NEW FOX SERIES ARE CLOBBERED Fox's hope of getting a leg up on the competition by launching two glittery one-hour series on Monday night during the summertime appeared doomed as each produced dismal numbers one month after being launched. At 8:00 p.m., the Hawaii-filmed North Shore drew a fourth-place 3.2 rating and a 6 share. The Mark Burnett-produced reality series The Casino, which is filmed in Las Vegas, fared even worse, drawing only a 2.7/4 to keep the network in fourth place. CBS won the night with reruns, averaging a 6.6/11. (It also produced the highest-rated show of the night, CSI: Miami, which recorded a 7.7/13.) NBC was in second place with a 5.0/9. ABC placed third with a 3.90/7, while Fox trailed with an average 2.9/5.


In an ominous sign for NBC's upcoming Olympics coverage, ratings for its five-hour telecast of the Olympic trials Sunday plummeted to a 3.0 average versus a 4.4 for the similar coverage prior to the 2000 Olympics, a 32-percent decline. TV marketing consultant Mike Trager, a former NBC exec, told today's (Tuesday) USA Todaythat he was surprised at the ratings. "I would have thought they would have held their own based on the publicity and controversy surrounding the trials," he said.


The party nominating conventions have yet to take place but George Bush and rival John Kerry have already spent nearly $200 million on TV ads, more than any other candidates in history, according to researchers from Nielsen Monitor Plus and the University of Wisconsin, Britain's Guardiannewspaper reported today (Tuesday). The report also disclosed that most of the money has been spent to purchase time in local newscasts in a handful of swing states, particularly Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio.


The Federal Trade Commission has quickly rejected a request by and Common Cause to bar the Fox News channel from using the slogan "fair and balanced." The two groups had claimed that the slogan constitutes deceptive advertising. In a statement, FTC chairman Timothy Muris commented: "I am not aware of any instance in which the Federal Trade Commission has investigated the slogan of a news organization. There is no way to evaluate this petition without evaluating the content of the news at issue. That is a task the First Amendment leaves to the American people, not a government agency." And Fox News spokesman Rob Zimmerman told today's (Tuesday) Wall Street Journal: "If they can attack Fox News to this extreme, then all news organizations are at risk to be targeted by similar attacks. ... It's best to ignore nuts."


The decision by the Canadian broadcasting authority to give the Arab news channel al-Jazeera qualified permission (it is not allowed to broadcast "abusive comment") to broadcast in Canada continues to produce heated controversy. In her column in today's (Tuesday) Toronto Star, media columnist Antonia Zerbisias observes that Fox News Channel also has an application to air in Canada and asks: "Will anyone call for Fox to be similarly muzzled to stop potentially 'abusive comment' on the U.S. channel?" Zerbisias cites commentator Bill O'Reilly's outraged remarks at an anti-war advocate whose father died in the 9/11 attacks (included in the documentary Outfoxed). Zerbisias maintains that both channels should be allowed to air in Canada unfettered. "They offer world views that are foreign in all senses of the word," she adds.ROBOTS TRIUMPH Will Smith's robots knocked Spider-Man out of first place at the domestic box office last weekend, as I, Robot grossed $52.2 million. The figure was just $31,136 above Smith's previous best -- last year's Men in Black II. In its third weekend, Spider-Man 2continued to expand a formidable web over the box office, landing in second place with $24.8 million, to push its total past the $300-million mark to $302.3 million. The only other new film opening wide was Warner Bros.' A Cinderella Story, which took in $13.6 million, landing in fourth place, just behind the Will Ferrell comedy Anchorman,which recorded $13.8 million. There were two films showing in limited release that performed strongly: MGM's Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely, which earned $1.5 million in 185 theaters, an average of $8,073 per location; and Focus Features' Door in the Floor, which earned $456,876 in 47 theaters, or $9,721 per location -- a better per-theater average than any of the films on the top-ten list, with the exception of I, Robot. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):1. I, Robot, 20th Century Fox, $52,179,887, 1 Wk. (New); 2. Spider-Man 2, Sony, $24,775,450, 3 Wks. ($302,287,882); 3. Anchorman, DreamWorks, $13,849,313, 2 Wks. ($56,956,256); 4. A Cinderella Story, Warner Bros., $13,623,350, 1 Wk. (New); 5. Fahrenheit 9/11, Lions Gate, $7,175,674, 4 Wks. ($93,984,261); 6. King Arthur, Disney, $7,161,648, 2 Wks. ($38,110,849); 7.The Notebook, New Line, $5,651,212, 4 Wks. ($53,880,561); 8.DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, 20th Century Fox, $3,813,719, 5 Wks. ($105,165,752); 9. White Chicks, Sony, $3,436,328, 4 Wks. ($63,470,104); 10. Shrek 2, DreamWorks, $3,230,786, 9 Wks. ($425,011,646).


The sequel to the current hit I, Robot is likely to be shot in Australia, Will Smith told a news conference in Sydney Monday. Implying that director Alex Proyas, who is Australian, has been pushing for the sequel to be filmed in his homeland, Smith said. "We will probably be here next year. ... I love the idea. I loved working with Alex, so I, Robot II, or anything he is will to make [I would do]." The original was filmed in Vancouver.


Kirsten Dunst has indicated that she was allowed to exercise control over how her image was to be presented in the video game version of Spider-Man 2. In an interview with the website Ireland Online, Dunst, who costars in the film with Tobey Maguire, remarked: "I got to approve the video game, the way she looks. They made her boobs gigantic. I was like, 'Tone down the boobs, please!" It was a little ridiculous."


Linda Ronstadt, who at concerts has been dedicating her rendition of the Eagles' Desperadoto filmmaker Michael Moore ("a great American patriot and certainly the man of the hour") and urging her audiences to see his film Fahrenheit 9/11, was literally shown the door at the Aladdin Hotel Saturday night and told never to return, published reports said today (Tuesday). According to a spokeswoman for the hotel, Ronstadt's remarks resulted in a chorus of boos from about half the 5,000-member audience, some of whom stormed out of the theater and demanded refunds. Following her second encore, she was greeted by the hotel's security officers, who escorted her off the property. In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal,Aladdin president Bill Timmins commented that Ronstadt had "spoiled a wonderful evening for our guests and we had to do something about it. ... As long as I'm here, she's not going to play." Moore told the newspaper that Timmins' action was "stupid and un-American." According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Ronstadt's remarks about Moore generated both boos and cheers the following night in San Diego. Reviewing her performance, George Varga, the newspaper's music critic, remarked: "Those who complain that Ronstadt should just sing, rather than express her opinions, forget that all art has a responsibility to inspire and provoke, not just soothe and entertain."


Robert Greenwald's documentary Outfoxed, about the Fox News Channel, is not being distributed to movie theaters, but is being shown to liberal activist groups at house parties and businesses across the country. The New York Times'film critic, A.O. Scott, reviewed it at "a modest bar on a not-yet completely chic block in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn." His reaction: While "it lacks both the showmanship and the scope" of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, it provides "a glimpse of the truth" that Greenwald compares with an earlier day in television when Boston attorney Joseph Welch undid Senator Joseph McCarthy in the televised Army-McCarthy hearings. In the Chicago Tribune,the film is reviewed by Steve Johnson, the newspaper's TV critic, who criticizes the film for failing "to distinguish between programs Fox bills as news and those it calls commentary." Moreover, he writes, the channel's audience will likely regard the film as "proof only that the 'liberal media' is, indeed, out to get them." And Joanne Ostrow, the TV critic of the Denver Post concludes in her review that both the Moore and Greenwald films "are overblown in their delivery, but the impulse is correct: We're all media watchdogs now."