IDOL OVERWHELMS RIVALS IN SECOND WEEK
The second week of Fox's American Idol turned out to be every bit as impressive as the first week of the season, according to overnight Nielsens. The two-hour show Tuesday night averaged a 19.6 rating and a 29 share -- about as much as CBS, NBC, and ABC combined. The first hour of the talent contest drew a 17.9/27, beating out CBS's hit NCIS, which nevertheless managed to hold up reasonably well with a 10.6/16. At 9:00 p.m., Idol peaked with a 21.3/31, well ahead of CBS's CSI: Miami, which drew an 8.3/12. The combination of Idol, the NFC championship playoffs, and the Golden Globes put Fox well ahead in the ratings race last week with an average 11.2/17. CBS finished second with a 7.7/12, followed by ABC with a 7.4/11. NBC trailed with a 6.4/10. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. NFC Championship, Fox, 20.8/31; 2. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 19.3/28; 3. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 17.8/27; 4. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 16.9/25; 5. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 15.5/22; 6. NFC Championship Post-Game, Fox, 15.2/22; 7. Without a Trace, CBS, 15.1/25; 8. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 13.5/21; 9. Golden Globe Awards, NBC, 12.5/18; 10. Dancing With the Stars, ABC, 12.1/18.

ABC NEWS DUO SEE UPTICK IN RATINGS

After experiencing a dip in the ratings as it debuted with co-anchors Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff two weeks ago, World News Tonight saw its numbers rebound slightly in the second week, averaging 9.09 million viewers versus 10.15 million for NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams. The CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer remained in third place with 7.86 million. Meanwhile, actor/satirist/commentator Harry Shearer observed today (Wednesday) on Arianna Huffington's blog, "The Huffington Post," that while both NBC and CBS gave primary attention Tuesday night to revelations that the Department of Homeland Security had warned the White House about the likelihood of breached levees just before Hurricane Katrina hit (the president had previously stated that no one could have anticipated the breach), ABC, which is owned by Disney, had focused on the Disney-Pixar merger. "Thank goodness GE didn't buy anything today," Shearer quipped. (GE owns NBC.)

NBC RIPS FINAL CHAPTERS OF THE BOOK OF DANIEL

Assailed from all sides -- critics, Christian conservatives, advertisers, and particularly by viewers, who made their views known with their remotes -- NBC slammed the book shut on The Book of Daniel Tuesday, removing it from its schedule after three episodes. The controversial show, which starred Aidan Quinn as a pill-popping Episcopal minister and head of a dysfunctional family, was yanked after conservative Christian groups, including the American Family Association and Focus on the Family, had flooded advertisers and affiliates with complaints. On Tuesday they cheered the network's cancellation announcement. The Rev. Don Wildmon, head of the AFA, said, "We want to thank the 678,394 individuals who sent emails to NBC and the thousands who called and emailed their local affiliates." But in conservative Knoxville, TN, where the show debuted with a whopping 13.0 rating, the highest it received in the country, but dropped precipitously afterwards, Jeff Lee, manager of NBC affiliate WBIR, told the News Sentinel: "It proves the system works. ... If a show works, people will watch it. If it doesn't, then it goes away." WBIR had reportedly received thousands of protests. In an interview with the gay-oriented PlanetOut.com, Jack Kenny, the show's creator, who is openly gay, said, "I think it's a travesty that small-minded special-interest groups were able to convince people that tolerance, love, growth and acceptance are not Christian values. ... Our two greatest episodes were pulled -- episodes that I truly believe would have turned the debate around -- episodes that even the AFA could love."

FOX TO LAUNCH LATE-NIGHT TALK SHOW

In a surprise announcement, Fox TV said Tuesday that it plans to launch a half-hour talk show at midnight on Saturday nights beginning next fall. The network had made no mention of the show last week when it met with TV writers attending the annual winter press tour in Pasadena. It said that the show, hosted by TV comedy writer Spike Feresten, will spoof conventional talk shows (Feresten has written for David Letterman) and include comedy sketches and monologues. It will compete directly opposite NBC's Saturday Night Live. Among Feresten's credits are several classic episodes of The Simpsons and Seinfeld; he was also the writer/creator/executive producer of the failed The Michael Richards Show.

