NBC'S SUPER-SIZED SHOWS ARE LESS THAN SUPER
NBC supersized its comedy lineup Thursday and saw its ratings edge up, but they were nowhere close to those registered by CBS. At 8:00 p.m., the penultimate episode of Survivor Panama: Exile Island drew a 10.1 rating and a 17 share, while on NBC, a 40-minute episode of Will & Grace together with the first 20 minutes of the season finale of My Name Is Earl averaged a 6.1/10. At 9:00 p.m, CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation dominated again with a 16.8/26, while the conclusion of Earl and a supersized The Office averaged a 6.4/9. At 10:00 p.m., CBS again landed in first place as Without a Trace dominated with a 13.8/22. NBC's E.R. placed second with a 9.9/16.
WHO NEEDS KATIE?
CBS may not have to wait for Katie Couric to take over as anchor of the CBS Evening News in order for the newscast to move ahead of ABC's World News Tonight in the news ratings. As of last week, the Bob Schieffer-anchored newscast on CBS was averaging 7 million viewers, closely behind the 7.3 million viewers who tuned in to Elizabeth Vargas's news program on ABC. During the same period a year ago ABC's telecast was ahead of CBS's by 2 million viewers. The CBS newscast has seen its audience rise 6 percent since last year, while ABC's has seen its audience decline 14 percent. NBC's Nightly News audience is also down 7 percent since last year but it remains well ahead of its rivals, with 9.55 million viewers. In an interview on Thursday with Little Rock station KTHV, Schieffer remarked, "It's been very rewarding after all these years, to be my age and to get a chance to put some of my ideas into operation and to have a good public reaction." Nevertheless, he added, "No one will be happier to see Katie arrive -- I would say no one except my wife will be happier to see Katie arrive -- than I."
DERBY FEATURE COMES ON TRACKS OF WEST WING
A complaint from a West Wing fan who thought the words spoken during an NBC Kentucky Derby feature sounded familiar has led to the dismissal of the feature's writer. In fact the words spoken in the feature were virtually identical to those that had been voiced during the first episode of The West Wing's fourth season. A New York Times reader recognized the similarities and wrote an email message to the paper, which triggered an inquiry by the newspaper to the network.
TV STATION DOWN ON BLACKHAWK
Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., which manufactures the famed Blackhawk helicopter, has filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the Pentagon from releasing documents on possible quality-control problems with the helicopter to a Connecticut television station. WTNH-TV, which aired an exposé three years ago claiming that defective parts were being installed on Blackhawks, had asked the Defense Department whether it had issued additional corrective-action requests since the original programs aired. In a statement, the station said, "It's a simple, obvious question and with so many servicemen depending on Blackhawk helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan, never has it been never more important." In its suit, Sikorsky argues that competitors could use the information "to unfairly disparage Sikorsky's manufacturing processes and quality assurance system in the eyes of Sikorsky's customers and potential customers."
O.J. SIMPSON RETURNS ON PAY-PER-VIEW
O.J. Simpson is appearing in a pay-per-view reality show in which he disguises himself as an Elvis impersonator, a street-corner fruit seller, an elderly man at a Bingo game and as himself, trying to sell the Bronco used in the "slow chase" that ended with his arrest on charges of murdering his ex-wife, according to the syndicated Inside Edition, which aired the Bronco segment on its Thursday-night edition. The show, titled Juiced, is due to air on pay-per-view this month and will be followed by the release of a DVD. His attorney said that Simpson was not paid to do the show. He "decided to do this because he wants to do it, and he wanted to have fun with it," according to executive producer Rick Mahr.
CODE STAGES JESUS MARRIAGE
A British film critic who has seen Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code says it depicts the novel's most controversial proposition -- that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and fathered a daughter -- by staging the hypothetical events. John Hiscock writes in the London Daily Mirror: "As well as scenes of the Inquisition and of women being tortured, burned and drowned, Howard shows Mary fleeing the Holy Land for France and giving birth there." Hiscock calls the film "a superb thriller," and adds: "If anything, Howard has improved on the book by some judicious pruning and by going back into history to depict scenes that the novel referred to only briefly. There is no mystery about The Da Vinci Code's future at the box office. It will be a massive hit."
VIACOM RESULTS OFF IN FIRST STAND-ALONE QUARTER
Although Viacom's first-quarter profits fell 9 percent to $317.2 million from $350.3 million during the same period a year ago, results exceeded analysts' expectations. Total revenue rose 12 percent to $2.37 billion, with box-office revenue from newly acquired DreamWorks films accounting for most of it. "Filmed Entertainment -- DreamWorks to the rescue (sort of)," wrote Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen in her note to clients.) However, higher interest payments resulting from the DreamWorks purchase eroded the jump in revenue. So did a big drop in sales at its overseas cable networks, particularly in Germany.
