AMERICANS DESERT THEIR TV'S With many Americans visiting family and friends, watching fireworks, or heading for the movie theaters to catch Spider-Man 2,ratings during the July 4 holiday week dipped to their lowest level of the year. Except for some news magazine shows, which generally perform quite well in the summer, fresh programming took a beating. CBS won the week with an average 5.4 rating and an 11 share. NBC placed second with a 4.4/9. Fox and ABC tied for third with a 3.2/6. In the network news race, ABC's World News Tonighttook over the top spot, thanks to Peter Jennings' becoming the only anchor to be on hand in Iraq when the early transfer of power took place and when Saddam Hussein appeared in court. The ABC news program averaged a 5.9/13, edging out the usual winner, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, which drew a 5.7/13. CBS Evening News with Dan Rather placed third with a 4.8/11. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 10.5/19; 2.CSI: Miami, CBS, 8.9/15; 3. Without a Trace (10:00 p.m.), CBS, 8.6/15; 4.Two and a Half Men, CBS, 7.5/12; 5. Law and Order, NBC, 7.4/13; 6. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 7.1/12; 7. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 7.0/12; 8. Without a Trace (8:00 p.m.), CBS, 6.6/13; 9. 48 Hours Mystery, CBS, 6.3/11; 10.60 Minutes II, CBS, 6.2/12.


Garry Shandling has been selected as the sole host of the 56th annual Emmy Awards, which is scheduled to be telecast live by ABC on Sept. 19. It will be Shandling's second stint at hosting the awards. He previously did so in 2000. Ratings for the awards telecast have declined every year since then. Last year, hosting duties were shared by 11 different celebrities.


Dismissing complaints from minority activists and some industry groups including Fox Broadcasting and CBS, Nielsen Media Research said Wednesday that it intends to switch to local "people meters" in the Los Angeles-area market beginning today (Thursday). Minority critics, who have formed a coalition called Don't Count Us Out had urged that the switch from conventional diaries be delayed until it could be determined whether the electronically metered households fairly reflect the minority population. In reporting on Nielsen's decision, today's Los Angeles Timesobserved that it could result in a "dramatic shift" of the local TV landscape, "potentially altering the way advertisers spend more than $1 billion for local airtime." The Timesis owned by the Tribune Co., another major media group opposing the roll-out of local people meters.


Despite reports that it had quietly decided to drop plans for a reality series titled Amish in the City, UPN has completed production of the series and intends to launch it on July 28, Daily Varietyreported today (Thursday). The program brings together five Amish youth (during their coming-of-age ritual, rumspringa, when they are permitted to leave their communities, mostly in the rural Lancaster area of Pennsylvania), with six urban roommates in a Hollywood Hills home and documents the subsequent cultural collision. When the show was originally announced, it drew instant censure from Pennsylvania officials, including 51 members of Congress, the state's two senators among them. The website Amish Country News warned that the series "could undermine the very foundation of our faith." Several TV critics compared the proposed series with the canceled The Real Beverly Hillbillies, which would have put country folk into a Beverly Hills home with city dwellers and watched the sparks fly. When asked about the Amish series last January -- before the protests -- CBS chief Les Moonves, who also oversees UPN, quipped: "We couldn't do The Real Beverly Hillbillies,but [the Amish] don't have quite as good a lobbying effort." Exec producer Jon Kroll (Big Brother) told Varietythat he believes once the critics see Amish, they're likely to change their minds about it.


Saying that it is complying with new homeland security regulations, the State Department has informed the estimated 20,000 foreign journalists stationed in the U.S. that they will have to leave the country and renew their visas at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Reporting on the order, Britain's Guardiannewspaper commented today (Thursday) that it was likely "to cause chaos for overseas broadcasters and newspapers just five months before the presidential election." Previously foreign journalists were able to apply for visa renewals in Washington or New York. The American Society for Professional Journalists has warned that the edict could result in similar action being taken against American reporters stationed abroad. LONG LIVE THE KING! (DISNEY HOPES) The Walt Disney Co. made a "business decision" to add scenes to the ending of King Arthurto lighten the movie's overall mood, director Antoine Fugua has told Reuters. Fuqua's comments come even as criticism of the company heats up that creativity has taken a back seat to marketing at the studio and that focus-group studies may count for more than the opinions of veteran creators. However, in an interview with Reuters, Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian commented: "I has been kind of an up-and-down year for them. All will be forgotten if King Arthurdoes well." The film opening on Wednesday.


Producer Tony Adams, a longtime associate of producer-writer-director Blake Edwards in such films as the Pink Panther movies, 10,and Victor/Victoria, is planning to bring Spider-Man to Broadway in a musical. Citing sources close to the project, Daily Varietyreported today (Thursday) that plans call for the musical to be written by Neil Jordan (Mona Lisa, The Crying Game, Interview with the Vampire) and directed by Julie Taymor, who translated Disney's The Lion Kingto the stage. The songwriters are likely to be the U2's Bono and The Edge (David Evans).


Rupert Murdoch has indicated that not only isn't he interested in trying to match Sony's reported $5-billion offer for MGM, he can't understand why anyone else would, either. Speaking to Bloomberg News at the Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, Murdoch said, "Personally, I can't see the value, but I could be proved wrong." He added that he would be "very surprised" if a deal is negotiated at the conference, which is being attended by representatives of three of MGM's top suitors, Sony, Time Warner, and NBC Universal. Meanwhile, today's (Thursday) New York Postreported that Vivi Nevo, described by the newspaper as a "mysterious international financier" who is attending the conference, is ready to open his checkbook for Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein to launch a new company if, as expected, Weinstein exits Disney.


France, which already awarded Fahrenheit 9/11its top film honor at the Cannes Film Festival, has made it a box office hit as well. With only 231 screens showing the film, it became the fifth best opener of the year and is the biggest opening ever for a documentary in France. The film received a mixed reception in the French press, with the Paris dailyLibération praising it for giving a face to the human tragedy of the Iraq war, including showing wounded American soldiers. But Le Mondeand Le Figarocalled it propaganda, and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who recently wrote a book about the murder of Wall Street Journalreporter Daniel Pearl and is an opponent of Bush, suggested that Moore attempted to portray the pre-invasion Iraq "as a sort of oasis of peace and happiness." Meanwhile, in the U.S., Fahrenheit earned $2.8 million on Tuesday, to bring its total to $63.9 million.


An employee of the Odeon theater chain in the U.K. has posted a message on a Lord of the Ringswebsite disclosing that the chain has been notified that the three extended versions of Ringswill be distributed to theaters in October, ahead of their DVD release in December. Another employee of a theater in Denmark said that his managers received a message from the films' distributors noting that the three extended versions will be shipped to "a select number of cinemas" in Denmark in "mid-October."


Documentary filmmaker Ramona Diaz says she is surprised that Imelda Marcos, the former Philippine first lady, is attempting to have the film Diaz made about her banned. Marcos last week won a temporary injunction barring the screening of the film, titled Imelda, in the Philippines. It won first prize for documentary cinematography at the Sundance Film Festival. Diaz maintained that she attempted to produce an objective portrait of Marcos and consulted her on the film. "We had many conversations. There were scenes in the film that were her idea and I thought they were great ideas, so we did it." Marcos denies that she gave permission for the film to be distributed, saying that Diaz had given her the impression that the film was to be used for educational purposes. "We have to stick to the truth because truth is God."