Dan Rather tonight (Wednesday) will be saying his final goodbye as anchor of the CBS Evening Newsto a far different audience than the one he signed on with 24 years ago when he replaced Walter Cronkite, several TV analysts are observing today (Wednesday). Younger viewers have abandoned not only his program but the other two network news programs en masse, they noted. The average news viewer is now 60 years old. Rather's program has been hit the hardest, losing 10.8 percent of its audience in just the past year. Most of the younger viewers have defected to the Internet and John Stewart, analysts suggest. Jack Shafer, a columnist for the online Slatemagazine, commented: "One reason behind the evening news fade is that it's still scheduled for an era when moms stayed at home and cooked for dad, who didn't have a long commute. How many 30-year-olds do you know who would watch the evening news at 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. if you paid them?" Meanwhile, Rather himself is the subject of a warts-and-all retrospective that CBS plans to air tonight. In it, he addresses the "Memogate" debacle this way: "Too much passion melded to loving the work can lead to making mistakes. ... We should have been more rigorous in estimating the legitimacy of the documents. I regret every nanosecond when I let anybody at CBS News down and even more when I let the audience down. It's painful to me."


ABC scored some impressive ratings last week as its Sunday TV movie, Their Eyes Were Watching God,produced the best numbers for any made-for-TV movie on any network in nearly six years, and the finale of NYPD Blue went out in a blaze of glory, returning to the top ten for the first time in years. Still, the ever-struggling network wound up in third place in the overall ratings, weighted down by dreadful performances by such shows as 8 Simple Rules (71st place), Less Than Perfect (73), a repeat of the movie Jerry Maguire (82), and Extreme Makeover (84), The most-watched show of the week was Fox's Tuesday edition of American Idol, drawing 26.9 million viewers. (In a ratings anomaly, explained by the fact that more viewers watch TV on Sunday night than on Tuesday, Idolplaced second to the ABC movie, which attracted 24.6 million.) Idol also dominated on Wednesday night (and finished fourth for the week) and on Monday (fifth). Nevertheless, CBS garnered the highest weekly average, a 7.6 rating and a 12 share. NBC was a close second with a 7.4/11. ABC placed third with a 7.0/11, while Fox trailed with a 6.3/9.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. ABC Premiere Event: Their Eyes Were Watching God, ABC, 15.9/25; 2. American Idol(Tuesday), Fox, 15.7/23; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 15.5/23; 4. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 14.4/21; 5. American Idol(Monday), Fox, 13.5/20; 6. Survivor: Palau, CBS, 12.7/20; 7. Law & Order: Trial by Jury, NBC, 11.6/19; 8. Lost, ABC, 11.3/18; 9. NYPD Blue, ABC, 10.4/17; 10. Cold Case, CBS, 10.0/15; 10.Medium, NBC, 10.0/16.


American Idol

drew just about the same number of viewers Tuesday night as it did last week, according to overnight Nielsens. The talent show posted a 15.7/24 to lead Fox to another Tuesday victory. The debut of Blind Justicein the NYPD Blueslot at 10:00 p.m. on ABC scored an 8.1/13 -- better than Blue's average and second to NBC's Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,which recorded a 10.1/17.


The judge in the Michael Jackson trial is expected to hold a hearing today (Wednesday) on whether Jay Leno is subject to a gag order barring potential witnesses from commenting publicly on the case. Jackson's lawyers have said that they plan to ask the judge to affirm that Leno is subject to the order. In papers filed with the court, they wrote: "Mr. Leno is an accomplished entertainer and, usually, a genuinely funny man. However, while the prosecution of Michael Jackson might be a convenient source of material, it is hardly crucial commentary on important political or social issues." In recent broadcasts of The Tonight Show, Leno has called in Brad Garrett (of Everybody Loves Raymond), CNBC talk show host Dennis Miller, and Roseanne Barr to pinch-hit for him during a segment of his monologue devoted to the Jackson trial."


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is considering restoring an Emmy award for best new television program and move several other awards to the creative arts Emmy ceremony, which is not televised, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, citing a source close to the academy. The wire service observed that the new program award was abandoned in 1974. Among the awards that might be shifted to the non-televised ceremonies are several for movies and miniseries, including writing, directing and supporting actor and actress. "What's behind this is the resentment of broadcast networks losing the movie categories to cable," Tom O'Neil, author of The Emmys,told A.P. "This is an awards show paid for by the broadcast networks, which lose the majority of movie categories to HBO. This is their revenge." A spokeswoman for the academy said that any reports of changes "are highly speculative."


