YOUTUBE RESCUES DEAD TV SERIES

In what amounts to the first case of the video website YouTube.com's resuscitating a canceled TV series, NBC is expected to announce today (Friday) that it will resurrect Nobody's Watching, which was canceled last year by The WB. Two weeks ago, the New York Times reported that a copy of the pilot had been downloaded more than 300,000 times since it was posted on YouTube.com in mid-June. Daily Variety reported today that NBC plans to fund a series of video clips featuring the characters from Watching that will also be posted on YouTube and on its own website. In an interview with the trade publication, Watching's producer, Bill Lawrence, praised NBC for being willing to take the risk of resurrecting a show that had already been discarded by another network because of the demand of Web viewers. "If network TV doesn't embrace the Internet as both a place to launch and test shows but also as a place where shows can live, they're going to fall further and further behind," he said.

WRITERS OF TOP MODEL SEEK WGA REPRESENTATION

Reality shows like CW's America's Next Top Model may not have the kind of scripts used in conventional TV dramas and comedies, but they do have scripts that plot stories, suggest dialogue, and indicate how the final cut should be framed. Increasingly, those responsible for formulating those scripts are demanding the benefits of established TV writers. A case in point came Thursday when Writers of America's Next Top Model staged a one-hour walk-out, during which they stood outside the production company's offices wearing T-shirts with the logo of the Writers Guild of America and handing out leaflets titled "Free to Be Union? Not at the CW's America's Next Top Model." In an interview with today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times, WGA President Patric M. Verrone said, "They want a guild contract, but their employer won't give it to them. ... This is how they are showing their solidarity." Ken Mok, president of Anisa Productions, which produces the show, said that he has asked the WGA to allow a secret-ballot election to be held under the supervision of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). "If the NLRB decides that the WGA has the exclusive representation of the employees, we would be happy to sit down and negotiate with them," Mok told the Times.

IS RATHER BECOMING THE STALIN OF CBS?

The New York Post

's "Page Six" column has taken note of a recent story that appeared on the CBS News Web site about Katie Couric's visit to the Twin Cities. The story observed that Couric "will be the first female solo anchor of a network weekday newscast, following such esteemed [CBS] journalists as Douglas Edwards, Walter Cronkite and, most recently, Bob Schieffer." The newspaper column noted that conspicuously absent from the list was Dan Rather and commented, "The glaring omission has prompted some observers to liken it to the Soviet Union's erasing Josef Stalin from its history books." A network spokeswoman, the Post said, was unable to explain the omission, but added, "Dan is a valued part of CBS News tradition."

ESPN MOBILE PRONOUNCED DOA BY ANALYSTS

It's only six months old, but already analysts are called ESPN's mobile service a bust. Merrill Lynch & Co. entertainment analyst Jessica Reif Cohen, who had once estimated that the service would attract 240,000 by year's end, now figures that it will only draw 30,000. She estimated that it will cost the company about $80 million this year. (That's a loss of $2,700 per customer.) The service delivers scores, sports news and video clips from the sports channel to customers of Sprint/Nextel with compatible cellular handsets.

NOTE:

In Thursday's edition, we reported on a new PBS policy that requires not only that language that could result in an FCC fine be bleeped, but that if the words can be recognized "from the speaker's mouth, the lips must be pixelated." We headlined the item, "Now Censorship for Deaf People." We subsequently received the following email from Marlee Matlin, Hollywood's most celebrated deaf actress (winner of the 1987 Best Actress Oscar for Children of a Lesser God: "All I can say is I've been reading the lips of bleeped-out words, angry baseball players, and stoned-out rock stars on awards shows for years and it's been HILARIOUS. Everyone is always asking me what the bleeped-out parts are saying. Just say no to pixelization! Hehe."

PIRATES LIKELY TO SHOOT LADY OUT OF WATER

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest will be taking on four new challengers at the box office this weekend and is expected not only to survive but conquer as well, becoming the first film of the year to cross the $300-million mark. If it does vanquish its rivals, it would become the first film to hold on to the No. 1 spot for three consecutive weeks in five years. (The last to do so was 2001's American Pie.) Analysts give M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water the best chance of besting Pirates, but despite audience tracking that indicates that it will have a strong debut, reviews have been almost universally negative, and box-office receipts could be affected by poor word-of-mouth. Sony's stop-motion animated feature, Monster House, is also expected to be a strong challenger, particularly given the fact that it's the first cartoon to hit the screens since the debut of Cars more than a month ago. (It's also being presented in 3-D in 163 of the 3,553 theaters showing it.)

