IDOL VOTERS OUST ANOTHER FAVORITE
Chris Daughtry, whom many critics described as the far-ahead frontrunner in the current American Idol contest, received the fewest votes from audience members this week and was booted off the show Wednesday night. As the vote tally was announced, judge Simon Cowell appeared stunned and judge Paula Abdul sat teary-eyed, then buried her face in her hands. Although the Wednesday results show had been topping the Tuesday performance show in the ratings for the past two weeks, last night's show recorded a 16.4 rating and a 23 share, slightly below Tuesday's 16.9/25. Surprisingly, ABC's Lost performed strongly against Idol, capturing a 10.6/15.
IDOL IS GOLDEN FOR NEWS CORP
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp more than doubled its third-quarter profit largely due to the enormous success of American Idol. Results were dragged down somewhat, however, by the performance of its 20th Century Fox film division, which reported a 10-percent decline from a year ago. In an SEC filing on Wednesday, the company said that net profits rose to $820 million versus $400 million during the same quarter a year ago. Shares in the company reached a new 52-week high of $19.51 during mid-day trading on the NYSE today (Thursday).
EchoStar Communications reported a somewhat less-than-stellar first quarter as net income of $147.3 million fell 54 percent behind its year-ago results. Although total revenue rose 13 percent to $2.3 billion, the costs of a legal battle with digital video recorder maker TiVo canceled out the gain. Moreover, EchoStar, which operates the DISH satellite network, had recorded a one-time gain of $134 million last year from an insurance settlement, skewing the results. Nevertheless, the addition of 225,000 new DISH subscribers represented a 31-percent decline from the same period a year ago when it added 325,000, pushing up the costs of acquiring new subscribers by about 8 percent.
REGIS RETURNING TO PRIME TIME TO HOST TALENT CONTEST
Regis Philbin has been selected to host a new TV talent contest set to air on NBC this summer. America's Got Talent, produced by American Idol judge Simon Cowell and Idol production company FremantleMedia, will include singers, dancers, comedians, and "unique acts" competing for a top prize of $1 million. The series is due to launch on June 21 at 8:00 p.m. with a two-hour special.
VALENTI CLASHES WITH FCC OFFICIAL
Former MPAA chief Jack Valenti, who has long held that the entertainment industry should be free to determine standards for decency, expressed indignation Wednesday over the refusal of an FCC official to discuss the agency's recent crackdown on sex and language content. TVWeek magazine reported on its website that when Valenti, at an event sponsored by the libertarian Cato Institute, began questioning the FCC official, Leslie Marx, about the matter, Marx replied, "Being the chief economist at the FCC, I'm not going to be able to give you the detailed response." Instead, she presented an impassioned argument for à la carte program packaging. Valenti commented after her reply that her remarks had little to do with his question, adding that it reminded him of the coaching that President Lyndon Johnson received from his advisers on how to duck questions when he served the president as special assistant. "That's what Dr. Marx did: Answer a question that wasn't asked," Valenti said.
BLAINE PLANNING A NEW STUNT -- WITHOUT RESCUERS
David Blaine said Wednesday that he has no intention of attempting to repeat his recent breath-holding stunt and said that he is still suffering from "sharp shooting pains throughout my whole body," probably caused from the effects of being weightless for a week. In an interview with Larry King on CNN Wednesday, Blaine said that he failed to take into account the possible effects of being in a glass sphere set in the sun at Lincoln Center. "It intensified the sun and radiated my body, so the whole time I was in there, of course, I was not aware of it during the time because I was in water but now my whole -- all of my skin is blistered and painful and it's very difficult to move in any direction." He expressed disappointment at having to be rescued at the end of the week-long stunt and said that for his next stunt, "there will be no safety involved. It will be from point A to point B. Either you make it or you don't." When King asked, "In other words you could die?" Blaine responded, "I'm not going to die because I'm going to prepare and train and be as serious as I can." He said that he conceived the stunt -- which he declined to describe -- while inside the sphere last week.
