CRITICS PUZZLED OVER EMMY NODSThe television academy's new method of selecting Emmy nominees came in for both praise and criticism from the nation's TV critics today (Friday), following Thursday's presentation of the nomination list. This year the votes of the academy members were passed on to blue-ribbon panels that made the final selection. On the one hand, Adam Buckman remarked in the New York Post: "Something strange happened yesterday. The Emmy nominations were announced and I could barely find anything to complain about." On the other hand, Josef Adalian and Michael Schneider, writing in Daily Variety, commented, "Emmy wanted a revolution, but what it got was was more confusion." Indeed, Vinay Menon in the Toronto Starremarked that he hadn't "been this confused since Grade 10 health class." Brian Lowry of the Associated Press scratched his head over the academy's decision to nominate Housefor best drama "without lead actor recognition for its show-carrying star, Hugh Laurie." Melanie McFarland, the Seattle Post-IntelligencerTV critic, said the list appeared "jampacked with canceled series with actors and actresses who don't even deserve to be there." Some critics took a middle position. "Though the nominations ... include a few surprises, they are unlikely to improve the credibility or enhance the prestige of the award," remarked David Zurawik in the Baltimore Sun.And Scott Collins, who writes "Channel Island: The TV Industry Blog" for the Los Angeles Times's website, commented, "This year we're seeing some reasonable compromises between the critically beloved and the widely seen, a twain that in these days of 100-plus cable and satellite systems seldom meet."


North Korea's missile launches boosted ratings of the cable news networks Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Nielsen Research. Fox News Channel led in more total viewers, while CNN led among adults 25-54. CNN was helped Tuesday night by Larry King's birthday interview with President Bush, which New York TimesTV critic Alessandra described today (Friday) as "classic Larry King: a warm bath, not a hot seat." Meanwhile, MSNBC, which aired mostly canned features, barely registered on the ratings scale. The failure of the erstwhile news network to cover the North Korean missile story was mocked even by syndicated gossip columnist Liz Smith, who observed, "MSNBC did a night on serial killers and prisons!"


Reflecting the resurgence of baseball as the national pastime, Fox announced Thursday that it had sold out all its available spots for next week's All-Star Game at a record average price of $375,000 for a 30-second spot. Fox Sales President Jon Nesvig indicated that the price was nearly 10 percent above last year's and comes at a time when Fox is in negotiations to extend its current deal with Major League Baseball, which concludes this year. Fox Sports President Ed Goren said that the network has already sold 95 percent of its available spots for its regular-season baseball telecasts, well ahead of last year.


The BBC's comedy unit and its movie unit are reportedly working together to produce theatrical motion pictures based on the publicly supported broadcaster's hit sitcoms. The BBC website said today that Kenton Allen, creative head of BBC Comedy Talent, is heading up a scheme that, in Allen's words, would allow its comedy stars "to paint on a bigger canvas." Among the shows reportedly being considered for a big-screen version is The Office, starring Ricky Gervais. An American version of the show, starring Steve Carell in the Gervais role, currently airs on NBC. The BBC has a long history of producing theatrical films, but most have not been distributed outside the U.K.


The former Pax TV network, now called i (that's it, just i), is metamorphosing into a network devoted entirely to old movies and TV shows. After signing an agreement last week with Warner Bros. TV for rights to air a number of "classic" TV shows, i, whose parent company is now called Ion Media Networks (formerly Paxson Communications), has struck a deal with Sony to air such TV shows as The Monkees, Charlie's Angels, and Silver Spoons, and such movies as Short Circuit, A River Runs Through It,and Oliver.The network claims it has a potential audience of 92 million, including those who can receive it on its owned broadcast stations and on cable.


