TRUMP'S RATINGS TRIUMPH
Donald Trump made an impressive debut in his own reality show last week, landing in the eighth spot on Nielsen Research's ratings list. Trump's The Apprentice, in which 16 contestants vie for the chance of working for "The Donald," edged out a rerun of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (which CBS had apparently squeezed into its lineup at the last minute to blunt Trump's ratings), scoring an 11.7 rating and a 17 share -- the highest numbers achieved by any new show since Joe Millionaire debuted a year ago. Nevertheless, CBS continued to maintain its lead in overall viewers for the week, as it averaged a 10.1/16, well above NBC's second-place 7.8/12. Fox, thanks to football, was close behind with a third-place 7.1/11, while ABC trailed with a 5.8/9.
The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 17.3/26; 2. AFC Divisional Playoff (Saturday), Tennessee vs. New England, CBS, 15.9/27; 3. Fox NFC Playoff/Postgame (Sunday) Green Bay vs. Philadelphia, Fox, 15.7/24; 3. Friends, NBC, 15.7/24; 5. E.R., NBC, 14.5/23; 6. CSI: Miami, CBS, 13.0/20; 7. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 12.2/18; 8. Law and Order, NBC, 11.9/20; 9. The Apprentice, NBC, 11.7/17; 10. Without a Trace, CBS, 11.5/18.
NO UNDERWRITER FOUND FOR MASTERPIECE THEATER
A corporate underwriter has yet to emerge to replace the $6-8 million a year that ExxonMobil has contributed to keep Masterpiece Theatre on the PBS schedule, according to the network's president, Pat Mitchell. Mitchell told the Philadelphia Inquirer that she had not expected to find the going so rough in landing a replacement for ExxonMobil, which is the longest running nighttime dramatic program on U.S. TV. "We are all concerned and unhappy about it. It's a pretty high price tag. ... If we don't find an underwriter, I don't know if we can keep going." However, she added, "I'm optimistic. I can't imagine we won't find someone who will recognize this opportunity."
PARTING IS SWEET SORROW FOR FRIENDS CAST
The stars of Friends held their final press conference Tuesday before completing production of the series finale. Each discussed the emotional difficulty of bringing the show to an end after 10 years and 236 episodes. Jennifer Aniston appeared particularly upset. "This is gutting us," she remarked. Although precautions have been taken to prevent details of the final hourlong episode from leaking out -- several key scenes are being taped without the presence of a studio audience -- David Schwimmer told members of the TV critics' winter tour being held in Los Angeles: "We all end up with a sense of a new beginning, and the audience has a sense that it's a new chapter for all these characters, a positive one."
60 MINUTES PRODUCER SAYS NY TIMES SPURNED LETTER
60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt has claimed that the New York Times has refused to publish his letter to the editor responding to a Times report that CBS indirectly paid Michael Jackson $1 million to be interviewed on the program. In an interview with FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman, Hewitt maintained that his letter to Times editor Bill Keller was rejected for publication. Friedman today (Wednesday) published excerpts from the letter, which includes this passage: "How could a newspaper that prides itself on publishing 'news that's fit to print' allow an anonymous and admittedly disgruntled source with an axe to grind put damaging and utterly false words in the mouth of a journalist as respected as Ed Bradley? Is it not a violation of journalistic ethics to publish an unsubstantiated story about anyone (let alone a fellow journalist of the stature of Ed Bradley) without getting corroboration that he actually said what you quoted him as saying?" In the Times article, an unnamed source claimed that Bradley had assured Jackson, "Don't worry, we'll take care of it," when Jackson asked to see the $1 million that he had allegedly been promised to do the interview.
FCC CHAIRMAN WANTS F-WORD OUTLAWED
FCC Chairman Michael Powell has indicated to associates that he will push for a new rule that would bar the use of the F-word on radio and TV stations, regardless of its context, published reports said Tuesday. Such a rule would in effect nullify the so-called Bono decision, in which FCC staffers determined that the singer did not utter "obscene speech" when he used the term "f***ing brilliant" during NBC's live broadcast of the Golden Globe awards last year -- since it "did not describe sexual or excretory organs or activities."
CNBC ORDERS MANAGERS AND STAFF TO SELL THEIR STOCK
CNBC, the NBC-owned cable business channel, has told its management and staff that neither they nor their spouses and dependents may own stocks or corporate bonds in any company. The tough action surprised several analysts, some of whom expressed skepticism about the company's motivation, suggesting that it may be as interested in avoiding possible insider-trading scandals as much as escaping conflict-of-interest charges. Al Tompkins, who teaches broadcast journalism at the Poynter Institute, told Reuters Tuesday that while he applauds the CNBC action, he doubted that it could be effectively enforced. "It will be interesting to see how they or any journalism outfit enforces what a person's spouse can do," he said.