BRITISH PROTESTERS OBJECT TO ELTON JOHN'S LANGUAGE
Britain's Channel 4 has defended an early-evening talk show after it received numerous complaints about the language used by singer Elton John Tuesday night. During the telecast of The New Paul O'Grady Show, which aired at 6:00 p.m., a time when children were likely to tune in, John was asked about his name. He said he changed it from Reginald Kenneth Dwight because it made him sound like "a banker or a wanker, one of the two." A "wanker" is British slang roughly equivalent to a "jerk-off" in American slang. After making the comment and receiving hoots of laughter from his audience, John remarked, "Sorry if it has been a bit raucous, ladies and gentlemen." On Wednesday, a Channel 4 spokeswoman told the BBC (which published the word as "w*****" on its website): "I don't think it is the strongest language, and we feel that Paul dealt with it appropriately."
DISNEY'S TARZAN SWINGS FROM SCREEN TO STAGE
The Walt Disney Co.'s stage adaptation of its animated Tarzan movie has opened to mixed notices on Broadway. Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press describes the production as "emotionally and musically lightweight -- almost as skimpy as Tarzan's leather loincloth." Josh Strickland, in the title role, "is bland, boyish and bulk-free -- the Ape Man by way of Abercrombie & Fitch," Kuchwara adds. "Almost everybody and everything swings in Tarzan. Which is odd, since the show itself, to borrow from Duke Ellington's famous credo, definitely ain't got that swing," writes Ben Brantley in the New York Times. Brantley further notes that in the DVD extras that come with the animated film version, several members of the creative team commented that it required animation to capture the "animal artistry" that creator Edgar Rice Burroughs originally imagined in writing. "Which goes to prove, employees of Disney, that you should be very careful what you say when a camera is running," Brantley adds. Likewise, Clive Barnes observes in the New York Post: "The show was wrecked from the onset by its concept. Perhaps the Disney people will realize that not every one of their cartoons contains the kernel of a great Broadway show." Several critics do applaud the set designs and lighting by director Bob Crowley. But not Howard Kissel in the New York Daily News, who writes: "Musicals have become increasingly amusement park rides, focusing on scenic thrills rather than solid storytelling. Tarzan wouldn't make the grade as a ride at Disney World. On Broadway, it seems merely a tourist trap." On the other hand, Elysa Gardner in USA Today praises the show's "uncynical warmth and charm" and adds: "From Bob Crowley's lush, fanciful scenic and costume design to its intricate uses of animation and projected images, Tarzan offers plenty of the flash considered catnip for tourists and casual fans."
TUCKER BECOMES HIGHEST-PAID ACTOR, SAYS REPORT
New Line has agreed to pay Chris Tucker $25 million to appear in Rush Hour 3, making him the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, according to FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman. Friedman commented that the figure is all the more remarkable considering the fact that Tucker has starred in only two other films -- both of them the Rush Hour movies. Friedman observed that Rush Hour 2 holds the record for the highest gross of any comedy and that the total worldwide take for the first two films is about $600 million.
POLICE TO GO ON STRIKE AT CANNES
While French labor activists have frequently timed noisy demonstrations or strikes to take place during the Cannes Film Festival in their bids for maximum exposure, police have effectively maintained order during them. Now it is the police themselves who are planning to stage a strike during the festival. The BBC reported Wednesday that a two-hour strike, set to take place on May 19 -- two days after the festival opens -- could disrupt security arrangements for the numerous high-profile guests expected to attend on that day. The police demonstration is scheduled to take place outside the event's main venue, the Palais de Festivals. A second walkout could occur four days later.
CODE TOUCHES OFF MORE PROTESTS
Worldwide protests over The Da Vinci Code continued to be mounted Wednesday in advance of the film's official premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next week. In Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India about 2,000 members of the Catholic Secular Forum and their supporters marched through the streets, many displaying placards reading, "Stop Hurting Our Faith," while others vowed to stage a hunger strike "until death." In the predominantly Catholic Philippines, it appeared that the government was about to ban the film after Eduardo Ermita, executive secretary to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, remarked that "we should do everything not to allow it to be shown." Even in Muslim Jordan, the country's Council of Churches called for the film to be banned as blasphemous.