IDOL IS FAT; BONES, BARE
Fox's American Idol's audience remained nothing short of massive Wednesday as it drew an 18.1 rating and a 28 share. But the network's Bones, which followed at 9:00, was unable to take advantage of Idol's coattails as it finished with a 6.8/10, a drop of 62 percent. Presumably, Idol's audience deserted to ABC's Lost, which scored an 11.2/16 in the 9:00 p.m. hour, and CBS's Criminal Minds which drew a 10.0/15. NBC's The Biggest Loser: Special Edition lived up to its title, pulling only a 5.4/8.

NEWS CORP DUMPS UPN LOGO, PROMOS

News Corp on Wednesday removed the on-screen UPN logo from its UPN affiliates in nine markets, saying that it was reacting to the announcement that The WB and the UPN networks would merge and that their programs will be carried on the current WB affiliates. News Corp said it will no longer air promos for UPN shows. A spokesman told today's (Thursday) Wall Street Journal, "It doesn't make any business sense to promote a defunct network." The newspaper said that News Corp, which owns duopolies in the nine markets with stations that currently carry the Fox network, may now use the nine stations as the backbone for yet another network, possibly an all-news network that would share footage with the Fox News cable operation. Another possibility, the Journal noted, is a Spanish-language network.

DISCOVERY TO DISTRIBUTE BBC WORLD NEWS -- BUT TO WHOM?

Discovery Communications has signed a deal with the BBC to distribute BBC World News. However, in announcing it on Wednesday, the Silver Spring, MD-based company, owned by Liberty Media, Cox Communications, Advance/Newhouse Communications and founder John Hendricks, said that it had so far not discovered any cable company willing to carry the BBC channel. In a report on its website, Broadcast and Cable magazine remarked that Discovery is trying "to gain carriage for the international news network at a time when cable and satellite companies are already strapped for bandwidth and skeptical about viewers' appetite for international news."

ANATOMY OF A SUPER-BOWL BERTH

ABC's hospital drama Grey's Anatomy, which has already benefited greatly from having the hit Desperate Housewives precede it on Sunday nights, will get another boost come Feb. 5 when it airs following the Super Bowl. Peter Horton, who directed the episode told today's (Thursday) Denver Post that it will be "sort of like a regular Grey's Anatomy on testosterone and on speed."

SHARPTON BLASTS BOONDOCKS EPISODE

The Cartoon Network has rejected a demand by the Rev. Al Sharpton that it apologize for a Jan. 15 episode of the animated The Boondocks in which a character imagines Martin Luther King emerging from a coma and venting his anger over such things as hip-hop videos. At one point King shouts, "Will you ignorant n.....s please shut the hell up!" The episode aired on the eve of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. "Cartoon Network must apologize and also commit to pulling episodes that desecrate black historic figures," Sharpton said in a statement. In an interview with the New York Post Sharpton added that he resented black cartoonist Aaron McGruder's "making Dr. King in the image of using the n-word and being profane." However, the Cartoon Network said that it regarded the episode as a tribute to the civil rights leader, and added, "We think Aaron McGruder came up with a thought-provoking way of not only showing Dr King's bravery, but also of reminding us of what he stood and fought for."

BRITISH M.P. OUSTED FROM BIG BROTHER HOUSE

George Galloway, a pro-Arab member of the British Parliament, was ousted by fellow contestants from the "celebrity" version of Channel 4's Big Brother Wednesday. His appearance on the program had raised a political outcry, with detractors charging that by spending time in the Big Brother house, he was neglecting his lawmaking duties. Galloway had responded that the show would provide him with a large audience for his controversial views. "I don't normally lose elections, and this was a big one," Galloway told Channel 4 afterwards. Earlier in the day, the London Sun published photos of Galloway meeting Saddam Hussein's son Uday in 1991 and allegedly telling him, "We are with you 'til the end."

SURVIVOR WINNER HATCH A LOSER IN COURT

Richard Hatch, the first $1-million winner on CBS's Survivor was convicted Wednesday of failing to pay taxes on his haul, and also on the $327,000 he later earned as co-host of a radio talk show and $28,000 that he received in rent on property he owned. He faces a possible 13-year prison sentence and a fine of $600,000. Hatch had argued that he had assumed that the producers of Survivor had paid the taxes on his prize. But in testimony at the trial, exec producer Mark Burnett said that Hatch's contract had stipulated that he would have to pay the taxes himself.

NOTE: In Wednesday's Studio Briefing we mentioned that Spike Feresten, who is set to host a new weekly talk show for Fox, had written "several classic episodes of The Simpsons and Seinfeld." Although his association with both series was mentioned in numerous articles, a reader wrote in to note correctly that Feresten was involved in the creation of only one episode of The Simpsons.

