REALITY SINKS One week before the debut of a new Bachelorseries, a survey indicates that four out of five television viewers feel that there are too many reality dating programs in particular. A poll of 1,000 adults by global research firm Ipsos-Insight concluded that, in general, viewers have become "overwhelmed" by the growing number of reality shows, with 67 percent complaining that there are too many of them. "Reality TV remains a major force in television and a huge pop phenomenon, no matter what the culture critics say. But the category is awfully crowded and viewers are picking the winners and zapping the losers without mercy," said Lynne Bartos, a senior analyst with Ipsos-Insight.
MARTHA: THE REALITY SHOW
CBS confirmed Monday that it plans to air a new reality series to find the next Martha Stewart. Although Stewart's name was not mentioned in its announcement, the network said that the show would be looking for "America's next domestic diva (or dude)" with contestants competing in such areas as "gardening, cooking, baking, sewing, crafts, floral arranging and decorating." A decision has not been made about who will host the show, when it will be launched, or what the prize will be.
SOUTH PARK TO OFFER "THE PASSION OF THE JEW"
The controversy over Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ spills over into Comedy Central Wednesday night when South Parkoffers an episode titled The Passion of the Jew. A news release issued by the Viacom-owned channel on Monday described the episode this way: "After weeks of pressure from Cartman, Kyle finally sees The Passion and, much to Cartman's delight, is forced to admit that he has been right all along. Inspired by Kyle's change of heart and a powerful love for Mel Gibson, Cartman incites many of the film's hardcore fans to band together and carry out its message. Meanwhile, Stan and Kenny also see the movie and embark upon a quest to find Mel Gibson."
LENO GETS A BIG PAY RAISE
Jay Leno has reportedly reupped with NBC for another five years at $27 million a year -- a steep boost from his current annual salary, believed to be about $17 million. If the figure is confirmed, it would narrow the salary gap between him and his CBS rival David Letterman, who earns about $31 million a year. Leno regularly trounces Letterman in the ratings. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) New York Times, Leno declined to confirm the amount of his raise but added: "I don't need the money. If you can't live on what I make there's something wrong with you."
ARKIN TO TAKE OVER RITTER'S ROLE?
Adam Arkin, one of the stars of Chicago Hopeand most recently seen as a regular on the shortlived Baby Bob,has been cast in the final three episodes of this season's ABC comedy 8 Simple Rules,as Katey Sagal's new romantic interest, TV Guide Online reported Monday. Spurring speculation that he may become the late John Ritter's replacement on the show, the publication indicated that Arkin is due to return to the show next season.
THE F-WORD IS HEARD AGAIN
Apparently someone was asleep at the switch Friday night on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live, and although it airs on a five-second tape delay, the F-word got on the air on the East Coast. In an interview with Chris Farney, the burly Harley salesman who is suing Richard Simmons for slapping him at the Phoenix airport last week, the guest used the verboten word twice. His second use of the word was duly bleeped for the East Coast broadcast and both instances were bleeped for the delayed broadcasts on the West Coast. The network issued a statement Wednesday saying "the broadcast of this word violates the standards that we have in place on JKL. We sincerely apologize to our audience and to our affiliates for the mistake." (The mistake was not repeated on Monday when Janet Jackson appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. When Letterman remarked that to some it looked as if her breast-baring during the Super Bowl halftime show was planned, she exclaimed, "Oh, Jesus!" Her words were bleeped.)
BROADCASTING PIONEER ALISTAIR COOKE DEAD AT 95
Alistair Cooke, who pioneered the television magazine format as host of Omnibusfrom 1952-1961 (it aired on each of the major networks) and later went on to host PBS's Masterpiece Theatre for 22 years, has died in New York at the age of 95. He had been heard on the BBC's Letter From Americafor 58 years, airing his final commentary on Feb. 20. POOH HEIRS: OH, BOTHER! The Walt Disney Co., mired in controversy over management issues and facing a shareholders revolt, finally got some good news Monday as a Los Angeles judge threw out a case brought against it by the heirs of Stephen Slesinger, holders of the Winnie the Pooh rites, a case that has plodded through the judicial system for more than 13 years. In his ruling, Superior Court Judge Charles McCoy Jr. agreed that the Slesinger plaintiffs had stolen Disney documents, representing "a substantial threat to the integrity of the judicial process" and misconduct that required "decisive, effective and stern sanctions." The plaintiffs had admitted removing documents pertaining to the case from trash dumpsters located outside the Disney studio lot. But the judge appeared convinced that a private investigator that the plaintiffs had hired also retrieved documents from inside the studio and from the premises of a trash hauler that shredded Disney's business documents. At one point he remarked that the Slesingers' detective "does not impress the court as a person who considers himself constrained by trespass laws." The Slesingers vowed to appeal, saying, "This decision unfortunately sends a strong message to corporate America that it is OK for companies like Disney to steal and renege on its contractual promises and just fine to destroy a million pages of evidence along the way."
