IDOL REMAINS UNBEATABLEFox's two episodes of American Idollast week once again captured the top two spots on the Nielsen ratings list and gave Fox a victory for the week among adults 18-49. CBS, however, remained the overall ratings champ. Indeed, each network had something to cheer about. ABC, for example, could boast that its Grey's Anatomyhad risen to No. 3 on the ratings list and its American Inventordebuted at No. 15. CBS could shout that two new shows, The Unitand Old Christine, had cracked the top ten. NBC finally appeared to have a genuine hit with he game show Deal or No Deal, with the Monday edition placing 11th on the list. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:1. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 18.5/27; 2. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 16.3/25; 3. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 13.2/22; 4. CSI: Miami, CBS, 12.3/20; 5. NCIS, CBS, 11.1/17; 6. The Unit, CBS, 110./16; 7. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 10.8/16; 8.60 Minutes, CBS, 10.0/16; 9. Old Christine, CBS, 9.7/15; 10. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, ABC, 9.5/15.


Two major cable-TV operators that also own several cable networks are refusing to sign deals that would allow those networks to be carried by Verizon's new video service, Daily Varietyreported today (Wednesday). The two are Comcast, which owns E! Entertainment, Outdoor Life, the Golf Channel and several regional sports networks, and Cablevision, which owns AMC, WE, IFC, the MSG sports network and Fox Sports New York. According to the trade publication, the two cable giants are concerned that their cable systems will lose customers to Verizon if their channels are carried by the phone company's Fios fiber-optic TV service.

IDOL-PREDICTING SITE RETURNS, the website that predicted with striking accuracy which American Idolcontestants were likely to get the boot, returned Tuesday, one week after charging that the show's producers, FremantleMedia, had threatened it with a lawsuit. Jim Hellriegel, who had shut down the sight and appealed for free legal representation, said that his new lawyer had assured him that Fremantle had "no case" against him. He indicated that he had removed the American Idollogo and had made "other cosmetic changes" to his website in response to Fremantle's threat "but other than that DialIdol is still the same old website."


TV columnists were speculating today (Wednesday) about how South Parkcreators Trey Parker and Matt Stone would handle tonight's scheduled episode, titled "The Return of Chef." A publicity notice released by the network said that although the South Parkcharacters are happy "to have their old friend back, they notice that something about Chef seems different. When Chef's strange behavior starts getting him in trouble, the boys pull out all the stops to save him." In the past, Chef has been voiced by Isaac Hayes. In a statement last week, Hayes indicated that he had pulled out of the show because of an episode that lampooned Scientology. But rumor has spread that Hayes may have been forced to release the statement, possibly, in part, because of health reasons. The New York Daily Newsspeculated today that the producers may have used existing dialogue from Hayes that aired in previous episodes to create tonight's episode. And the Seattle Timessuggested that Parker and Stone plan to use it as another salvo against Scientology.


A CBS News cameraman who had been scheduled to go on trial today (Wednesday) on charges that he aided Iraqi insurgents will have to wait until April 5 for the proceedings to begin, CBS Baghdad bureau chief Larry Doyle said Tuesday. Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, an Iraqi national, has been held in Abu Ghraib prison for nearly a year since he was wounded by U.S. forces as he covered clashes in Mosul last April. On Tuesday, Ann Cooper, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said, "The handling of this case has been alarming. It's unacceptable that Hussein was held without charge or due process for so long." IN-THEATER ADS: A BANE TO PATRONS, A BOON TO THEATERSAlthough in-theater advertising is frequently cited as one of the reasons for the fall in movie attendance, such advertising is growing at the rate of 15 percent per year and will continue to do so through 2008, according to a ZenithOptimedia study cited in today's (Wednesday) New York Post.Part of the reason, the newspaper observed, is that advertisers are being forced to compete for a limited amount of on-screen time, typicallly less than 25 minutes, before the start of a movie. Matthew Kearney, CEO of Screenvision, which has deals that include more than 14,000 screens, told the Postthat a typical ad deal these days is likely to be worth "north of $10 million."


The Denver Public Library on Tuesday became the first library to allow patrons to download movies and television programs over the Internet to their PCs or portable media players, Home Media Retailingmagazine reported. The initial films made available by the library online are limited to a few classic films, including Fellini's 8 1/2, Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief,and D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation. The software is timed to void the movies after the lending period is over. The Denver library's Michelle Jeske said, "Downloadable video gives our patrons 24/7 online access to exceptional films and allows [us] to have this type of format without the space, handling, and damage issued normally associated with DVDs and tapes."


A Los Angeles screenwriter is claiming that the Department of Homeland Security has informed him that he may not use the agency's name "or any of the Department's official visual identities" in the script for his film, Lady Magdalene, despite the fact that the film presents a positive image of the DHS. The writer, J. Neil Schulman, said Tuesday that he had received a notice from Bobbie Faye Ferguson, director of the NHS's office of multimedia, informing him that his "project does not fit within the DHS mission and that it is not something we can participate in." In response, Schulman wrote to Ferguson that he had already received assistance from a special agent of the NHS's air marshal service while he was preparing his screenplay and that the agency's notice to him now represents a violation of his First Amendment rights. "Merely the claim that you have the power to restrict such official images is chilling to the process of writing and producing a movie -- and certainly to an independent film in pre-production with a start date for principal photography only six weeks away," Schulman wrote.


Stephen Fry, who plays a talk-show host in the new film V for Vendetta has told a real-life British talk show host that the makers of the movie were able to stage scenes of terrorist attacks on government buildings in London with the help of the 22-year-old son of Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had been hired as an assistant runner on the film. In an interview with Michael Parkinson, Fry said that he learned that Euan Blair was working on the film from an assistant director. "I said, 'How did you get permission -- you usually can't get permission to do anything anywhere near seats of government? You know, the secret service and various other people don't like it, plus civil servants don't like it.'" At that moment, Fry said, the assistant director pointed out young Blair. "And I said, 'Ah, that's how we got there.' "Daddy, daddy, can you please let them have permission to film?"'" A moment later, Fry added slyly, "No, I'm sure there was nothing like that."