RASPBERRY ALARM CLOCK
George Eads, who was fired from the cast of CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation after he and fellow cast member Jorja Fox failed to show up for work last week, told critics attending the Summer TV press tour in Los Angeles Monday that he had simply overslept. "I woke up white as a sheet 3 1/2 hours after I was supposed to be on the set," he told the writers, insisting that his failure to show up was not related to his demands for a boost in his $100,000-per-episode salary. Reporting on Eads' comments, Washington Post writer Lisa de Moraes razzed: "He did not attempt to explain the miraculous coincidence that caused Jorja Fox's alarm clock to fail on the very same day." Fox has not commented on the matter.

JEOPARDY! RATINGS SOAR WITH CONTESTANT'S WINNINGS

Ratings for the syndicated Jeopardy! have risen 37 percent as a result of contestant Ken Jennings' unprecedented winning streak (as of Tuesday he had amassed $1,164,660), according to figures from Nielsen Research. The show has risen to the top spot in the ratings among syndicated shows, drawing on average 12.6 million viewers during the week ended July 11, surpassing Wheel of Fortune, also from King World, which recorded 11.3 million viewers.

ABC FIDGETS WHILE ROME BURNS

ABC's troubled miniseries Empire , which already has been shortened from eight to six episodes in an effort to offset soaring costs, was hit by a new whammy on Wednesday when a fire broke out at Roma Studios where it was being shot, destroying the set and thousands of dollars in equipment. Fortunately, according to the network, production work had already been completed on the set just three hours before the fire, attributed to faulty wiring, broke out. ABC said that the sets had been covered by insurance and could be rebuilt if the series proves to be a popular and a sequel is produced at the Rome facility.

ABC CONSIDERING A DIGITAL NEWS NETWORK

At the urging of network anchor Peter Jennings, ABC intends to carry gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Democratic and Republican conventions on a digital broadcast channel, which can be received via settop-box converters, the New York Times reported today (Thursday). The network also plans to provide a streaming feed from the conventions via the Internet. Taking note of the growing competition from all-news cable channels, ABC News President David Westin told the Times: "We've been looking for ways of using new technologies to help stop us from losing audience share." He indicated that the network may provide some HDTV coverage of the convention as well -- all of which could develop into a kind of hybrid (digital/Internet/HDTV) ABC all-news channel. "This is in the back of my mind," he told the Times. We may be ahead of our time, but at some point, this will happen."

CONTROVERSIAL ARAB CHANNEL TO COVER CONVENTION

Al-Jazeera has been allotted space at the Democratic Convention in Boston next week, alongside ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox News, the Boston Herald reported, noting that the Arab all-news channel will have 16 staffers covering the convention and will be "affiliated" with ABC (presumably meaning that it will be allowed to use ABC coverage). Although the network has been damned by leading Bush administration officials as a propaganda outlet for terrorists, al-Jazeera producer Stephanie Thomas, who generally works out of its Washington bureau, told the Herald: "We're basically just a bunch of hard-working people of every ethnic background, working very hard like everyone else in the news business."

EMBATTLED BBC NEWS DIRECTOR MOVED TO NEW POST

BBC News Director Richard Sambrook, who survived the corporation's purge following the release of the Hutton report criticizing the BBC's editorial supervision, has been replaced by radio exec Helen Boaden and moved to the BBC World Service. Sambrook maintained today (Thursday) that his move was not related to the Hutton report. "Even if Hutton hadn't happened, this would have been an obvious next move for me," Sambrook told the Guardian newspaper. "After 24 years in news and nearly four years as director of news I was looking for a change," he said.

U.K. WATCHDOG WON'T BAN JUNK FOOD ADS ON KIDS SHOWS

Britain's TV watchdog Ofcom has turned aside demands that ads for junk food be barred from children's shows, citing research indicating that such ads have only a "modest direct impact" on kids choices compared with peer pressure. It also observed that studies show no evidence that kids' eating habits have been affected in other countries that have adopted such a ban. Ofcom indicated, however, that while it opposed an outright ban, specific rules concerning ads that appear on children's programs may need to be tightened.

