LAWMAKERS RESTORE CUTS TO CPBThe House of Representatives on Thursday voted to restore the $100 million cut by the House Appropriations Committee for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting. The overwhelming vote of 284-140 followed a letter-writing campaign by boosters of the CPB, many of them viewers of programs broadcast by the Public Broadcasting Service. "Cookie Monster won't have to settle for crumbs, after all. Not this year," commented TV critic Phil Rosenthal in the Chicago Tribune. Meanwhile, the CPB's board on Thursday selected Patricia S. Harrison, a former co-chairman of the Republican Party, to become president and CEO, a move that was greeted with angry protests by several Democratic senators.
NIELSEN FINDS ADDITIONAL BLACK VIEWERS WITH LOCAL PEOPLE METERS
Nielsen Media Research, which has come under attack from several quarters for introducing its local people meters in several cities with large minority populations, said Thursday that the new devices were counting more black viewers in Philadelphia and Washington than the previous system. The Fox television network and numerous black leaders had predicted that the local people meters would undercount minority viewers and thereby lead to the cancellation of shows that appeal to them. Nielsen observed that although the CBS drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation had ranked No. 1 among black viewers in Philadelphia last May under the old system, the people meters put the UPN show Girlfriendsat the top.
AXED 60 MINUTES WEDNESDAY MOVING TO FRIDAY
60 Minutes Wednesday, which was originally called 60 Minutes II,then simply 60 Minuteswhen it broadcast Dan Rather's discredited report about President Bush's National Guard service, will again take on its original name when it moves to Friday nights beginning July 8. It will be competing directly against NBC's Dateline, which has been attracting strong ratings in the time slot, particularly since it recently expanded to two hours.
ABC NEWS CRITICIZED FOR REPORT ON DRUG LINKED TO AUTISM
ABC News was being strongly criticized Wednesday for a report by its chief medical correspondent, Dr. Timothy Johnson, that downplayed an article by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. suggesting that the mercury-based preservative Thimerosal used in children's vaccines might be the cause of autism in most children. In his report, Johnson said that he would not hesitate to give his own children and grandchildren vaccines containing Thimerosal. However, his ABC report featured no scientists or physicians who have concluded that a link exists between a 1989 spike in the number of vaccines given children and the huge increase in the number of cases of autism that occurred at about the same time. In an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday, Kennedy maintained that "the same regulatory bureaucrats that green-lighted Thimerosal originally are now trying to cover their tracks" by denying a link between autism and Thimerosal.
NBC CHIEF SAYS THERE'S "NO PANIC" OVER DOWNTURN
NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker has confirmed that NBC did indeed take a $900-million hit during its upfront sales period, but, he told the Associated Press, "There's no panic on anyone's part or sense of the bottom falling out or anything like that." Zucker pointed out that although NBC plummeted from first to fourth place in primetime during the 2004-05 season, it continued to lead by a substantial market in the late-night hours and mornings with the Tonight Showand Today. In the case of Today, Zucker noted that although the show's lead over ABC's Good Morning Americanarrowed to just 40,000 viewers during one week last month, it has steadily widened that margin, expanding to 900,000 viewers on Monday of this week.
BRITISH AUDIENCE COULD BE WINNERS IN INTERACTIVE GAME SHOWS
Britain's ITV is planning to introduce a settop box that will allow viewers to play along with quiz and game shows whether they are connected by cable, satellite or terrestrial TV. The Guardiannewspaper reported today (Friday) that the commercial broadcaster has joined with Dublin-based emuse technologies (sic) to produce a system that will allow viewers to compete live with studio contestants via an ordinary phone line. ITV, emuse and the phone company would share in the revenue generated, which ITV Interactive Controller Jane Marshall predicted could become important.
FORMER "POINT-COUNTERPOINT" DEBATER DEAD AT 79
Shana Alexander, best remembered for her "Point-Counterpoint" debates with conservative James J. Kilpatrick on CBS's 60 Minutes in the late '70s, died of cancer in Hermosa Beach, CA Thursday at age 79. In an interview with the Associated Press, former 60 Minutesexecutive producer Don Hewitt described Alexander as "one of the first female journalists to become a big-time name in television journalism, when women were few and far between."MOVIE REVIEWS: HERBIE: FULLY LOADEDIn reviewing Herbie: Fully Loaded, Chicago Sun-Timescritic Roger Ebert makes what ordinarily would be considered an unpardonably sin for critics. He admits that he never saw The Love Bug, the original Disney film on which the sequel is based. He suggests that many adults probably won't be seeing this newest model either, writing, "The movie is pretty cornball. Little kids would probably enjoy it, but their older brothers and sisters will be rolling their eyes, and their parents will be using their iPods." Stephen Holden in the New York Times suggests it's difficult to write a serious review about such a film. It's "a perfectly silly movie for a silly season that in recent years has forgotten how to be this silly," he writes. And that may be the most favorable comment about the film. Ty Burr in the Boston Globesays that he found the movie "exactly as blandly noisy and inoffensively average as he thought it might be. So there's something to be said for lowering your expectations." Numerous critics refer to the large number of product-placement ads in the film, with Robert K. Elder writing in the Chicago Tribune: "The title Herbie: Fully Loaded perfectly describes the amount of product placements weighing down Disney's attempt to jump-start an old franchise. In an era when onscreen advertising is routine -- even unobtrusive when done well -- the makers of Herbie use every opportunity to stick a parade of Cheetos, Pepsi, Dupont, etc. in your face. Not only is this supremely distracting, but Disney's hyper-marketing even slows the dialogue as actors struggle to say such things as 'Nextel Cup Series' as if they're reading off cue cards held by stern-looking corporate lawyers."
