CBS'S NEXT CRIME SCENE: NEW YORK
In the apparent hope of creating a dramatic franchise to rival NBC's Law and Order, CBS announced Saturday that it will launch another CSI series next fall, this one to be titled CSI: New York. Meeting with newspaper TV critics at their annual winter tour in Los Angeles, CBS chief Les Moonves also announced that he had renewed four freshman shows: Two and a Half Men, Navy NCIS, Joan of Arcadia and Cold Case. In addition, Moonves addressed several controversial matters that have beset him in recent weeks. He insisted that no money was paid directly or indirectly to Michael Jackson in exchange for his appearance on 60 Minutes. "We don't pay for interviews, and we would never do anything to compromise the integrity of CBS News," he said. Asked about Donald Trump's recent charge that Moonves is "the most highly overrated person in television," he responded: "I like Donald, and I've always had a cordial relationship with him, so I'm going to take the high road and chalk up his behavior to having a bad-hair day." Moonves also remarked that he is continuing to negotiate with Ray Romano about returning for another season of Everybody Loves Raymond, pointing out to him that if he exits this year, he'll be following the departures of NBC's Friends and Frasier. He said he told Romano: "Let's try to go one more year. You'll have the victory lap. We'll give you awards We'll give you dinners We'll supersize you."
GOT $2.3 MILLION+ TO SPEND FOR A SUPER BOWL SPOT? YOU'RE IN LUCK
An interested advertiser can still buy a spot during the first half of the Super Bowl -- for a price, the Wall Street Journal observed today (Monday). (Recent reports said that they had sold out at $2.3 million each.) While earlier stories had indicated that some of CBS's commercial inventory for the game was still available in the less-desirable second half (if the game becomes a blow-out, viewers begin to tune out in the second half), the Journal quotes Anthony J. Taranto, head of NFL sales for the network as saying that "there are some things we can do" if an advertiser wants to purchase a spot during the first half. The newspaper cites media buyers who point out that the network could shift some of the promotions for its own shows to the unsold time available later in the telecast.
AUDIENCES STAY TUNED FOR PANTHERS' ROUT OF EAGLES
Despite the fact that the Carolina Panthers appeared to whomp the Philadelphia Eagles in every quarter of the NFC Championship match Sunday night, ratings for the game remained virtually steady throughout the game, bringing Fox a win in each half hour of primetime in which it was played. At 7:00 p.m., the telecast averaged a 20.6/32. At 8:00, it recorded a 20.9/31. At 9:00, it dropped slightly to a 19.6/28. Overall, Fox averaged a 20.3/31 for the night, beating the ratings of CBS (8.4/13), NBC (6.2/10) and ABC (4.6/7) combined.
FOX: NO MORE TV SEASONS
Fox plans eventually to abandon the practice of launching new falls in the fall and airing repeats in the summer, Fox-TV President Gail Berman told reporters attending the TV critics' winter press tour in Los Angeles Friday. "The economic model that created this business has lasted too long," Berman said. She said that, like last year, Fox will roll out new shows next summer, including a reality series set in Las Vegas called The Casino and a new courtroom drama titledThe Jury. "People understand that what we have done is the wave of the future," she said. "This is a huge change in the way business is done in Hollywood, and I believe we'll come around to it, and presumably other people will as well." Her remarks were pooh-poohed on Saturday by her CBS counterpart, Les Moonves. He told the writers: "There's nothing tragically wrong with the current model that good programming won't fix ... The question is not when you launch them but how good they are. If you launch a bad show in August, it's still going to be bad in September."
HEWITT BLAMES CLINTON FOR COLLAPSE OF DEBATES WITH DOLE
Outgoing 60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt has blamed Bill Clinton for the failure of the Point-Counterpoint-type debate between him and former Senator Robert Dole last year. Appearing at a meeting with TV critics in Los Angeles, Hewitt said: "It didn't work, because Bill Clinton was so busy writing his book that he didn't give us the time." Hewitt had intended to revive the debate feature that had starred Nicholas Von Hoffman and Shana Alexander in the 1970s -- with the two more celebrated protagonists, but the feature never caught on. Directing his remarks at Clinton, Hewitt said, "You can't be a success on 60 Minutes unless 60 Minutes is the No. 1 thing on your mind." Hewitt made the comments during a discussion of plans by CBS to honor him with a special episode of 60 Minutes in May.
J. MAX ROBINS TO LEAVE TV GUIDE
J. Max Robins, who writes the Robins Report column for TV Guide, has been named editor-in-chief of the trade publication Broadcasting & Cable. In a staff memo, Charlie Koones, executive vice president of Reed Entertainment Group, which publishes Broadcasting & Cable, said: "Max is an energetic, creative editor with a distinct point of view. ... He's also a genuinely good guy.