KATZ GETS NO PAY BUT FREQUENT-FLYER PERKS
DreamWorks' SEC filing Wednesday, in which it disclosed plans for an IPO of its animation unit, confirmed that studio cofounder Jeffrey Katzenberg, who will become CEO of the new company, has received no salary or other compensation from the studio. (He has said that he and his principal partners in DreamWorks, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, have drawn no money from the studio since it was founded nearly a decade ago.) However, the SEC filing indicated that Katzenberg is due to receive about $20.5 million in stock options from the animation company once the IPO is consummated. (One noteworthy perquisite was disclosed: he used the company jet for personal travel worth $107,445.) Spielberg and Geffen's roles were unclear. The SEC filing said that they will be given consulting contracts with DreamWorks Animation, with further details about their participation to be spelled out later.

SAG NABS FILMS BY BROKE PRODUCERS

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) said Wednesday that for the first time it is taking advantage of a clause in its contracts with producers allowing it to foreclose on a film if residuals are not paid. SAG said that it has already sold one film, the 1996 movie Blood Money, starring James Brolin, for "five figures." Another film, The Linguini Incident, produced in 1991, stars Rosanna Arquette and David Bowie. A third, Traveller (sic), produced in 1997, has Mark Wahlberg and Bill Paxton in the lead. And Telling Lies in America features Kevin Bacon and Calista Flockhart.

FOX HOME VIDEO SELLING STACKS OF PASSION DVD'S

Twentieth Century Fox Home Video has sent out hundreds of thousand of fliers to churches across the country inviting them to buy special 50-disc packs of The Passion of the Christ when it is released on DVD on Aug. 31, according to USA Today. The newspaper said that presales of the movie are running 20 percent ahead of projections, with some individuals ordering 20 or more copies from the church groups. Fox said that any organization placing large orders could have its name printed on the slipcases.

SOON-TO-BE OWNER OF ALADDIN HOTEL ASKS RONSTADT TO RETURN

Although Bill Timmins, the president of the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, has said that Linda Ronstadt will not be invited to perform there again while he remains in his post, the new owner of the hotel has said that once he takes over, he intends not only to ask her to return but also plans to take up Michael Moore on his offer to sing "America the Beautiful" with her on stage. Robert Earl, the chairman and CEO of Planet Hollywood, which is awaiting state approval of its purchase of the hotel, said in a statement Wednesday: "We were very sorry to hear about the unfortunate circumstances of this past Saturday night and want to make it clear that Planet Hollywood has never, in our 13-year history, restricted any artist's right to free speech, and we will continue with that policy once we take ownership." Timmins, who is British, had no further comment, but a spokeswoman for the hotel told Reuters that Ronstadt "was there to entertain, not make a politically charged comment." The controversy arose Saturday after Ronstadt praised Moore, the director of Fahrenheit 9/11, during her performance, touching off a chorus of boos in her audience, with some members walking out, demanding refunds, and defacing Ronstadt's posters. An editorial in the Las Vegas Sun commented Wednesday: "Ronstadt has been touring the country since May and has been praising Moore at each stop. Las Vegas should be embarrassed at her treatment here." When she endorsed the film again at a concert in Los Angeles on Tuesday, she reportedly received a thunderous ovation.

TED TURNER: "BUST UP THE CONGLOMERATES"

Ted Turner has cited Disney's decision to reject distribution of Fahrenheit 9/11 as an ominous indication of the chilling effect of media consolidation. Writing in the Washington Monthly, the CNN founder takes special note of a statement by a Disney executive at the time" "It's not in the interest of any major corporation to be dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle." Turner comments: "Follow the logic, and you can see what lies ahead: If the only media companies are major corporations, controversial and dissenting views may not be aired at all." Turner's advice: "Bust up the big [media] conglomerates."

INDIAN GANGSTER THREATENS TO BURN THEATERS

A Bollywood movie in which a convicted murderer and kidnapper plays herself has caught the attention of the woman's ex-husband, a notorious gangster, who has vowed to burn down theaters showing it and kill people buying tickets to see it, published reports in India said today (Thursday). The film, Wounded, stars Madhya Pradesh, the former wife of Nirbhay Gujjar, who allegedly made the threats. (She later married another Indian gangster, Lalaram, who was shot and killed by police in a gun battle.)

FAMED MOVIE SCORER JERRY GOLDSMITH DEAD AT 75

Film composer Jerry Goldsmith, whose score for the 1976 movie The Omen won him an Oscar, died of cancer Wednesday in Beverly Hills at the age of 75. Goldsmith was also nominated for Oscars for Mulan, L.A. Confidential, Hoosiers, Poltergeist, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Chinatown, Patton, and Planet of the Apes. In the early days of television, he wrote the music for such TV shows as The Twilight Zone, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke and Dr. Kildare.

Cinemark Movie Club