THURSDAY NOW BELONGS TO CBS
CBS overwhelmed NBC on Thursday -- what NBC used to call Must-See-TV night -- as it won every primetime half hour in the overall ratings, averaging a staggering 16.1 rating and a 23 share to NBC's 12.7/19. CBS also beat its chief rival in younger demographics with an 8.5/22 to NBC's 7.6/20. The top-rated show of the night was CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which scored a 19.2/27 at 9:00 p.m. The crime drama Without a Trace rose to a 15.7/24 at 10:00 p.m. against Pt. 2 of the NBC documentary Princess Diana: The Secret Tapes, with fell to an 11.8/18 in E.R.'s usual time slot.

AN ABC COMEBACK? NOT LIKELY, SAY ANALYSTS

Some analysts are giving short shrift to claims by Disney executives that ABC will make a financial comeback soon. Dead last in the ratings among the four major networks, ABC has yet to mount a hit show, relying on news shows, sports telecasts and specials to boost its numbers during sweeps months. The result, said media analyst Michael Gallant of CIBC World Markets, is that the network will act as a drain on Disney profits. "We believe Disney is likely to come in $200 million to $250 million short of its stated goal to bring ABC to break-even in fiscal 2005," Gallant said in a report. As reported by today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times, Gallant wrote that ABC will fall 9 percent below the audience level promised to advertisers, forcing it to provide "make goods" worth about $110 million. The problem, Gallant further noted, will spill into next season, since advertisers will be unwilling to gamble in the upfront season that ABC will be able to achieve its ratings goals.

THE HOUSES PASSES THE "ANTI-BOOB BILL"

By an overwhelming vote of 391-22, the House of Representatives on Thursday approved new legislation that would boost the fines that can be imposed on television and radio stations for airing "indecent" material. The legislation was triggered by Janet Jackson's breast-baring performance during the Super Bowl halftime show. Under it, the FCC is empowered to impose fines of up to $500,000 for airing "obscene, indecent or profane material." The commission could also fine entertainers for violating its indecency standards. Today's (Friday) New York Tmes quoted Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Pits as saying: "For too long, we have told the entertainment industry that the federal government is unwilling to hold them accountable for their actions. ... Today, we are saying, Enough is enough."

JANET'S "CONCERT" TO BE TAPE-DELAYED

ABC said today (Friday) that it will use a five-second tape delay when it broadcasts a live "concert" appearance by Janet Jackson on Good Morning America later this month (an exact date has not been set). Jackson's appearance on the ABC morning program was reportedly scheduled several months ago, before the Super Bowl incident.

CBS RECORDS 15 YEARS AT NUMBER-ONE (IN DAYTIME)

CBS on Thursday chalked up 780 consecutive weeks -- 15 years -- as the ratings leader in daytime. In a statement, CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves said: "Getting to Number One is no small feat -- staying there for 15 years is nothing short of phenomenal. This accomplishment is a tremendous source of pride to the network. We extend our gratitude to all the talented performers, writers, producers, craftsman and staff who made this unprecedented winning streak possible." Last week, the network aired the top three daytimers: The Price Is Right, The Young and the Restless, and a second edition of The Price Is Right,

CRONKITE CLAIMS HE WAS UNDERMINED AT CBS

Although it has been widely reported that Walter Cronkite was forced to leave The CBS Evening News in 1981 because corporate policy at the time called for mandatory retirement at the age of 65, Cronkite has told the New York society publication Avenue Magazine that he stepped down voluntarily. "All I was trying to do was get out of daily journalism; I'd been in it since I was 20 years old," he said. However, he indicated, at the time he still expected to remain on the air, fronting news specials for the network. Unfortunately, he added, CBS News President Van Gordon Sauter, "in cahoots with" Dan Rather's manager, "felt that any presence of mine on the air would diminish the possibilities of Dan getting his own following -- which may have been true." Cronkite said that the network never called on his services again but kept renewing his contract, presumably to keep him from jumping to another network.

BRAT CAMP BEATS CSI IN U.K.

The debut of Brat Camp , a four-part British reality series that follows six troubled British teenagers who are sent off to a tough American wilderness camp in Utah, turned out to be a surprise hit on the Channel 4 network Tuesday night as it attracted an average audience of 3.56 million, well above the 2.77 million that watched the hit U.S. drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in the same time period. (CSI's audience was down 22 percent from the previous week.) The RedCliff Ascent puts teenagers through the rigors of a Marine boot camp aimed at helping them "put life in perspective and to deal with the issues and problems that currently govern their existence."

STREISAND RETURNS!
No doubt inspiring a chorus of was-this-the-best-she's-been-offered? comments, reports emerged today that Barbra Streisand will appear in Universal's Meet the Fockers, playing Ben Stiller's mother in the sequel to his 2000 hit Meet the Parents. It will mark Streisand's return to the screen after an absence of more than eight years (1996's The Mirror Has Two Faces). (During that time she has reportedly rejected a number of high-profile roles, including one in Chicago; she also was reportedly asked to direct the movie.) Shortly after Dustin Hoffman was cast to play Stiller's father, Stiller was asked on Access Hollywood whom he wanted to play his mother. "My dream is Barbra Streisand,'' he said. Teri Polo will reprise her role as Stiller's fiancée, while Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner will return as her parents.