Many theater chains have rejected Mel Gibson's recut version of The Passion of the Christ because it is being rereleased without a rating and because the original is available on DVD, the Hollywood Reporterreported today (Wednesday). Some of the more intensely violent scenes of the movie have been removed in hopes of attracting a younger audience with a PG-13 ratings. Nevertheless, the MPAA gave the new version an R rating, which Gibson rejected. In a statement on his website,, Gibson says: "Some of you felt the intensity of the film was prohibitive (to some people). I listened to that, and it inspired me to recut the film to cater to those people who might not have seen it because of its intensity or brutality. Indeed I have softened it somewhat. It's still a hard film. I maintained the integrity of the film that I wanted to make yet alleviated some of the horrific aspects of it." Terrell Falk of the Cinemark chain told the Reporter: "We have a policy against playing unrated films. Even though we did quite well with it the first time around, we will not play it now." Regal Theaters, which recently settled a lawsuit with Gibson's Icon Productions, said it also will not play the movie. Century Theatres is also considering not playing it. The trade publication reported that Loews Cineplex and AMC will screen it but plan to enforce the R rating.


Sony shareholders in the U.S. became cautious Tuesday after sending shares in the company to a 52-week high of $42.70 on the NYSE on Monday, following the announcement that the company had named Howard Stringer, who has been overseeing the company's U.S. operations, to head the entire company. Shares of the company on the NYSE were off about 1 percent on Tuesday and an additional 1 percent at midday trading today (Wednesday). Today's Wall Street Journalobserved that some investors were concerned about Stringer's lack of experience in running an electronics company. "I don't think there's much he can do," Hajime Yagi of Meiji Dresdner Asset Management Co. in Tokyo told today's (Wednesday) Wall Street Journal. "Mr. Stringer is a media guy and Sony's brand premium is all wrapped up in hardware."


After more than 60 years, Donald Roan Dunagan has revealed that he was the facial model and the voice of Walt Disney's Bambi. Dunagan, who was seven years old when he was hired by Disney -- and who agreed to appear in the "extras" package of the current DVD "Platinum Edition" of Bambi -- has told the Florence, AL Times Daily that he kept his role secret in order to maintain his image as a career officer in the U.S Marine Corps. "I would not have made it [in the military] ... with the nickname Bambi. I would have been history. I told myself back then, 'Dunagan, that's long ago. Nobody knows. Nobody needs to know Nobody probably even cares -- so just keep it to yourself.'" Dunagan also told the newspaper that he became an accomplished shooter during his military career. "I was often invited to go on hunting trips in Montana or the Dakotas," he says. "Most often it was deer -- and I couldn't do it. I just couldn't do it. I've done a lot of shooting, but I've never shot an animal -- not one."


Newspaper and television film critics have been swamped with angry letters from fans of Diary of a Mad Black Woman,denouncing them for panning the film. (The movie appears to be on its way to becoming the sleeper hit of the year, performing strongly with midweek audiences; on Monday it ranked fourth on the box-office list, ahead of Oscar winner, Million Dollar Baby.)The Harrisburg, PA Patriot-Newsreported today (Wednesday) that it "has been on the receiving end of dozens of calls and e-mails blasting its negative review." Last week, Chicago Sun-Timescritic Roger Ebert wrote that since publishing a one-star review of the movie, "I have received more e-mails than about any review I have ever written, outnumbering Fahrenheit 9/11 and Passion of the Christ put together. And they were not all the same message, generated by some web site or its followers. Each manifestly came from an individual reader who felt moved to write." Although most of the letter-writers were African-American and expressed the opinion that the critics failed to take into account the black perspective of the human condition, Ebert pointed out that many black film critics, including Wesley Morris of the Boston Globeand Lisa Kennedy of the Denver Post,also panned the film. As of Monday, the film, which had cost $5.5 million to make, had earned $37 million at the box office. Lions Gate Films, which is distributing it, has ordered a sequel.


The British trade publication Screen Digesthas weighed movie ticket prices against wages in many countries and concluded that India offers the cheapest prices. According to SD's "Cinema Index," a film fan in that country has to work for just 16 minutes to buy a movie ticket. The U.S. was second on the list, where the average person has to work 24 minutes to pay for one. China was third at 26 minutes. The most expensive place for a filmgoer is Bulgaria, where the average person has to work 123 minutes to cover the costs of a ticket. Across the globe, Screen Digest observed, the average work time needed to pay for a movie ticket is 57 minutes.