STAR JONES GOES ON THE DEFENSE
Star Jones made the obligatory appearance on CNN's Larry King Live show Thursday night to explain that she decided to announce her departure from ABC's The View on Tuesday because executives of the show had already leaked the news to the press. She claimed that stacks of tabloids with word of her dismissal had piled outside her house "to the point where I couldn't even go outside and walk my dog." She said that on Tuesday morning she consulted her pastor. "We prayed, and I said Tuesday I'm going to tell what's going on, and I did." Jones maintained that she was told last April that she could leave on her own terms. "Actually the said, 'You can make up a story,' and, you know the audience didn't deserve me making up a story. That's not fair." Jones further denied ABC's claims that she had sold photographs of her wedding to Al Reynolds to People magazine or that she ever implied that her dramatic weight loss was the result of diet and exercise. Meanwhile, speculation has mounted that the dismissal of Jones could backfire. Writers have pointed out that The View producer Barbara Walters told the New York Times in April that "if Star wants to continue to be [on the show] she is welcome," after she selected Rosie O'Donnell, who had publicly attacked Jones, to replace Meredith Vieira. Walters has acknowledged that at the time she was aware that Jones's contract would not be renewed. Furthermore, when Jones made her surprise announcement on Tuesday, Walters remarked on the air, "Oh, how long are you going to be with us?" "This was not one of Barbara Walters' finest moments," Syracuse University's media commentator Robert Thompson told today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times. "The one person who can stabilize the equation is the one person who has done more harm than good." As of today, Jones is still featured on The View's website, complete with a picture of her before her weight loss, and despite the fact that she has been married for two years, the statement, "Ms. Jones is single and resides in New York City and East Hampton." On Thursday, One Life to Live costar Renée Elise Goldsberry substituted for Jones.

ABRAMS SHAKES THINGS UP AT MSNBC

MSNBC on Thursday announced wholesale changes in its primetime lineup that includes dropping its live talk shows at 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. and airing documentaries under the banner MSNBC Investigates in their place. The announcement was made by Dan Abrams, who was recently appointed general manager of the cable channel. He said that Rita Cosby, who currently hosts Live & Direct at 10:00 p.m., will become the primary anchor of the documentaries. Tucker Carlson, will be moved from the 11:00 p.m. hour to "early prime[time]," Abrams added, "taking the place of my show. ... The goal: to have him do a better show than I did."

PBS TO AIR CRONKITE TRIBUTE; RATHER A NO-SHOW

PBS plans to air a one-hour tribute to former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite on its American Masters series on July 26, with Katie Couric narrating, to celebrate his 90th birthday. The program, "Walter Cronkite: Witness to History," will feature interviews with a bevy of journalists including (in alphabetical order), Ben Bradlee, Tom Brokaw, David Frost, David Halberstam, Molly Ivins, Robert MacNeil, Bill Moyers, Andy Rooney, Morley Safer, Daniel Schorr, Lesley Stahl, Helen Thomas, Mike Wallace and Barbara Walters. Conspicuously absent from the list is Dan Rather, who succeeded Cronkite as anchor of the CBS Evening News. The New York Post said today (Friday) that Rather had refused to be interviewed for the documentary, quoting Catherine Tatge, who wrote, directed and produced the program, as saying, "I'm very sorry to say he declined twice. ... It's really a shame. I really tried, and I really am sorry because everyone else [said yes] and I've got an amazing group of people. They're all there, and everyone was very happy to do this." There have been numerous accounts over the year that after Cronkite stepped down as anchor of the nightly news program, Rather maneuvered to keep him off the network for good. It was not known whether such an account was to be included in the PBS documentary.

HDNET TO TELEVISION SPACE SHUTTLE LAUNCH IN HIGH-DEFINITION

The high-definition channel HDNet plans to use 14 cameras, set up at various locations at the Kennedy Space Center, to cover the launch of the space shuttle Discovery on Saturday. In a news release, the channel said that it had been given "behind-the-scenes access to the astronauts as they suit up and board the shuttle." The program will be hosted by former ABC-TV correspondent Greg Dobbs. In a statement, Mark Cuban, chairman and president of HDNet, said, "Being able to watch a shuttle launch in high definition, with its advanced resolution, sound and widescreen picture is an experience like no other -- and we're proud to continue providing this 'on the launch pad' experience for our viewers."