BBC DENIES IT'S ABRIDGING FREE SPEECH
The BBC on Tuesday denied that its decision to pull a popular talk-show host off the air for writing a controversial newspaper article was an attack on free speech. The host, Robert Kilroy-Silk, had described Arabs in the column as "suicide bombers, limb-amputators, women repressors." Since removing Kilroy-Silk from the program, the BBC has been deluged with phone calls, letters, and email messages, most of them supporting Kilroy-Silk. His suspension has also been the subject of several critical newspaper editorials. In a statement on Tuesday, the BBC said: "This has never been about freedom of speech. It is about how the job of a BBC presenter carries with it responsibilities about what is written and said publicly and how this may impact on their on-air role. The BBC needs to be seen to be impartial when dealing with topical and controversial issues."
CHINESE TV TO FIRE THOUSANDS OF EMPLOYEES
China Central Television has embarked on what is likely the biggest number of layoffs in television history. Japan's Kyodo News Service, citing unnamed CCTV employees, reported today (Wednesday) that the Chinese broadcaster plans to lay off 3,000 to 5,000 people, representing a third of its entire staff. The network, which operates 14 channels and claims to reach an audience of 900 million, reportedly plans to fire temps first, including part-time university students.
SAMURAI SCREENER HITS THE 'NET
Another screener sent to an Oscar voter has landed on the Internet, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Tuesday. Its announcement came a day after it was disclosed that a copy of Something's Gotta Give was also available for downloading online. The academy said Warner Bros. had alerted it that an Oscar screener of The Last Samurai was also being illegally distributed on the Internet. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times identified the source of the Something's Gotta Give video as veteran actor Carmine Caridi. An agent for Caridi told today's (Wednesday) edition of the newspaper that the actor was "mightily embarrassed" about the situation and unhappy about "angry and threatening" phone calls he had received from the academy. The original recipient of The Last Samurai screener has not been identified.
BOX OFFICE SETS RECORD FOR $100-MILLION FINISHERS
Twenty-nine films released in 2003 will finish their runs with grosses of more than $100 million, surpassing the record of 24 $100-million grossers in 2002, the Los Angeles Daily News reported today (Wednesday). In reporting the figures, the newspaper observed: "The $100-million club isn't nearly as exclusive as it used to be." The newspaper quoted Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian as saying that the boom in such films not only reflects increased ticket prices but also the explosive growth of multiplex theaters, which now allows a movie to open on 7,000 screens. Some films, he noted, can earn $100 million in their first weekend "even before any negative word of mouth."
SEABISCUIT SETS RECORD FOR DVD SALES OF A DRAMA
In the relatively new DVD era, Seabiscuit has quickly raced to a new record, selling 5.5 million copies and raking in $115 million, nearly equaling its domestic box-office gross, according to Universal Studios Home Video. The figures represent the biggest DVD sales for a dramatic motion picture in history. Total DVD and VHS sales amounted to $135 million (exceeding the $120 million earned theatrically). Universal said that 5 million copies of the movie were sold within six days following the film's release on Dec. 16.
MOVIE CREDIT LIST NOW INCLUDES HUNDREDS OF NAMES
The number of people listed in the credits of major motion pictures continues to soar, with 701 listed in the third Matrix movie last year and 559 in the second Lord of the Rings, the BBC reported today, citing figures from Baseline Hollywood. The number of names in the third Lord of the Rings film set a new record for the longest closing credits in history, running nine and a half minutes, the BBC said in an online report, while not specifying the exact number of names that are presented. It quoted Patrick Fay, a credits researcher at the British Film Institute as saying, "The power of the unions has put more and more people on the credits who wouldn't have been there before."
HAS ROY DISNEY FOUND AN ALLY IN MICHAEL OVITZ?
In the aftermath of the resignation of Roy Disney from the Walt Disney Co. board of directors, Michael Ovitz "made unsolicited calls to reporters, offering to diss [Disney Chairman] Michael Eisner," according to the New York Daily News's "Rush & Molloy" column, which cited an anonymous source. In 1995 Eisner hired superagent Ovitz to become president of the Disney company, then fired him the following year, while paying him an estimated $150-million severance. The two men, once best friends, have been at odds ever since. The column also said that federal investigators plan to question Ovitz about whether jailed private detective Anthony Pellicano performed any wiretapping for him in the past.
UNIVERSAL CHAIRMAN SAYS DILLER MADE HER CRY
Universal Chairman Stacey Snider has acknowledged that former Universal Entertainment chief Barry Diller once grilled her so mercilessly at a studio meeting over production expenses that she fled the meeting in tears. In an interview with Esquire magazine, Snider recalled a particular meeting in which, during a discussion about whether a $135-million budget should be greenlighted forVan Helsing, Diller took her to task after she erroneously indicated that Universal spends less than other studios on its productions. "I definitely cried in the meeting and had to excuse myself," Snider relates. "I just embarrassed myself."