BEER SPOT IS A POTENT FORCE AT AD AWARDS A Chilean beer commercial submitted in the Best Use of Television category won the Media Lion Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions Awards Tuesday. The commercial, "The Force Is With Cristal" was presented in such a way that it appeared at first to be a product placement within the screening of Star Wars on Chilean television. It then seamlessly segued into an actual spot for Cristal beer. (In one instance, Luke Skywalker reaches for his lightsaber, but pulls out a can of beer instead.) The ad device was created by OMD Santiago. Today's (Wednesday) Advertising Ageobserved in its online edition that such an ad, featuring what it called a "blur-the-lines transition between content and commercials" could not have appeared on a U.S. TV network (certainly without invoking the wrath of George Lucas). The Lions Awards are regarded as the international Oscars of the ad world.


In a vote of 99-1, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would fine broadcasters as much as $3 million a day for airing indecent content. The measure was tacked on to a larger Defense Department spending bill that was passed without debate. A similar bill has already been passed by the House. While the original bill would also have fined performers who aired racy material, the Senate bill was limited to radio and TV station owners. The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) welcomed the decision to exclude artists from the measure. In a statement, AFTRA said, "While legitimate concerns still exist about the possible chilling effect that large broadcaster fines may place upon free speech over the airwaves, we are gratified and relieved that the legislation avoids the pitfall of fining individual performers."


Even though its rivals attempted to spark the lifeless summer season with fresh programming, CBS managed to compete strongly with reruns (along with Sunday's 60 Minutes interview with Bill Clinton) last week. The network averaged a 5.8 household rating for the week, well ahead of second-place NBC's 4.9/9. Thanks to the final game of the NBA Finals, ABC stayed competitive with a 4.4/4, while Fox trailed with a 3.1/6. Among the key demographic group of 18-49-year-olds, NBC retained a slight edge with a 2.6/8. But both ABC and CBS were close behind, as they tied with a 2.4/8. Fox again trailed with a 2.0/7. Ratings analysts commented on the surprisingly poor showing of a rerun of Friends on Thursday night. The episode placed 46th on Nielsen's list of more than 100 primetime programs. In fact, with its usual summer doldrums, NBC finished third on Thursday, ordinarily its biggest night of the week, behind CBS and ABC. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:1. NBA Finals -- Detroit Pistons vs L.A. Lakers, ABC, 13.8/23; 2. 60 Minutes, CBS, 10.3/22; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 9.1/16; 4. CSI: Miami, CBS, 8.8/15; 5. Without a Trace, CBS, 8.4/15; 6. Law and Order,NBC, 8.2/14; 7. Cold Case, CBS, 7.4/14; 8. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 7.3/12; 9. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 7.1/11; 10. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 6.9/11.


Although former President Bill Clinton has appeared affable and collected during his U.S. television interviews to promote his recently published autobiography, he became angry and indignant Tuesday night when famed British TV interviewer David Dimbleby persisted in questioning him about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. After saying that he didn't want to talk about the affair -- "I've said all I have to say about that in the book. I'm not saying any more." -- Clinton blew up when Dimbleby persisted. "Look how much time you spent asking me these questions. And that's why people like you always help the far right because you like to hurt people, and you like to talk about how bad people are and all their personal failings. Look - you made a decision to allocate your time in a certain way. You should take responsibility for that. You should say 'Yes, I care much more about this [the Lewinsky affair] than whether the Bosnian people were saved, than whether 27 million people had jobs at the end, and whether we moved a hundred times as many people out of poverty as Reagan and Bush.' This is what I care about."


Viewers who missed Tuesday night's airing of the PBS documentary series P.O.V. can order a DVD of the program from the online movie rental service Netflix beginning today (Wednesday). In what Netflix and P.O.V.described as a precedent-setting arrangement, the rental service plans to make copies of each week's documentary available to its two million subscribers one day after it airs.