EXHIBITORS BLOWING OFF BUBBLE
Theater owners are apparently mounting a fairly united front to black out the Steven Soderbergh-directed Bubble in many cities on Friday. Exhibitors object to the planned simultaneous release of the movie on DVD and on pay-per-view high-definition TV. (The film is actually being released on DVD on Tuesday, the day of the week that virtually all DVDs are released.) The film is being distributed by Magnolia Pictures, owned by Mark Cuban, the dot-com entrepreneur who also owns 2929 Entertainment, the film company that backed Bubble, and the art-house theater chain Landmark Theaters. The Baltimore Sun reported today (Thursday) that no theater in that city, the country's 24th largest market, will screen the film. It quoted Scott Cohen, head of R/C Theater Management, as saying, "At this point we're not going to play any movie that is under that model." In Seattle, where the film will open at one theater, Landmark's Metro, an unnamed exhibitor told the Post-Intelligencer, "It's not a question of if we will be hurt [by simultaneous release of movies in theaters and on DVD]; it's a question of how much." In an article on his website posted on Wednesday, Cuban indicated that some exhibitors have defied the stonewall being erected against his film, but he does not indicated how many have agreed to screen it. He urges patrons of those theaters to "thank the manager ... for having the balls to go against the rest of the industry."

SONY UP; ITS MOVIES, DOWN

Sony reported today (Thursday) that its fourth-quarter profits rose 17.5 percent, but it could not thank its movie business for the rise. The Sony Pictures Entertainment division posted an operating loss of $3.5 million, versus a profit of $161 million during the same quarter a year ago. It blamed the downturn primarily on the failures of The Legend of Zorro and Zathura. The rise in overall profits was attributed to cost-cutting moves and a big jump in sales at its electronics and games divisions. Sony's Bravia LCD TVs were the best-selling brand in the U.S. in the quarter, while sales of its Vaio computers and PlayStation Portable game players also soared.

DISNEY TO SHUTTER SEQUELS STUDIO

Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook officially announced Wednesday that the company is shutting down Circle 7 Productions, the unit that was set up to create computer-animated sequels to Pixar's original hit films. The Glendale-based Circle 7 was already well along in the production of Toy Story 3, according to several reports. Pixar Chairman Steve Jobs, who has made his dislike for sequels well known, remarked on Tuesday, "We feel very strongly that if the sequels are going to be made, we want the people who were involved in the original films involved in the sequels."

OVITZ CASE GOES BACK TO COURT

Lawyers for the Walt Disney Co.'s board of directors were sharply questioned by members of the Delaware Supreme Court on Wednesday as the lawyers argued against an appeal by Disney shareholders of a lower court's findings in the Michael Ovitz severance case. The original chancellery court judge, William Chandler III, had ruled that the board had acted in good faith when it approved paying Ovitz some $130 million in severance pay. As reported by today's (Thursday) New York Times, one of the justices asked the Disney lawyers whether the directors "could have been a little tougher in negotiations" with Eisner. Another justice remarked about the fact that the Disney compensation committee failed to inform the board about what a nonfault termination would cost the company.

BROKEBACK NEARS TOP OF BOX-OFFICE MOUNTAIN AGAIN

Brokeback Mountain rose to second place in mid-week ticket sales, continuing to earn about $740,000 per day, the same amount as last week. Its per-theater gross also remained substantially ahead of all other films as it screened in 1,194 theaters versus 3,207 for the overall leader, the horror flick Underworld: Evolution. Meanwhile, the Army newspaper Stars and Stripes reported today (Thursday) that the movie will not play at any overseas military theaters. The reason, the newspaper said, had nothing to do with the subject matter of the movie -- two gay cowboys who carry on a 20-year secret romance -- but because "films from independent studios usually aren't considered" for screening on military bases. Moreover, it said, distributors of independent films don't even bother sending prints to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service because they know that ticket prices at the military theaters are kept low. The Stars and Stripes also reported that the Navy Motion Picture Service has no plans to show the movie, either.

CHINA WON'T APPROVE GEISHA

Two weeks before its scheduled release on Feb. 9, Memoirs of a Geisha has still not been approved by the Chinese government for showing in the country. Although the film boasts several top Chinese stars, it has evoked anger on the mainland over the propriety of Chinese women playing the part of Japanese geishas, a repercussion of World War II enmity. In an interview with the Association Press, Li Chow, who heads Sony's Chinese distribution unit, said, "Memoirs of a Geisha has not been officially rejected, but it's true that the release may have to be delayed." A.P. noted, however, that bootleg copies of the film are already being sold in China.

LUMET FILM SELECTED FOR BERLINALE

Eighty-one-year-old director Sidney Lumet, whose career spans more than a half century, will see his latest film, Find Me Guilty, which he also co-wrote, compete next month in the 56th Berlin International Film Festival -- the Berlinale. Lumet's film was one of two that were added to the competition today (Thursday), bringing to 25 the number of films that will vie for the festival's top Golden Bear award. The film, based on a true story, stars Vin Diesel as a mobster who defended himself in the longest Mafia trial in history. Lumet's 1966 film The Group was his only other film to participate in the Berlin competition. The other film added to the Competition Section today was Iranian director Jafar Panahi's Offside, which concerns a woman who disguises herself as a man in order to attend a football game in Teheran, where women are barred.

Cinemark Movie Club