JOEY FINISHES SEASON NEEDING MORE FRIENDS
CBS once again dominated Thursday's ratings, sweeping every half-hour period of primetime. NBC's Joey concluded the season by demonstrating the collapse of what the network once billed as Must-See-TV night. The comedyposted a 7.2 rating and an 11 share in the 8:00 p.m. hour, somewhat better figures than those of recent weeks -- but for a season finale, they looked deplorable. By contrast, CBS's penultimate episode of Survivor: Palau captured a 12.2/19 in the same hour. The top-rated show of the night was CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which registered a 16.0/25 at 9:00 p.m. NBC's The Apprentice placed second with a 9.7/15. CBS ended the night with Without a Trace on top with a 12.2/20, ahead of NBC's E.R., which drew an 11.5/19.
MPAA SEEKS TO CLOSE DOWN FILE-SHARING TV SITES
The MPAA on Thursday turned its sights on file-sharing websites that are used for swapping television shows. "On these sites, anyone in the world can download entire television seasons in a single click," MPAA president and CEO Dan Glickman said in a statement. "Every television series depends on other markets -- syndication, international sales -- to earn back the enormous investment required to produce the comedies and dramas we all enjoy, and those markets are substantially hurt when that content is stolen." Previously, the MPAA had focused its attention on Internet sites that pirate movies. But the websites cited in the MPAA's latest legal action are reportedly engaged in swapping tens of thousands of television shows a day.
AMANPOUR PULLS OUT OF 60 MINUTES
In a cryptic statement, Christiane Amanpour said Thursday that she was quitting as a part-time correspondent for CBS's 60 Minutes because "this unique arrangement has now run its course." Contacted by reporters following the announcement, Amanpour declined to elaborate. Reporting on her resignation, the Associated Press quoted unnamed people close to her as saying that she had become concerned that her hard-hitting international stories are not valued as highly under the current 60 Minutes regime headed by Jeff Fager as they were under the previous one headed by Don Hewitt. Hewitt himself told the A.P., "She's a great reporter. ... She's brave beyond bravery. I mourn the loss."
LAWMAKERS SHINE SPOTLIGHT ON GOVERNMENT "NEWS" BLURBS
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens said Thursday that he would support making permanent a requirement that federal agencies that distribute video news releases inform viewers that they had prepared them. A similar measure, attached to an emergency spending bill for the Iraq war, expires on September 30. Previously, the Bush administration has opposed such disclosure proposals, contending that TV stations are responsible for divulging the source of the material they broadcast. A separate bill by Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and John Kerry of Massachusetts would require a visible disclaimer throughout the story reading, "PRODUCED BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT." However, Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-TV News Directors Association told the Washington Post on Thursday, "We think that how [the disclosure] looks on the air should be in the hands of the people producing the news."
BLOW TO COMEDY CENTRAL: CHAPPELLE IN MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY
Comedian Dave Chappelle, whose Comedy Central show was put on hold last week, has checked himself into a mental health facility in South Africa, according to Entertainment Weekly magazine. Chappelle's Show ranks second only to South Park as the highest rated program on the cable network. Media analyst Larry Gerbrandt told the Associated Press on Thursday that the loss of Chappelle, while "not fatal," is nevertheless, "a body blow" to Comedy Central.
WHY IGER WAS SANCTIONED
In the latest battle of what author James Stewart has called DisneyWar, the company's board on Thursday fired back at dissident former members Roy E. Disney and Stanley Gold, who had accused the board of conducting a sham search for a replacement for Michael Eisner as CEO. The board said that its search was "thorough, careful and reasoned" and that when it was completed, "we unanimously concluded that Bob Iger, was the best choice to lead the company forward as CEO."
VIACOM'S NEW DALY SHOW
Viacom has brought on board former Warner Bros. Co-CEO Robert Daly as a part-time consultant, hoping to enlist his aid in regenerating its Paramount Pictures unit. "They want to pick my brain," Daly told today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times. Daly's hiring was seen as an effort to instruct Viacom Co-President Tom Freston and Paramount Chairman Brad Grey in the intricacies of the movie business. Both men were previously connected primarily to the television industry. "I don't want a job," Daly told the Times. "I just want to pass on my knowledge and help them grow the company."
Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: MONSTER-IN-LAW
Critics are scratching their heads, trying to figure out what prompted Jane Fonda to return to the screen after 15 years in the comedy Monster-in-Law. Eleanor Ringel Gillespie in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is one of them, writing, "Why Fonda chose this embarrassing project for her first film in 15 years is, as they say, a puzzlement." Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribune apparently thinks he's figured it out: "Perhaps the challenge of trying to energize mediocrity is just what she needed after her inactive years," he writes. Similarly, Wesley Morris writes in the Boston Globe that it's "insane that Fonda's first big part in so long is so grotesque. But by Hollywood standards, a movie carried with such gusto by a 67-year-old woman has to be considered a miracle." Jennifer Lopez costars in the movie with Fonda, but she's mostly ignored by the critics. To Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the idea of J.Lo and Fonda locking horns "sounds like fun. But Monster-in-Law, where Bridezilla meets Godzilla, is a comedy so anemic, so toxic, that even Dracula wouldn't bite." Stephen Holden in the New York Times describes it as "a comedy so one-dimensional and craven that it makes Meet the Parents look avant-garde." But Lou Lumenick in the New York Post, calling Fonda "a hoot and a half," remarks that the movie is "a cannily selected vehicle that's more than funny enough to relaunch [Fonda] as a major movie star."
Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: KICKING AND SCREAMING
The Will Ferrell comedy Kicking & Screaming, about kids' soccer, is not scoring many points with critics. Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times remarks: "Kicking & Screaming is the kind of movie that makes you wonder why anyone would even bother making it in the first place." Claudia Puig in USA Today is equally turned off by the film's antics. "It's tempting to tell readers they should avoid this movie, because if they have to sit through Kicking & Screaming, they'll probably want to run screaming from the theater." But Michael Booth in the Denver Post suggests that the movie is not quite the loser that some of his colleagues make it out to be. "It's nearly good enough to recommend, not quite bad enough to ignore, and in the end, not so awful a place to take the soccer team to chill on a Sunday afternoon," he comments.
Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: MINDHUNTERS
Renny Harlin has probably directed more out-and-out flops in recent years than most of his colleagues. Critics are suggesting that his latest, Mindhunters, will be no exception. Lou Lumenick in the New York Post comments that at first it "seems like the kind of movie that might turn out to be so bad it's good. But before long, it's clear Mindhunters is so bad it's awful." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times asks rhetorically: "Is the film worth seeing? Well, yes and no. Yes, because it is exactly what it is, and no, for the same reason."
Movie PictureMOVIE REVIEWS: UNLEASHED
Also opening this weekend is the Jet Li martial arts thriller Unleashed. Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times dismisses it as "howlingly ludicrous." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post describes it as "a preposterous mix of sentiment and brutality." The title apparently derives from the fact that Li wears a canine collar in the film and plays the role of a human pit bull. "Ultimately, the movie doesn't make it," writes Mike Clark in USA Today, "but there's enough going on to make it more arf than barf."