IDOL DOMINATES IN SEASON DEBUT
Fox's American Idol returned with a roar on Tuesday, averaging a 19.3 rating and a 28 share, translating to 35 million viewers. The figures exceeded the 18.3/27 for last year's season debut and a 15.5/23 in 2004. The talent show peaked in the 9:00 p.m. hour with a 21.0/30. By comparison, CBS, which aired a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation rerun in second place with an 8.2/12. Commander In Chief on ABC managed only a 7.3/10, while back-to-back episodes of Scrubs averaged only a 3.9/6 for NBC.

DANIEL ENTERS CONSERVATIVE LIONS' DEN

Christian conservatives were declaring victory in their battle with NBC over its controversial The Book of Daniel. The Florida Family Association said Tuesday that it and like-minded groups had persuaded the Geico Insurance company to pull its ads from the show. Another group, Renew America, headed by black conservative activist Alan Keyes, called for a national boycott of NBC and the show's advertisers. In a statement posted on its website, the group said: "NBC knows no shame. The network has the audacity to say that 'The Book of Daniel is a serious drama about Christian people and the Christian faith.' They insult your intelligence." NBC has acknowledged that it has had difficulty attracting advertisers for the show -- a difficulty that no doubt became more acute following Friday's ratings results which showed a 23 percent drop from its Jan. 6 premiere.

ARRESTED NOT YET EXECUTED

The critically acclaimed but low-rated Arrested Development still hangs by a thin thread to next season's Fox schedule, the network's entertainment president Peter Liguori, told TV writers at their annual winter tour in Pasadena Tuesday. "I have to be frank with you," he remarked to the writers. "It is highly unlikely it is coming back." He said that the network will make a final decision after it assesses comedy shows currently in development and whether Arrested's ratings improve during the coming weeks. One writer, Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic, noted that the network is putting the last two episodes up against the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics on Feb. 10. "So you can guess how it'll do," Meanwhile, Liguori indicated that it will definitely be the end of the line for the long-running sitcoms That '70s Show after eight seasons and Malcolm in the Middle after seven.

CNN HEADLINE NEWS HIRES NEW CONSERVATIVE HOST

CNN's decision to hire conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck as an anchor for its Headline News channel has set the liberal blogs ablaze with outrage. Several have posted clips from some of Beck's most provocative remarks in which he called the New Orleans hurricane victims "scumbags," told a man who admitted torturing Iraqi prisoners, "Good for you," and remarked that he was "thinking about killing Michael Moore." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday said that the decision to hire Beck came following the success of if Headline News's Nancy Grace show, which it said, nearly tripled the channel's ratings in the 8:00 p.m. time period. "The network wants more of that sort of success and believes Beck, with his strong views, fits the Grace mold," the newspaper said. Commented one blogger: "News has become a romantic idea of past days. The partisan scream fests are all that remain in the rubble of a once great institution, 'a free press.'"

WOMEN OUTNUMBER MEN AS NEWS ANCHORS

Although men once anchored virtually every local newscast in America, they now represent only 42.8 percent of news anchors, according to a new study by the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA). The study's director, Bob Papper, a professor of telecommunications at Ball State college in Muncie, IN, told the Boston Globe that one of the reasons is that it is difficult for a young man to enter the profession -- simply because of the way he looks. ""If you dress up the average woman coming out of college and put on makeup, she looks like an adult. The average man coming out of college looks like he's going through puberty. ... Sure, he'll get a job in a smaller market, but it will take longer for him to move forward." The study indicated that young broadcast reporters have to put up with low salaries, averaging about $20,000 a year.

ATHLETIC-WEAR COMPANY BUYS STAKE IN ON-DEMAND NETWORK

The athletic-wear company New Balance is expected to announce today (Wednesday) that it will buy a stake in a new video-on-demand (VOD) cable network, exercisetv, that will be offered by the country's two largest cable systems, Comcast and Time Warner. The network will reportedly present various workouts, with hosts and participants on the shows wearing New Balance shoes and clothing. However, no traditional commercials for any products will air, since on-demand subscribers will be able to skip them using their remote. Today's (Wednesday) Wall Street Journal observed that New Balance's VOD push "reflects the company's longstanding effort to find unusual ways to stand out." The newspaper noted that while No. 3-ranked New Balance's ad spending for the first ten months of 2005 was $17.3 million, industry leader Nike's ad expenditure was $141 million.

