, who she claims was similarly dismissed by the producers of the long-running soap opera after she became pregnant.
BUSY HOLIDAY WEEKEND AT BOX OFFICE
The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday will see four new films opening at the box office, challenging several holdovers that continue to show strength. Last weekend's winner, the horror film Hostel, is expected to follow the usual trend of the genre and drop precipitously in its second weekend. (However, the film was holding up well during midweek showings, grossing about 50 percent more than the second-place film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.) Meanwhile Focus Features' Brokeback Mountain will add 200 more theaters this weekend. With just 483 theaters screening it during mid-week, it posted the fourth-largest grosses. Most analysts figure that the top contenders for the weekend's No. 1 spot will be Disney's basketball drama Glory Road and Paramount's Queen Latifah comedy Last Holiday. Also making their debuts are Fox's medieval-myth drama Tristan & Isolde and the Weinstein Co.'s animated Hoodwinked.
MOVIE REVIEWS: GLORY ROAD
Last year at this time it was Coach Carter; this year, it's Glory Road -- what A.O. Scott in the New York Times calls, the "season's obligatory inspirational coach-centered sports movie." Like other critics, Scott observes that the film will win no awards for originality. He adds: "Movies like this are rarely great, but when executed properly, they're rarely bad, either. Glory Road is satisfying less for its virtuosity than for its sincerity, and also because it will acquaint audiences with a remarkable episode that had ramifications far beyond the basketball court" -- the appearance in 1966 of an all-black basketball team for the first time in the NCAA basketball championships. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the film succeeds "as the story of a chapter in history, the story of how one coach at one school arrived at an obvious conclusion and acted on it, and helped open college sports in the South to generations of African Americans." But Chris Kaltenbach in the Baltimore Sun doesn't buy any of such praise. "The end result is more a lecture than a film; audiences may come away understanding what went on, but for most, the emotional connection will be lacking," he writes. Similarly, David Hiltbrand in the Philadelphia Inquirer concludes: "Viewed as a recreation of a watershed moment, Glory Road is sturdy, efficient, perhaps even worthy. Taken as cinema, however, it falls far short of inspiring."
MOVIE REVIEWS: LAST HOLIDAY
Queen Latifah is receiving royal treatment from critics reviewing Last Holiday, even as many trash the movie itself. Writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: "Queen Latifah has a beautiful smile and the sort of relaxed screen presence that can take some performers decades to hone, but even this superflack for Wal-Mart can't gold-plate junk." Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News doesn't come down on the movie quite so intensely as some of her colleagues, but she shares their admiration for Latifah. The movie, she writes, "showcases her luminous beauty, regal bearing and warm heart. The movie isn't everything it could be, but the Queen never lets us down." Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls the movie, "a pleasant trifle made far better than it should be by [Latifah's] effortless charm and expansive spirit." But Peter Howell in the Toronto Star warns that one scene features a brightly lit Christmas tree, something rarely seen in a movie released in January. "It's a sure sign," he writes, that "the producers, having judged the prospects of a Yuletide offering to be less than magical, have opted to dump their product into the month of half-off sales and diminished expectations."
MOVIE REVIEWS: TRISTAN & ISOLDE
Tristan & Isolde gets more yawns from critics than a Wagnerian opera. Kyle Smith in the New York Post leads off his review by remarking, "I usually enjoy films about sword-fighting Jutes, rusty armor and hairy guys named Hrothgar, but Tristan & Isolde makes sacking and pillaging about as exciting as the line at the post office." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News calls it a "tragic waste ... as murky as six seasons of a soap opera." Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe & Mail succinctly observes: "Sorry, no magic here." The film does have its admirers, among them, Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, who observes, "This Tristan has its slightly silly moments, but rather like those fondly remembered epics of Hollywood past, its energy and entertainment value carry the day." And Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times describes the movie as "a lean and effective action romance," adding: "The movie is better than the commercials would lead you to believe -- and better, perhaps, than the studio expected, which may be why it was on the shelf for more than a year."
STUDIOS SEEK NEW ACCOUNTING SYSTEM FOR HIGH-END TALENT
Hollywood's leading studios are rethinking their formula for paying top talent a percentage of gross receipts and are now implementing "cash break-even" schemes in which the studios are allowed to recoup the costs of production and marketing before revenue is split with talent, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal reported today (Friday). In an interview with the Times, Disney production chief Nina Jacobson remarked, "You can find yourself, under a traditional first-dollar gross deal, writing huge checks while you are bleeding. It just doesn't seem fair. It feels great to be writing checks in success. But it kills you to be writing checks in failure." Likewise, Bill Mechanic, the former head of Twentieth Century Fox and a former top Disney executive, told the Journal, "First-dollar gross is fine if a movie is successful, but if it's not, participants will continue earning fees which only pushes the studio into further losses." But some talent agents and lawyers are expressing skepticism of the formula, noting that the studios all have a history of using creative accounting to avoid sharing profits with talent. Entertainment industry lawyer Peter Nelson told the Times: "The studios have made a fine art out of creating contract definitions that have no relation to reality. ... These definitions just create new profit streams for the studios."
TURNER'S THIRD CIVIL WAR FILM DEAD ON FIELD OF BATTLE
Ted Turner's plan to produce a feature-film trilogy about the civil war has apparently been shelved after the completion of two money-losing films, Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. The Associated Press reported Thursday that the third film in the trilogy, The Last Full Measure, has been indefinitely postponed as a result of Turner's decision not to finance it. Meanwhile, the wire service said, Washington County, MD commissioners plan to ask Ronald Maxwell, director of the original films, to repay a $300,000 loan that the county had given him for preproduction costs. Gods and Generals, released in 2003, reportedly cost Turner $70 million of his personal fortune and made only $12.9 million at the box office.