PIZZA AND CONVENIENCE STORES SELLING DVD'S IN TEST MARKETS

Convenience stores like 7-Eleven outlets and pizza-delivery stores like the Papa John's chain have turned out to be ideal spots to sell EZ-D videos, the disposable DVDs that become unreadable 48 hours after they are removed from their packaging, Video Store Magazine reported Thursday. The trade publication said that Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment plans to expand its test of the discs into Phoenix, San Antonio, Denver and the entire state of Florida. The discs are currently being sold in Austin, Peoria, Charleston, and some Internet sites. BVHE also said it will drop its suggested retail price from $6.99 to $5.99.

NEW DISNEY CHAIRMAN PROCLAIMS INDEPENDENCE

Recently elected Walt Disney Co. Chairman George Mitchell indicated Thursday that he does not intend to become CEO Michael Eisner's rubber stamp and will take an active role in representing shareholders' interests. His advancement to chairman, he said, "isn't just a change of title." The former Maine senator told a Washington D.C. seminar that the Disney board has already instituted numerous significant changes. "The board and its processes have been completely transformed," he maintained, while suggesting that shareholders may not be fully aware of what efforts have been made to hold Disney's management accountable. "At Disney, we heard the concerns of our shareholders. ... It is taking time for the perception to catch up to reality," he said.

CRITIC SAYS HE'S BEING CRUCIFIED BY READERS OVER PASSION REVIEW

The lead critic of the Toronto Star said today (Friday) that he has been deluged by hate mail and telephone calls denouncing him for his negative review of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ but, in the end, forgiving him for his sin. Under a photograph of the marquee of a Pentecostal Church emblazoned recently with the title of a pastor's sermon -- "The Jews Killed Jesus" -- critic Geoff Pevere said that the response, mostly from filmgoers who regarded Gibson's presentation as "truth," did convince him of its "undeniably impressive power as a pop culture phenomenon." He went on to write: "In these days of carefully engineered mass-culture mediocrity, anything that unleashes this kind of response compels a certain degree of attention and respect."

MOVIE REVIEWS: SECRET WINDOW

Riding a wave of publicity and good will following his Oscar-nominated performance in Pirates of the Caribbean, Johnny Depp is receiving strong notices for his role in the thriller Secret Window. "Johnny Depp has emerged as the world's coolest actor," comments John Anderson in Newsday. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times writes that "he brings a musing eccentricity to an otherwise straightforward role. ... His hair seems to have been combed with an eggbeater, but of course with Johnny Depp, you never know if that's the character or the actor." Megan Lehmann in the New York Post calls his performance "witty and inventive" and notes that the movie "leans heavily on Depp's eccentric charm, as the actor is alone on-screen for much of the film." The film itself gets mixed notices. Elvis Mitchell in the New York Times comments that Depp's performance "is the highlight of the underwhelming Secret Window ... a suspense thriller whose only suspense comes from an audience wondering if the picture will hit its promised 97-minute running time." Similarly, Desson Thomson comments in the Washington Post: "Depp's cool presence and quirky mannerisms are the only thing to keep your eyelids from shutting down like Venetian blinds." Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe dismisses it as a "jokey, junky potboiler." Peter Howell, in the Toronto Star concludes: "The movie has lots of Depp but very little depth."

MOVIE REVIEWS: AGENT CODY BANKS 2: DESTINATION LONDON

Joel Siegel of Good Morning America is clearly impressed by Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London -- but for all the wrong reasons. Appearing on this morning's edition of the show, he remarked: "Far as I can tell, this movie set a major studio record. 14 producers. And I don't think one of 'em was interested in making a good film." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post warns parents that the movie, which again stars Malcolm in the Middle's Frankie Muñiz "is far worse than you'd expect from a quickie sequel to a bad movie, even one that should have been shipped straight to video." Once again, however, Kevin Thomas in the Los Angeles Times, swims against the tide of most critical opinion by concluding: "When so much of what passes for comedy these days is crass and heavy-handed, it's gratifying to discover something as blithe-spirited as the Agent Cody Banks movies and an actor as likably unpretentious as the gifted Frankie Muñiz."

MOVIE REVIEWS: SPARTAN

Val Kilmer has clearly not been one of the critics' favorite actors of late. But David Mamet is certainly one of their favorite writers. And, in the case of Spartan, writing clearly trumps acting. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times gives it a four-star review, writing that Mamet "works like a magician who uses words instead of cards ... who gets you all involved in his story about the King, the Queen and the Jack, while the whole point is that there's a rabbit in your pocket." Eric Harrison in the Houston Chronicle puts it this way: "Both [Mamet] and his characters specialize in sleights-of-hand. Nothing is as it seems." And A. O. Scott in the New York Times offers a similar metaphor, writing that Mamet's script "is a vigorous and engrossing genre exercise that manages the difficult trick of being both logically meticulous and genuinely surprising." Washington Post critic Desson Thomson even has some kind words for Kilmer, who, he writes, "seems to be making a positive mid-course correction in his career." But Lou Lumenick in the New York Post writes that while the film starts out promisingly it quickly sinks. Part of the problem, he says, is Kilmer's "monotonous performance" and his inability "to give the playwright's distinctive dialogue the kind of staccato delivery it requires to work."