HOLLYWOOD VIDEO SOLD FOR $888 MILLION
Hollywood Video, the nation's second largest video chain behind Blockbuster, is being acquired by an alliance composed of Los Angeles buyout firm Leonard Green & Partners and the video chain's founder, Mark Wattles. They have agreed to pay $14 a share for the company -- about $888 million. The sale comes at a time when the video chains are facing increasing competition from DVD sales, Internet downloading, and DVD mail-order operators. But Tom Adams, president of Adams Media Research in Carmel, told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times, "The worst is over as far as the impact of sales on rentals." And John Baumer of Leonard Green noted that the shake-out in the business had in fact created the opportunity to buy the company, especially given the fact that just five years ago, stock in the company was trading for $25 a share.
SCOOBY DOESN'T DOO AS WELL AS HOPED
Warner Brothers' Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed earned $29.4 million at the box office over the weekend, well below the $54.2 million taken in by the original in its debut and $1.3 million below the estimate released by Exhibitor Relations on Sunday. Disney's The Lady Killersdebuted in second place with $12.6 million, but, since it opened in fewer than half the theaters showing SD2, its per-theater average was almost the same as the box office leader. Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ moved down a notch to third place with$12.6 million. The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):1. Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Warner Bros., $29,438,331, (New); 2. The Ladykillers, Disney, $12,634,563, (New); 3. The Passion of the Christ, Newmarket , $12,593,974, 5 Wks. ($315,152,778); 4. Dawn of the Dead, Universal, $10,675,945, 2 Wks. ($44,220,945); 5. Jersey Girl, Miramax, $8,319,171, (New); 6. Taking Lives, Warner Bros., $6,557,426, 2 Wks. ($21,717,105); 7. Starsky & Hutch, Warner Bros., $6,212,223, 4 Wks. ($76,821,982); 8. Hidalgo, Disney, $5,336,874, 4 Wks. ($56,428,037); 9. Secret Window, Sony, $5,314,008, 3 Wks. ($40,570,505); 10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Focus Features, $5,256,206, 2 Wks. ($16,551,047).
PASSION HAS RECORD DEBUT IN U.K.
Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christopened in first place at the U.K. box office over the weekend with $3.7 million. It was the most ever earned by a subtitled film in Britain during an opening weekend. British reports indicated that the film had originally been booked for only two weeks but that it is now likely that it will receive an extended stay. Meanwhile, A Paris court on Monday refused to bar the screening of The Passion of the Christ, due to open in France on Wednesday, turning aside complaints by three Jewish brothers that the film is anti-Semitic. "The film in question, which is a very realistic adaptation of the final hours of Christ's life, cannot be considered an incitement to hatred and violence against Jews or an affront to their dignity and security," the court said.
JACK BLACK HIRED FOR LEADING ROLE IN KING KONG
Producer-director Peter Jackson has selected Jack Black to star in his remake of King Kong as the filmmaker-entrepreneur who captures the giant ape and brings him to New York as a freak-show attraction. The role was originally played by Robert Armstrong in the 1933 original and by Charles Grodin in the 1976 remake (although the character's name was changed and he became an oil executive).
NEW HEAD OF L.A. FILM BODY APPOINTED
Four months after Cody Cluff was forced out of the presidency of the Los Angeles Entertainment Industry Development Corp, the EIDC's board of directors has selected Steve MacDonald, Mayor James Hahn's deputy in the San Fernando Valley, to take over as president. The EIDC is described as a one-stop office for producers to receive the various permits necessary for location filming in the city. Some local residents and business owners have complained that production companies often disrupt their lives and adversely affect their income. Lisa Rawlins, chairman of the EIDC board, told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times that the board selected MacDonald because they were impressed with his "ability to manage the needs of the city with the needs of the business community" as deputy mayor.
INDIE FILMMAKERS REACH SETTLEMENT WITH STUDIOS OVER SCREENERS
A coalition of independent filmmaker groups that succeeded in obtaining an injunction against the MPAA preventing it from enforcing a ban on movie screeners in advance of the Oscars has agreed to dismiss its suit against the major studios after reaching a settlement. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. The indie group had maintained that the screener ban represented an illegal restraint of trade because it put smaller filmmakers at a disadvantage to the big studios. In a statement on Monday, MPAA chief Jack Valenti said, "Let us be clear that our aim from the beginning was to ensure the viability and survival of this industry -- for independents and non-independents alike." But the members of the coalition warned that should the MPAA attempt a similar tactic in the future, "we will continue to stand ready to act again, if necessary, to preserve a free and fair marketplace."