NBC UNVEILS COMEBACK PLANSNBC unveiled plans to air four new dramas and a new comedy show next season in hopes of pulling itself out of its fourth-place ranking in the ratings. It also said that it will revamp its Thursday night lineup -- hoping to regain at least some of the dominance it held on that night for years. Among the new shows is a drama titled Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip from Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing,about the backstage life at a late-night comedy show like Saturday Night Live. Somewhat surprisingly another one of the new shows, 30 Rock, from Saturday Night Livehead writer Tina Fey, will also examine backstage life among the writers of a network sitcom. Asked about the similarities during a conference call today (Monday), NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said, "If they were two cop shows, nobody would waste a minute of breath on it." The network is also planning a series based on the book and movie Friday Night Lights, concerning a Texas high school football team. Also on tap: Kidnapped,about the kidnapping of a rich teenager, and Heroes, a Lost-like drama about a group of people who suddenly discover they have superhuman powers. On Thursday nights, the network plans to move My Name Is Earland The Officeinto the 8:00 p.m. hour. The network also ended speculation that it would pull E.R.out of its 10:00 p.m. time slot and move it to another night. Instead, it said that it will only run new episodes of the series (it has never done well in reruns) and split the run with another drama, The Black Donnellys, about a group of Irish mobsters. The Friendsspin-off Joey has been canceled.


New York TimesTV reporter Bill Carter has predicted a big shakeup at CNN within three to six months. Appearing Sunday on MSNBC's The Chris Matthews Show to promote his new book, Desperate Networks,Carter suggested that CNN may be among the most desperate. "They're very worried about their situation including their threat from MSNBC," he said.


The television networks were continuing to wrestle with the question of how to fit President Bush's address to the nation on immigration tonight (Monday) into their schedules. The White House had advised the networks that the president's speech would last 20 minutes -- from 8:00 p.m. to 8:20. Fox, which had been scheduled to air the season finale of Prison Breakduring that time period, said that in the Eastern and Central time zones, it would delay it until after the president finished speaking. The network said that it would also delay the start of 24,which follows. NBC said it would air a shortened version of what had been planned as a two-hour Deal or No Deal, beginning at 8:25 p.m. Some reports indicated that ABC had decided to postpone Oprah Winfrey's Legends Balluntil next week, while others said it would also be delayed 20 minutes. CBS was expected merely to bump the scheduled King of Queensepisode for the East and to substitute a rerun in the West.


Two TV shows aired their final episodes Sunday night, but neither captured a substantial audience. NBC's The West Wingfinished its seven-year run with a 6.1 rating and a 10 share -- better than its ratings in recent months but no where near what the show once attracted. (A rerun of the first episode of the show an hour earlier drew a 4.4/8.) It was beaten by the season finale of CBS's Survivor: Panama -- Exile Island and ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.The series finale of Fox's Malcolm in the Middle finished in fourth place. As usual, ABC's Desperate Housewiveswith a 13.9/20 and Grey's Anatomy with an even-higher 15.3/23 dominated the night.FORGET COSTS OF STARS; STUDIOS PAY MOST FOR FXEscalating special effects costs have boosted the budget of Sony's Spider-Man 3, scheduled for release on May 4, 2007, to between $250 million and $300 million, the Wall Street Journalreported over the weekend, citing people close to the studio. The newspaper also said that at least three other films relying heavily on special effects will see their budgets exceed $200 million. They include 20th Century Fox's X-Men sequel ($210 million), Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($225 million) and Warner Bros.' Superman Returns ($261 million). Commented the Journal: "The price tags underscore that effects, not stars, sell big movies these days. It also noted that the skyrocketing costs have result in increased tensions between the studios, trying to keep costs down, and the effects houses.


Warner Bros.' Poseidon took a titanic dunking at the box office over the weekend, earning just $20.3 million. The film, which analysts estimate may have cost $150-200 million to produce, wound up in second place behind Mission: Impossible III, which also experienced a disappointing weekend, earning $25.5 million. But audiences did turn out to see Poseidon on the giant screen: although the 62 IMAX theaters playing the movie represented only 2 percent of its total number of screens, they accounted for 7 percent of the gross, or $1.4 million. Both Poseidonand Missionare expected to drop steeply next week with the arrival of The Da Vinci Codeand the animated Over the Hedge. Other films premiering over the week also did poorly. The Lindsay Lohan starrer Just My Luck took in only $5.5 million, while the inspirational soccer movie Goal!barely kicked up dust as it scored just $2 million and failed even to make the top-ten list. In limited release, the comedy Keeping Up With the Steins was no Greek Wedding as it earned $621,000 in 138 theaters. Ticket sales for the weekend came to $81.7 million for the top 12 bills, 13 percent below the figure for the comparable weekend a year ago. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:1. Mission: Impossible III, $24.5 million; 2. Poseidon, $20.3 million; 3. RV, $9.5 million; 4. Just My Luck, $5.5 million; 5. An American Haunting, $3.7 million; 6. United 93, $3.6 million; 7. Stick It, $3.2 million; 8. Ice Age: The Meltdown, $3 million; 9. Silent Hill, $2.2 million; 10. Hoot, $2.1 million.


There was more bad news today (Monday) for the producers of Mission: Impossible III as the Shanghai newspaper Xinmin Evening Newsreported that the movie may not be given an import license that would allow it to be screened in China. Although numerous scenes were shot in Shanghai, the newspaper indicated that authorities were upset at the filmmakers for "tarnishing the image" of the city by showing scenes of rags and underwear drying on side streets and depicting police as bumbling.


Adult movie producers Vivid Entertainment today (Monday) launched a website that allows users to purchase and download pornographic movies online and burn them directly to DVD to watch on their TV sets or personal computers. They'll contain the same "extras" found in the usual DVD packages. Several analysts are suggesting that the service may represent another instance of the porn industry taking the lead in delivering entertainment to the home, as it did with the VCR. In a statement, Steven Hirsch, co-chairman of Vivid, said that for a payment of about $20, users can go to the All Adult Channel's website, click on "Download" and burn the disk automatically. Hirsch maintained that the technology used by the site contains effective copy-protection software and predicted that it will one day "be commonplace."


Accusing the entertainment media of taking "voluptuous pleasure ... in promoting products that have nothing to do with the truth," a Catholic cardinal, regarded as the Vatican's highest authority on cultural issues except for the Pope, denounced the upcoming film version of The Da Vinci Code. In an interview on French radio, Cardinal Paul Poupard said he worried that millions of people "would watch the film and believe it to be true. ... What I'm concerned about is that decent people who do not have the proper religious education will take this nonsense for the real thing."