HOODWINKED LOSES IN PHOTOFINISH
The Weinstein Co.'s Hoodwinked was forced to give up its box-office crown Tuesday as a final tally of ticket sales showed that Disney's Glory Road took in $48,187 more over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Glory grossed $16,927,589 versus Hoodwinked's $16,879,402. The news must have come as a bitter anti-hangover pill for the Weinsteins, who presumably had celebrated their first victory over the company that they quit last year following a long contractual battle -- and with a cartoon, no less. Original estimates had put Hoodwinked in the lead by about $100,000. Nevertheless, the animated spoof of Little Red Riding Hood, which opened to mixed reviews, performed far better than analysts had predicted. Daily Variety observed that it proved that a low-budget computer-generated animated feature "without Pixar-size production values or marketing spend can succeed on its own scale." Meanwhile, Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane told today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Daily News: "It's nice to have bragging rights and even more important when filmmakers work so hard. The word of mouth seems to be spreading so quickly that we saw a nice surge in attendance." Nevertheless, it's often the original estimates that make a media splash, and final results are sometimes ignored by the press. As Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian told the Daily News: "In the minds of many, many people, [Hoodwinked] is king for the day."

YEAR GETS OFF TO A POOR START

Overall, the box office was down 8 percent from last year as none of the four new films released over the holiday weekend came close to doing the business that last year's two leaders, Coach Carter and the fifth week of Meet the Fockers did during the same period last year. Paramount's Last Holiday was close behind the two leaders with $15.5 million, but 20th Century Fox's Tristan & Isolde tanked with just $7.6 million. Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe continued to hold up well after six weeks, adding $12.8 million to its gross and placing fourth. Last week's winner, Lionsgate's horror film Hostel, saw its take cut almost in half to $11.4 million. But Sony's Fun With Dick and Jane remained sturdy, winding up in sixth place with $10.3 million and rising above Universal's King Kong, which dropped to seventh place with $9.1 million. (It also passed the $200-million mark as it brought its domestic total to $204.5 million) Rounding out the top ten, Focus Features' Brokeback Mountain earned $7 million in just 683 theaters, placing ninth. (It remained the box-office champ on a per-theater basis.) Fox's Cheaper by the Dozen 2 came in tenth with $6.8 million. The top ten films over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Glory Road, Disney, $16,927,589, (New); 2. Last Holiday, Paramount, $16,879,402, (New); 3. Hoodwinked, Weinstein Co. $15,508,779, (New); 4. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Disney, $12,809,767, 6 Wks. ($264,020,859); 5. Hostel, Lions Gate, $11,411,250, 2 Wks. ($36,572,577); 6. Fun With Dick and Jane, Sony, $10,344,702, 4 Wks. ($94,245,955); 7. King Kong, Universal, $9,061,690, 5 Wks. ($204,527,690); 8. Tristan & Isolde, 20th Century Fox, $7,612,008, (New); 9. Brokeback Mountain, Focus Features, $7,041,508, 6 Wks. ($32,074,517); 10. Cheaper by the Dozen 2, 20th Century Fox, $6,806,052, 4 Wks. ($74,668,267).

BERLINALE COMPLETES JURY PANEL

Indian producer Yash Copra, Hollywood cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, and American visual artist Matthew Barney (the husband of singer/actress Bjork) are among those added to the jury at this year's Berlin Film Festival, the Berlinale. It had previously been announced that British actress Charlotte Rampling would preside over the panel. Other jurors include South Korean actress Lee Young Ae, Dutch director Marleen Gorris, German actor Armin Mueller-Stahl, and veteran Hollywood producer Fred Roos.

SHALIT APOLOGIZES FOR BROKEBACK DESCRIPTION

The Today show's movie critic, Gene Shalit, has apologized for describing the Jake Gyllenhaal character in Brokeback Mountain as a sexual predator, a description that drew an angry protest from the nation's leading gay rights organization, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). The organization said that it had received a statement from Shalit saying, "I certainly had no intention of casting aspersions on anyone in the gay community or on the community itself. I regret any emotional hurt that may have resulted from my review of Brokeback Mountain. In describing the behavior of 'Jack,' I used words ('sexual predator') that I now discover have angered, agitated, and hurt many people. I did not intend to use a word that many in the gay community consider incendiary." GLAAD had protested not so much against the words themselves, but how they were used to describe the relationship between the movie's central characters, saying that they reflected "a fundamental lack of understanding about the central relationship in the film." Calling the description "bizarre," GLAAD asked whether Shalit would similarly have applied them to the Leonardo DiCaprio character in Titanic because he was pursuing a romantic relationship with the Kate Winslet character. Shalit, who has written affectionately about his own son Peter, who is gay, is one of the few critics who have panned the film. Peter, a physician and author, had written to GLAAD, ""He may have had an unpopular opinion of a movie that is important to the gay community, but he defamed no one, and he is not a homophobe. It is you who have defamed a good man, by falsely accusing him of a repellent form of bigotry."