More than 20 British million viewers tuned in to watch England beat Croatia in the Euro 2004 soccer match Tuesday night, representing nearly 69 percent of the U.K. TV audience. The figure is roughly equivalent to the number of Americans (21.8 million) who watched the Detroit Pistons defeat the L.A. Lakers in the NBA Finals last week. However, the British population numbers 59 million, while the U.S. population numbers 285 million. MOORE HOT OVER FAHRENHEIT RULING The Motion Picture Assn. of America's Rating Appeals Board has rejected an appeal of the decision to slap Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11with an R rating. The film opens in two theaters in New York today (Wednesday) and in 868 theaters on Friday, the most ever for a documentary. Moore immediately issued a statement denouncing the decision and urged older teenagers "to come see my movie by any means necessary. ... If you need me to sneak you in, let me know." Tom Ortenberg, president of Lions Gate, one of the film's distributors expressed "hope that parents and guardians will see fit to bring their mature children to this film." Meanwhile, Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian is predicting box office success for the film this weekend. He told the Miami Herald: "You have a film that is purely a product of its time, and in an election year, could become very popular. You've got a situation like we had with The Passion of the Christ. We know it's going to be big; we just don't know how big."


Former Vivendi Universal CEO Jean-Marie Messier posted a $1.6-million bail on Tuesday after being arrested for "formal investigation" of a government probe into charges of fraud and stock manipulation. He had been held for 36 hours before appearing before judges who questioned him about his role in the buyback of 21 million Vivendi shares following the Sept. 11 attacks and other controversial and possibly illegal maneuvers to shore up Vivendi stock.


Home video retailers will no longer be able to preview movies from Warner Home Video before they go on sale. Video Storemagazine quoted WHV exec Jeff Baker as saying, "This measure is really aimed at providing another layer of defense against movie piracy for our products. This new policy will help protect our products from copyright infringement and is a step towards combating a grave threat to the motion picture industry as a whole."


The American Film Institute has named "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz the best movie song of all time. During a televised awards presentation Tuesday night, the organization selected "As Time Goes By" from Casablancaas No. 2 and the title song from Singin' in the Rain as No. 3. Most of the tunes on the top-100 list shared one thing in common: they were included in hit films. Conspicuously absent were songs from films that fared poorly at the box office, including Oscar and Hammerstein's State Fair (1945 and 1962), which included the oft-recorded "It Might As Well Be Spring," which some musicologists believe represents lyricist Hammerstein's best work. ("I'm as restless as a willow in a windstorm....")


The Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems has complained that product-placement ads for Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser and Bud Light brands in the movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is exposing young people to beer ads, despite a voluntary industry ban on such ads in media where more than 70 percent of the audience is underage. The movie is rated PG-13. An executive of the beer company, John T. Kaestner, told today's (Wednesday) New York Timesthat the company buys product placement positions only in movies with adult appeal.


The makers of the surprise British hit movie Billy Elliot have announced plans to present a stage version titled Billy Elliot: The Musical in London's West End next March. Today's (Wednesday) Guardiannewspaper said that the production, with music to be written by Elton John, will have a budget of $11 million, twice what it cost to produce the film. It will mark the entry of the film company Working Title into stage productions. Like the film, the stage production will be directed by Stephen Daldry, written by Lee Hall, and choreographed by Peter Darling. Working Title Co-chairmen Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan will produce. No decision has been made about who will play the lead.


Reviews don't come much more caustic than many of those for White Chicks,starring Marlon and Shawn Wayans as black FBI agents disguised as versions of the Hilton heiresses, opening today (Wednesday). "Most movies require some suspension of disbelief," Dave Kehr remarks at the start of his review in the New York Times, but in the case of White Chicks,"a full frontal lobotomy" might be in order. Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribuneadds: "Dumb, crazy humor isn't exactly in short supply in movies these days, but White Chicks may have broken the 'Give me a break' barrier." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Timeshad a similar reaction, writing, "Here is a film so dreary and conventional that it took an act of the will to keep me in the theater." And Philip Wuntch in the Dallas Morning Newsremarks: "White Chicks gives you just what you expect, assuming your expectations are low enough." On the other hand, Jan Stuart in Newsdaycalls the movie "surprisingly good-natured," and Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitutiondescribes it as "a buoyant farce that's a lot more clever than you might expect."