SPIKE TV DRAWS RECORD RATINGS FOR BLADE: THE SERIES

Spike TV attracted its biggest audience ever Wednesday with the two-hour premier of Blade: The Series. According to Nielsen Research, the drama, which stars Kirk "Sticky" Jones in the Wesley Snipes movie role, drew 2.5 million viewers and outdrew a rerun of ABC's Lost (which recorded its worst ratings). It is rare for any cable TV show to attract more viewers than a broadcast-TV competitor in primetime.

WB NETWORK PLANS ITS OWN FUNERAL

The WB network plans to sign off on Sept. 17 by airing pilots of some of its biggest hits, including Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Felicity and Dawson's Creek. According to Daily Variety, it also plans to air promos from its 11-year history and clips of some of the actors who have appeared on its shows over the years. The trade publication observed that such a farewell for a network is "unprecedented." The only other network ever to shut down, the Dumont network, did so in 1956 -- again after an 11-year run. Few recordings of its programs even exist today. In 1996, actress Edie Adams, widow of comedian Ernie Kovacs, testified that virtually none of her late husband's early programs exist. She recalled that there had been a dispute over who was to pay for storing the programs that did exist on so-called kinescope recordings. The dispute, she said, was settled when they were loaded onto trucks, driven to a waiting barge, which "made a right at the Statue of Liberty and dumped them in the upper New York Bay."

DID PELLICANO DITCH PHONE TAPES?
When FBI men searched Anthony Pellicano's office in November 2002, they neglected to examine his audio equipment, which might have been used for wiretapping, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Friday), citing court documents. Indeed, the newspaper observed, the FBI waited almost two months following the search to seize computers and other items in the lab, during which time Pellicano could have removed any potentially incriminating evidence. In an interview with the Times, former federal prosecutor Orin Kerr, a "cybercrimes" specialist, commented, "The bottom line is it's hard to tell whether this was a missed opportunity or poor judgment."

HOW HIGH DID SUPERMAN REALLY FLY?

Rival studios were claiming Thursday that Warner Bros. overestimated the opening-day gross of Superman Returns by more than $2 million, according to L.A. Weekly columnist Nikke Fink. Fink also reported that Warner Bros. is rushing to "retool" its marketing campaign in an effort to "stem the gay buzz surrounding" the movie. "As late as this week," Fink wrote, "new TV ads transformed [star Brandon] Routh from doe-eyed softie to macho techno-man of steel, borrowing heavily from other comic-books successes like Spider-Man and X-Men in its look and feel." In any case, Superman Returns is expected to exceed $100 million by the end of the July 4th holiday.

EXHIBITORS GET A GLIMPSE OF NEW BOND

Sony has previewed 20 minutes of scenes from its upcoming 007 thriller Casino Royale at the annual Cine Expo convention in Amsterdam, an international gathering of film exhibitors. Daily Variety reported today (Friday) that the footage showed Daniel Craig, the new James Bond, "as a grittier Bond, with scenes of more intense, visceral hand-to-hand combat than 007 has tackled in recent [pictures]."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA

They're positioning The Devil Wears Prada, starring Meryl Streep, as the adult (mostly female adult) alternative to Superman Returns. Most critics agree that Streep's performance significantly overpowers Brandon Routh's as the Man of Steel. Gene Seymour in Newsday describes Miranda, a fashion magazine queen, as a "silken terror, releasing her condescension and invective with the measured malice of a professional killer," as Streep portrays her. Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer concludes, "Streep dominates the movie in the great comic performance of her career." Jennifer Frey in the Washington Post observes that despite the thin plot of the movie, "Streep makes it work. Streep makes it fun." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News describes one scene in which Streep's character Miranda is caught without makeup. "It's a prototypical Oscar moment in which Streep plays the kind of stunned composure that suggests a stricken Queen Elizabeth, only with cooler clothes, more power and better-looking children." As for the movie itself, Rick Groen comments in the Toronto Globe & Mail: "This is a breezy and enjoyable piece of pop entertainment -- a welcome reminder of what Hollywood used to be good at." Across town at the Toronto Star, Peter Howell concludes: "The Devil Wears Prada is an awards season attraction that somehow escaped into the temperate months of the super and the silly, all the more reason to applaud its audacity." But Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal regards the film as lacking, surprise, "emotional extravagance" and "simple zestful fun." And Claudia Puig in USA Today concludes her review by writing: "This skewering of the world of couture is simply not juicy enough."