MOVIE REVIEWS: LADY IN THE WATER

The Man Who Heard Voices is now hearing those of the critics, and they're likely to haunt him. M. Night Shyamalan, the center of Michael Bamberger's book about the director's split from Disney over his script for Lady in the Water, is receiving harsher treatment in most of his reviews of the movie than he ever did from Disney Production President Nina Jacobson (who was fired this week). These are some of the descriptions of his movie (which eventually was made for Warner Bros.): Lou Lumenick in the New York Post: "I have to say it, but Disney was right." Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times: "Bears out the reservations expressed by the Disney executives who balked at making the movie." Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail: "Self-indulgent ramblings." Geoff Pevere in the Toronto Star: "This is one nutty movie." Amy Biancolli in the Houston Chronicle: "A failure." Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: "A folly ... but watchable." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News: "Convoluted and ultimately preposterous." The movie does garner a handful of positive notices. Desson Thomson in the Washington Post calls it "a captivating amalgam of mystery, thriller and mythic fantasy" that eclipses Shyamalan's 1999 film The Sixth Sense "for sheer inventiveness, audacity and narrative derring-do.."

MOVIE REVIEWS: MONSTER HOUSE

Animated films rarely receive critical raves. But Monster House is piling up quite a few of them. Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer praises it as "easily the best computer-animated feature to come from Hollywood in a long while." Geoff Pevere in the Toronto Star calls it "a divertingly bizarre movie." A.O. Scott in the New York Times describes it as "marvelously creepy" and "the best child-friendly movie of the summer so far." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post predicts that it will be "a genuine sleeper hit." And Scott Bowles in USA Today observes, "The movie may be rated PG, but Monster's clever use of sound and shadows will likely have parents flinching in their seats with the kids." But Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls Monster House a monstrosity and concludes, 'I agree with the little girl down the row from me at a preview screening who said, "Mommy, I don't want to be here.'"

MOVIE REVIEWS: CLERKS II

Joel Siegel, the ABC critic who famously walked out of a screening of Kevin Smith's Clerks II, announcing aloud that it was the first time he had done so in 30 years of reviewing, will find little support from his colleagues. The film doesn't receive any really devastating reviews and it does receive quite a few positive ones. Most are somewhere in the middle. Siegel reportedly left the theater following a scene involving sex with a donkey. Kyle Smith in the New York Post even refers to the departure in his review: "You have to work hard (or be as old as Siegel) to take offense at Smith," he comments. Here's Ann Hornaday's take on the scene in the Washington Post: "Smith may be the one filmmaker working today who can so easily convey a sense of profound spiritual faith while shamelessly grubbing for laughs with an on-screen donkey act." And here's A.O. Scott's in the New York Times: "Mr. Smith's fondness for jokes about excrement, bestiality and related topics is so evidently childish that it is hard to be offended, or even especially provoked, when he tries to test the limits of taste." Likewise Chris Kaltenbach writes in the Baltimore Sun: "While the film sometimes stoops to lows the term sophomoric barely describes, it also possesses a sly wisdom and compassion that's easy to admire." Carrie Rickey writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer: "As though testing an enormous quantity of spaghetti for doneness, Smith throws a vatload of obscenely funny gags at the wall, and many of them stick. If you don't laugh out loud at the bit about Star Wars versus Lord of the Rings, you don't have a pulse."

BOND NO. 24 ANNOUNCED

It's four months before the scheduled premiere of the next James Bond movie, Casino Royale, but on Thursday, Bond producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli announced that the 22nd 007 movie will have its debut on May 2, 2008. The title of the movie was not disclosed -- nor even whether a script had been written -- but the producers did announce that Daniel Craig will return to portray Bond. "As we wrap production on Casino Royale, we couldn't be more excited about the direction the franchise is heading with Daniel Craig," Wilson and Broccoli said in a statement. "Daniel has taken the origins of Ian Fleming's James Bond portraying, with emotional complexity, a darker and edgier 007."

Brian B.