MOVIE REVIEWS: BEWITCHED
Clearly the filmmakers behind Bewitchedhave bewitched a number of critics. A "surprisingly delightful rethink" is the way Jan Stuart describes it in Newsday. Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Daily Newswrites: "It might be going a bit far to use the word 'enchanting' when discussing Nora Ephron's frothy remake of the TV series Bewitched, but the movie is indisputably a cut above such rote efforts as The Honeymooners and Charlie's Angels Ephron's Bewitched actually contains ideas. Some work better than others, but there's enough originality and solid laughs here to call this a charmed effort." Nicole Kidman is receiving the kind of passionate praise for her performance in the movie that is usually reserved for actors appearing in "important" films. "It's pleasant just to watch Ms. Kidman float through the movie's sets like a visitor from another land," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times,adding, "She's as adorable as E.T., though her voice is as baby-breathy as that of Marilyn Monroe. ... The kittenish delivery adds a crucial softness, a sense of comfort, that doesn't come naturally to this actress." On the other hand, Ann Hornaday writes in the Washington Post: "Shocking as it is to say, Kidman -- who is usually a big part of what's right in her movies -- is a big part of what's wrong with Bewitched, which is a misfire in pretty much every other department, too." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post brands the movie as an "un-magical, unfunny and unromantic alleged comedy." And Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribuneconcludes that the new Bewitched is "bothered and bewildered, an uninspired misfire of a TV-series knockoff that, despite its great cast and smart filmmakers, never manages to scare up much magic."
MOVIE REVIEWS: LAND OF THE DEAD
Ordinarily studios don't even bother showing horror movies to critics in advance of their release. But director George A. Romero, who has become a virtual legend in the film business with such fright films as Night of the Living Deadand Dawn of the Dead,is obviously an exception, since he commands the kind of respect that other film makers of that genre only dream of. It's all evident in many of the reviews of his latest film, Land of the Dead. "The godfather of the modern zombie flick shows us how it's done right: With fleet pacing, well-timed shocks and a stealthy satiric edge," writes Gene Seymour in Newsday. David Hiltbrand in the Philadelphia Inquirer declares: "The zombie king ... returns with his most ingenious and ambitious zombie film yet." Bob Strauss in the Los Angeles Daily News hails the movie as "certainly the best-crafted film Romero has ever made." But Bob Longino in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution isn't about to accept Romero's credentials as a master filmmaker, writing: "Aside from the sick ick, there's really not too much 'master' going on here." And Steve Persall concludes in the St. Petersburg Times: "Romero originally planned a trilogy; this fourth movie takes us to the flesh trough one too many times."
WARNER BROS. SETTLES SUIT OVER DUKES OF HAZZARD MOVIE
After a federal judge last Friday granted a preliminary injunction that would have forced Warner Bros. to cancel its Aug. 5 release of The Dukes of Hazzard, the studio has settled a lawsuit filed by producer Robert B. Clark for an undisclosed sum. Clark had charged that when Warners bought TV rights to his 1975 film Moonrunners, on which the original Dukes of Hazzardseries was based, it did not also buy movie rights. In issuing injunctive relief last Friday, Judge Allen Feess remarked, "Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood that they will be able to prove at trial that they have an ownership interest in the Dukes of Hazzardfilm." Neither side would discuss the settlement outcome.
SALES OF TV SHOWS ON DVD SOAR
Sales of TV shows on DVD became a $2.8-billion business in America in 2004; in Western Europe, $2.1 billion. The figures were included in a study conducted by Adams Media research for the British trade publication Screen Digest. In its report about the study's results, Screen Digest commented, "In economic terms, this trend has been the equivalent for the Hollywood studios of striking oil in one's own backyard, as they discovered lucrative new vehicles for exploiting brands they already own."
PSP STORAGE DEVICE APPROVED
Add another format to the home video mix. Geneva-based ECMA International on Thursday approved Sony's UMD disc, used in the company's new PlayStation Portable device. Sony has shipped nearly three million PSP units to the U.S. On Thursday the company said that since PSP was introduced in the U.S. three months ago, 200,000 copies of movies for the PSP have been released.
SOUTHERN BAPTISTS RETURN TO DISNEYLAND
The removal of Michael Eisner as CEO of the Walt Disney Co., the departure of Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein, and the decision of the company to release several movies based on Christian-themed books have resulted in a decision by the Southern Baptist Church to end its 8-year boycott of the company. the decision was not without opposition, especially by Southern Baptists who oppose the company's policies toward homosexuals, such as health benefits to the same-sex partners of employees and allowing "gay days" at its theme parks.