U.K. SOAP EXPECTED TO ATTRACT HIGH RATINGS WITH GAY STORY
After story lines concerning gay characters boosted the audiences of two of the U.K.'s most popular nighttime soap operas, Coronation Street and EastEnders,another British soap, Emmerdale, has screened a scene in which two leading female characters kiss. As reported by the London Daily Star, the kiss came when the character who is accused of killing her husband attempts to seduce the show's lesbian figure in an effort to persuade her to testify on her behalf. A huge audience for the show is expected when the verdict in the trial is announced on Thursday's episode.
POLLY DETHRONES THE KING
Along Came Polly, a film that will never appear on any critic's list of movie bests, has dethroned The Return of the King, the latest Lord of the Rings sequel, a film that appears on most critics' list of movie bests. The Jennifer Aniston/Ben Stiller comedy, which took a critical beating on Friday, nevertheless took in $27.6 million in its debut, well above expectations. Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, attributed the film's success to the return of simple pleasures at the box office following weeks of heavy films vying for Oscars. (Last week was the deadline for Oscar voters to submit nomination ballots.) Big Fish, which claimed the box-office title last weekend based on studio estimates, then lost it after final figures came in, remained in second place with about $10.4 million. The biker movie Torque may also have edged out Return of the King, taking in an estimated $10.3 million. The projection for King was $100,000 less, which would put it in fourth place if all the estimates hold.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Along Came Polly, $27.6 million; 2. Big Fish, $10.4 million; 3. Torque, $10.3 million; 4. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, $10.2 million; 5.Cheaper by the Dozen, $8.7 million; 6. Cold Mountain, $7 million; 7. Something's Gotta Give, $6 million; 8. My Baby's Daddy, $3.6 million; 9. The Last Samurai, $3.12 million; 10. Calendar Girls, $3.10 million.
ROY DISNEY STEPS UP HIS ANTI-EISNER CAMPAIGN
Roy E. Disney took his campaign to bring down Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner to a Disney collectors' meeting in the shadow of Disneyland over the weekend, charging that Eisner has now focused the company on short-term profits instead of long-term quality and innovation. "The Disney brand," he told the group meeting in Garden Grove, CA, "stands for ... creative ideas that make things fun every time you visit a park or go to a film." Disney particularly criticized the company's recent decision to shut down its hand-drawn animation studio in Orlando, FL, laying off 230 employees. He called it "a failure of management to figure out what to do with creative people, a failure to realize creativity is the basis of this company." Disney, whose timing was questioned when he originally decided to quit the company (Disney's stock has risen from a low of $14.84 last March to $24.94 at the close of trading on Friday), may have picked another questionable day to launch his latest anti-Eisner assault. The company's latest hand-drawn animated feature, Teacher's Pet, which received mostly laudatory reviews from critics on Friday, turned out to be a dud at the box office, earning just $2.4 million and failing even to make the top ten. (The film, however, did not represent Disney's traditional sophistication in animation and reportedly cost just $10 million to make.)
COLD MOUNTAIN COLD SHOULDERS THE KING IN U.K.
Miramax's Cold Mountain edged out New Line Cinema's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for nominations for Britain's BAFTA awards this weekend. Cold Mountain picked up 13 nominations to King's 12. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and Lost in Translation each earned eight nominations. All of the four was nominated for best film of the year, along with Tim Burton's Big Fish. Meanwhile, The Return of the King Saturday won the Producers Guild of America's top honor, the Darryl F. Zanuck Award for a Theatrical Motion Picture, thereby enhancing its position as the front runner for the best film award at this year's Oscars.
FONDA RETURNS TO FILMS
Ever the activist, Jane Fonda on Saturday joined a group of women calling themselves the Vagina Warriors to support a documentary film, Until the Violence Stops, about violence against women, at the Sundance Film Festival. The film is an outgrowth of Eve Ensler's play, The Vagina Monologues, in which Fonda has frequently appeared, and tells the story of the feminist anti-violence movement. I'm part of the movement,'' Fonda told today's (Monday) San Francisco Chronicle. "Eve changed my life. She has given me the confidence to go back to acting. She's so brave, and it rubs off on people around her. I've begun to say, 'You know, what have I got to lose if I act again?' S***, so it's not perfect. So what? It's going to kick ass, and I'll have a good time.' And I didn't feel that way until I met Eve." Fonda told the newspaper that her first movie in 15 years will be a comedy, but she was not otherwise forthcoming. She also referred to media mogul Ted Turner as her "favorite ex-husband."
PRODUCER RAY STARK DEAD AT 88
Legendary producer Ray Stark, whose films include Night of the Iguana, Funny Girl, The Way We Were, Steele Magnolias, The Goodbye Girl, Annie and the movie versions of a host of Neil Simon plays, died on Saturday at the age of 88. Although none of his productions ever earned the best film Oscar, he was a recipient of the motion picture academy's Irving G. Thalberg Award for lifetime achievement. In the early 1970s, Stark acquired a controlling stake in Columbia Pictures, which he sold to Coca Cola for stock in a 1982 merger.