DISNEY: THE PIXAR ERA
Disney CEO Robert Iger said Tuesday that his decision to buy Pixar Animation for $7.4 billion was based on his desire to reinvigorate "the heart and soul of the company." In an interview with Bloomberg News, Iger said, "For the company to be healthy, I truly felt that animation had to be healthy." (In a separate interview with the New York Times, Iger said, "I want to return Disney to greatness in this area ... and this was the way to do it fastest.") He said that Pixar President Ed Catmull and Pixar cofounder and creative chief John Lasseter will manage Disney animation -- "everything from how pictures are chosen, how they are developed. It's everything." David Stainton will step down as head of Disney Feature Animation but remain with the company, Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook said Tuesday. Analysts generally reacted enthusiastically to the deal. Tom Adams, head of Adams Media Research, told the Washington Post: "Disney built the company on animation, and its hand went cold just as Pixar's went hot. This is big, big stuff for Disney." But some analysts worried whether Disney's conservative, corporate culture and Pixar's free-wheeling, independent one can effectively be fused. As Marla Backer, an analyst at Research associates, told today's New York Daily News: "Disney is bureaucratic. People roller-blade down the halls of Pixar. ... I don't think Pixar needs Disney looking over its shoulders."

JOBS EXPECTED TO SHAKE THINGS UP AT DISNEY

In the wake of the Disney-Pixar merger, many analysts speculated about the role of Steve Jobs at Disney. Jobs, who instantaneously became Disney's largest individual stockholder, owning $3.56 billion in Disney shares, as a result of the deal, immediately dismissed speculation that he would become Disney chairman. (He remains chairman of Apple Computer.) "That's not on my radar, he said during a conference call Tuesday. "Being chairman of a public company is an awful lot of work." Nevertheless, Jobs will take a seat on Disney's board, and as Pixar's creative chief John Lasseter observed in an interview with today's (Wednesday) Wall Street Journal, "They're going to have to install seat belts in that board room because when Steve gets in there, he'll be a ball of fire." Commented Harris Nesbitt analyst Jeffrey Logsdon in an interview with Reuters: "There's no second guessing how valuable he is. Putting him in a new context ups his ability to influence things." On the other hand Alan Deutschman, author of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Jobs is adept at playing two roles. At Apple, he noted, he would obsess "about every curve on the plastic container of the iPod," while at Pixar, the creative "people succeeded in keeping him at arm's length ... [playing] the role of owner and chairman, rather than day-to-day micro-manager." And Jeffrey Young, co-author of iCon: Steve Jobs, the Greatest Second Act in the History of Business, noted that Apple shares fell $1.63 after the announcement of the merger. "I think this is bad news for Apple," Young told the Chronicle. "How can you not take your eye off the ball and wander around La-La Land chasing Mickey Mouse?"

NETFLIX GOAL: TO PUT BLOCKBUSTER ET AL OUT OF BUSINESS

Netflix chief Reed Hastings notified friend and foe alike Tuesday that his aim is to put traditional video stores out of business. "The prize that's out there is making video stores uneconomic, triggering the tipping point, or mass closures of video stores. We're getting close to that in the [San Francisco] Bay area," he said during a conference call with analysts as Netflix reported fourth-quarter earnings rise to $195 million -- up 35.5 percent from $143.9 million during the year-ago quarter. Profits rose to $38.1 million from $5.6 million, a 580-percent hike. He also forecast that studios will eventually close the window between the theatrical DVD release of their movies. "While full simultaneous release may take some time for all studios to support, the economic logic of it is unstoppable," he said. However, as Netflix continues to pose a threat to brick-and-mortar rental stores, it, too, faces a threat posed by downloading services.

DID MPAA BREAK ITS OWN PIRACY RULES?

The producers of the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, about the workings of the Motion Picture Assn. of America's ratings board, have accused the MPAA of making copies of the film without permission after it was submitted to the board last November. The MPAA, which rated the film NC-17, said that it was within its rights to make copies of the film since it believed that the filmmakers had invaded the privacy of the members of the ratings board. A spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times that the film appeared to show that director Kirby Dick and his crew had spied on the ratings board members, gone through their garbage, and followed them as they drove their children to school. However, in reporting on the controversy, the Times observed, "The standard the MPAA is using for itself appears to be at odds with what the organization sets out for others." The newspaper published excerpts from email correspondence between Dick and the MPAA in which Dick asked for assurances that "no copies would be made of any part or all of the film" and the MPAA responded that "the confidentiality of your film ... is our first priority. Please feel assure (sic) that your film is in good hands."

MOVIE MUSEUM FINALLY TO BE BUILT IN HOLLYWOOD

After decades of discussions about constructing a movie museum in Hollywood, the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences appears to have taken the lead in creating one. The organization, which hands out the annual Oscar awards, said that it plans to build a 75,000-square-foot museum adjoining the academy's Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study at 1313 North Vine Street in Hollywood. The 55-year-old building itself is of historic significance, since it was the first in America to be especially constructed to house a television station (KHJ-TV, which became KCAL). The academy said Tuesday that it does not expect groundbreaking for the museum to take place before 2008, since it must first acquire additional property at the proposed site.