An alarming rise in the number of cases of breast cancer among female employees working in close proximity at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's site in Brisbane has resulted in calls for a government investigation. One of the employees has hired an attorney to look into the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the ABC, the broadcaster said in its own on-air report about the cases. The attorney, Simon Morrison, said during an interview on the network today (Friday) that nine of the 12 women stricken with breast cancer "actually worked in one building on the site; seven of the 12 worked in one room in one building on the site. And that would suggest to me evidence of a cluster." But ABC Managing Director Mark Scott, while acknowledging that the number of incidents is "sad" and "statistically atypical," remarked, "You know, things that are statistically atypical do happen from time to time." He said that he has asked the Queensland Health ministry to conduct a new investigation. The Australian Associated Press reported that some staff members at the site walked off their jobs today, demanding that their studios be relocated.PIRATES SET TO VANQUISH RIVALSThe deciding day has come -- or more accurately, the deciding weekend -- when moviegoers will vote with their wallets on whether Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chestwill have the biggest opening of all time, topping the three-day record of $114.8 million set by Spider-Manin May 2002. Uncharacteristically, Disney itself was making no predictions. Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane told Daily Variety: "I have no idea. ... No matter how you answer that question, it can come back to hurt you." Disney, meanwhile, shot off a barrage of ads on the video website Thursday, marking the first time the site has run paid-for video advertising. It was said to have drawn 90 million viewers throughout the day. Warner Bros.' Superman Returnsis expected to take the biggest hit from Piratesat the box office this weekend, something that Dan Fellman, the studio's head of distribution, readily conceded. Fellman told the Los Angeles Daily News, "Pirates is going to be a big, big movie. ... But in the summer the box office expands with kids out of school, so we'll have a great opportunity to play on. Our exit [surveys] are very strong and [Superman] is playing extremely well with families."


Like last week's Superman Returns, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chesthas divided the critics about equally, with half suggesting it's a real summer treasure and the other half ready to dump it overboard. On Good Morning America,Joel Siegel called it "the best summer movie of the summer," then qualified his remark by adding, "not the best movie, the best summer movie. ... Your popcorn tastes better, it's that much fun. And all the other wannabe summer blockbusters like Supermanhave been so serious and glum." Michael Booth in the Denver Postcalls it "a sweet umbrella drink leaving no hangover, two hours and 20 minutes of escapism that once again makes the movies safe for guilt-free fun." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily Newssays that at that length it's too long, but he adds, "Time flies when you're having a good time, and it's hard not to when the action is as spirited, the sets as glorious, the characters as inventive, and the performances -- especially those of returning Johnny Depp and new-to-the-cast Bill Nighy -- as much fun as they are here." Claudia Puig in Newsdaywrites that the film delivers "a combustible combination of ingredients for a summer blockbuster: a cornucopia of action and dazzling effects, some raucous humor and a large dose of Depp's winning charm." Gene Seymour's praise in Newsdaycomes more reluctantly. "As long as you accept it for the sprawling live-action, feature-length cartoon that it is, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest will neither disappoint nor drag on the senses," he writes. Likewise Peter Howell in the Toronto Starobserves unenthusiastically, "For the most part, the movie strikes gold in the areas that count -- action, adventure and amusement -- while failing to fully capitalize on all the goodwill the first Pirates generated." But other critics have their swords out. Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirerremarks that the film "lacks the swash and buckle of the original. And then some." Desson Thomson in the Washington Postmaintains that the film "feels forced and hollow -- a repeat performance that's too self-consciously delivered to be charming anymore." Several critics point out that the film has no ending -- just a cliffhanger set up for the next installment due out in May of next year. A.O. Scott in the New York Timesconcludes that the movie "batters you with novelty and works so hard to top itself that exhaustion sets in long before the second hour is over. By next summer, I suppose, we'll all be rested and ready for more."


All the King's Men,Steven Zaillian's take on the Robert Penn Warren novel based on the life of Huey Long, will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, organizers of the festival announced Thursday. The movie stars Sean Penn as the Southern politician (whom Warren named Willie Stark), originally played by Broderick Crawford in the 1949 film adaptation of Warren's novel. The film also stars Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, James Gandolfini, and Kate Winslet. The festival will also feature the world premiere of Bob Balaban's Bernard and Doris, in which Susan Sarandon plays the aging tobacco heiress Doris Duke and Ralph Fiennes, the gay butler to whom she left her billion-dollar fortune.