MOVIE REVIEWS: POSEIDON
For the second week in a row a movie estimated to have cost $150-200 million seems destined to give media investors and studio executives a sinking feeling. Following last week's Mission: Impossible III, which sold far fewer tickets than expected, Wolfgang Petersen's Poseidon is likely to fulfill expectations. The only problem is that those expectations are extremely low. Analysts forecast a $20-million take and anticipate that it may not even take the top spot at the weekend box office. Reviewers have assailed it mercilessly. "You know a disaster flick is in trouble when it's only a few minutes along and you can't make up your mind over who you hope will die first," comments Jan Stuart in Newsday. Or consider the opening remarks by Claudia Puig in USA Today: "Poseidon is a sodden saga, with a script that is awash in clichés. It nearly drowns under the weight of its own soggy tedium." Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal calls it "a deeply dreadful movie -- no, a shallowly dreadful movie -- that's too unpleasant and repetitive to be entertaining, even as camp." Most critics suggest that there's hardly a story here at all. It's all "action on top of unbelievable action," writes Kyle Smith in the New York Post. Ty Burr in the Boston Globe writes that it's "as much fun as a shroud." Similarly Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times remarks that it "rings more bells than Quasimodo at noon, and all you hear is a knell." A.O. Scott in the New York Times is a bit more charitable than his colleagues, calling the movie, "pure boilerplate: a reasonably well-executed throwaway." And Eleanor Ringel Gillespie remarks in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "At heart, Poseidon is just a string of neat-o special effects in search of something that passes for a story line on which to drape itself. When the water's not rising, something heavy is falling."
MOVIE REVIEWS: GOAL! THE DREAM BEGINS
With soccer interest growing as the start of the World Cup approaches on June 9, here comes one of those Disney inspirational flicks about an unlikely candidate for sports stardom making it to the top. Goal! The Dream Begins concerns a young Mexican immigrant living in L.A. whose father thinks he should invest his savings into a truck for a gardening business rather than squander it on a trip to England to try out with one of that country's top teams. Desson Thomson in the Washington Post writes that this is the kind of movie "in which phrases like 'dare to dream' amount to a holy mantra." Stephen Witty in the Newark Star-Ledger remarks: "Time to trot out the timeworn homilies about teamwork: Start the slow-motion cameras, and cue the orchestra." The script, writes Ty Burr in the Boston Globe is "so outrageously generic you could buy it at Costco." Still, there's no denying the success of Costco, and as Gene Seymour observes in Newsday: "To begrudge Goal! The Dream Begins for being pushy, sentimental and predictably rousing is to indict generations of aspiring athletes for drawing spiritual nourishment from juvenile sports books, movies and TV shows." And Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times suggests that it's easy to overlook the film's clichés. He concedes that it contains "all the usual elements, arranged in the usual ways, and yet it's surprisingly effective."
MOVIE REVIEWS: JUST MY LUCK
Just My Luck is the film in which Lindsay Lohan makes her debut in an adult role. She had better luck with the critics as a juvenile. Jami Bernard in the New York Daily News comments on the "achingly stupid script" and says that "Lohan's good work in movies like Mean Girls and the Freaky Friday remake is a faint memory as she struggles through antics, unfunny pratfalls and squirmingly bad set pieces." Jessica Reaves in the Chicago Tribune begins her review by remarking, "Much ink and untold hours of meticulous public relations have been dedicated to Lindsay Lohan's recent attempts to escape the constraining (albeit lucrative) bonds of her child-star profile. If only someone had spent a fraction of that energy finding Lohan a worthwhile vehicle to launch her new 'grown-up' persona, this might be a very different review." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times comments that he has liked Lohan's work since she appeared in 1998's The Parent Trap. "And I like her here, too, but like many another former child star, it's time for her to move on to more challenging roles. I am lucky enough to have seen her in Robert Altman's forthcoming A Prairie Home Companion, and so I know what we have to look forward to. Just our luck that we'll have Just My Luck to look back on."
MOVIE REVIEWS: KEEPING UP WITH THE STEINS
Will Keeping Up With the Steins be the Jewish counterpart at the box office of My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Many critics seem to think it may very well be. John Anderson in Newsday finds the movie "good-natured and as broad as a barn door." To Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, it's "fresh and lovable." Claudia Puig in USA Today concludes that it "blends humor with heart for a satisfying, if predictable, experience." Writes Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News: "Cultural comedy is a tricky thing. You can end up offending people familiar with the culture and pushing everyone else away. So, mazel tov to Scott Marshall for creating an endearing portrayal of familial lunacy that ought to charm as many Smiths as it will Steins." Scott, by the way is the son of veteran sitcom creator Garry Marshall, (nee Marsciatti) who has a leading role in the movie. As with Greek Wedding, Steins leaves several critics cold. Among them is Michael Phillips, who writes in the Chicago Tribune: "The poster slogan errs. 'Something's not quite kosher' is not the problem. Something's not quite funny is the problem." And Bob Strauss remarks in the Los Angeles Daily News: "Everyone's a little too decent for the family conflict to register much impact, and the comedy is too timid to really make much of a satirical statement."