GREY'S MATTERS -- TO ABC
In a move that is likely to touch off a run on digital video recorders, ABC announced Tuesday that it will move its highest-rated program, Grey's Anatomy, from Sunday to Thursday when the season begins next fall. It will compete against CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and NBC's much-buzzed-about new series from Aaron Sorkin, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Announcing a go-for-broke strategy targeting young-adult viewers, ABC entertainment chief Steve McPherson also unveiled a slate of new shows on Thursday that will compete with CBS's strongest programming as well as NBC's revamped slate with which it hopes to regain its Must-See-TV title. Among ABC's new offerings is Big Day, a kind of 24, devoted to a couple's wedding day; Notes From the Underbelly, about a couple who are about to become parents; and Six Degrees, from Lost's J.J. Abrams, about six people who are unaware of the impact each of them has on the others. Moving into Grey's Anatomy's timeslot on Sundays will be Brothers and Sisters, a family drama in which Calista Flockhart plays a TV pundit. ABC has removed its long-running magazine show Primetime Live from its Thursday-night lineup, at least for the time being. And it dumped Commander in Chief, which started off the season like a house afire but finally sputtered out (notably when it was moved to Thursday night). McPherson indicated that the network may decide to air a two-hour movie-of-the-week version of CiC sometime during the season.
CBS TO MAKE SUNDAY CHANGES
CBS said today (Tuesday) that it will stick with most of its current shows next season, introducing just three new dramas and one comedy. However, it plans to move Cold Case and Without a Trace to Sunday nights, replacing Sunday Night Movie, a fixture on the network for 21 years. They will follow 60 Minutes, which remains in the 7:00 p.m. hour, and the relocated The Amazing Race at 8:00 p.m. Set to take over the Thursday 10:00 p.m. slot is the new drama Shark, starring James Woods as a onetime defense attorney who becomes a prosecutor.
BAD DAY AT ABC NEWS
ABC News staffers, still reeling from the death of anchor Peter Jennings a year ago, the sidelining of its new anchor Bob Woodruff due to injuries he received in Iraq in January, and the apparent abandonment of Jennings' documentary unit, were hit with more bad news on Tuesday. First came word that their news magazine Primetime, a Thursday-night fixture on the network since 1989, would be cast adrift. Programs would continue to be produced, but they would air as specials or as fill-ins for failed new shows. Then came word that its nightly newscast, World News Tonight, anchored by Elizabeth Vargas, had dropped to third place, overtaken by the CBS Evening News, with fill-in anchor Bob Schieffer. (It was the first time that CBS had held second place since 2001.) ABC News President David Westin attempted to put a positive face on the Primetime decision, saying in an email message to the news staff that it "provides us an opportunity to draw upon Primetime's innovation, creativity and skill in jumping on a big story."
ABC TO AIR COLLEGE FOOTBALL ON SATURDAY NIGHTS
ABC, which will be without Monday Night Football next season for the first time in 36 years, will go with Saturday-night football instead. The network said Tuesday that it plans to air 12 college football games at 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays beginning September 2 when it airs a game between the University of Texas, the national champions, and Ohio State. Brent Musburger will handle the play-by-play, with former Notre Dame coach Bob Davis acting as color analyst.
FINALES FAIL TO DRAW BIG RATINGS
Series finales for such shows as Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, Malcolm in the Middle and 7th Heaven showed an uptick in their ratings last week, but none produced ratings that came close to those recorded when they were riding high. Mostly it was a case of the rich getting richer, with such shows as CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Fox's American Idol, and ABC's Grey's Anatomy adding to their already overwhelming numbers. CBS finished the week well ahead in overall numbers as it averaged an 8.4 rating and a 14 share. NBC and Fox tied for second place with a 6.5/11, while ABC trailed with a 5.6/9. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 17.0/26; 2. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 16.8/26; 3. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 16.1/24; 4. House, Fox, 14.6/22; 5. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 14.1/22; 6. CSI: Miami, CBS, 13.1/21; 7. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 12.9/19; 7. Without a Trace, CBS, 12.9/21; 9. NCIS, CBS, 10.1/16; 10. Survivor: Panama -- Exile Island, CBS, 10.0/17.
FIRST SURVIVOR WINNER SENTENCED TO PRISON
Richard Hatch, the first $1-million winner on Survivor was sentenced Tuesday to 51 months in prison for failing to pay taxes on his winnings and other income. In sentencing Hatch, U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres accused him of committing perjury during his testimony in January. However, Hatch told the judge that he had "been completely truthful and completely forthcoming" on the witness stand.
60 MINUTES PRODUCER CRILE DEAD AT 61
Veteran CBS 60 Minutes producer George Crile III, who turned out the controversial CBS Reports documentary "The Uncounted Enemy: a Vietnam Deception" in 1982, died Tuesday in New York of pancreatic cancer at age 61. The 90-minute documentary accused Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, of involvement in a conspiracy to distort intelligence in order to reflect positive progress in the war. Westmoreland sued for libel, seeking $120 million in damages. However, he eventually withdrew the lawsuit, settling for a statement from the network that he had not been "unpatriotic or disloyal." However, as a result, CBS lost its libel insurance, and the network rarely aired controversial, full-length documentaries again.
THE DA VINCI CLOUDS
People in Thailand wanting to see how The Da Vinci Code turns out will apparently have to buy a bootleg copy -- given that the film will be shown in Thai theaters with the last ten minutes removed. The decision to remove the ending -- thereby eliminating the denouement and leaving the "code" unsolved -- was made by Thailand's Film Censorship Board on Tuesday, following protests over the film from several Christian church groups. The Board also ordered that it open with a message, informing moviegoers that the film is based on a work of fiction. In India, the rising number of protests over the film forced the government to order theaters not to screen the movie until the controversy over it is properly addressed. Meanwhile, an official of a Christian coalition in Malaysia said that no attempt will be made to interfere with the release of the film in that country. "purely because we believe that if the Bible is the truth of God, we are not afraid of any attempt to discredit it," Nevertheless, demonstrations against the film were held today (Wednesday) in India, South Korea, Athens and the Philippines. The Da Vinci Code is scheduled to open the 59th annual Cannes Film Festival tonight. At a news conference, director Ron Howard advised, "Do not go and see the movie if you think you will be upset. This is supposed to be entertainment. It stimulates conversation, that is what good fiction does."
PAPERBACKS OF DA VINCI CODE FLY OFF SHELVES
Suggesting that filmgoers don't really care about "spoilers," sales of the paperback version of The Da Vinci Code -- which could be described as the ultimate spoiler -- have skyrocketed. More than three million copies have been sold in less than two months, and publisher Vintage-Anchor Books, a division of Viacom's Random House, said Tuesday that it has risen its original printing to 6.3 million. More than 60 million copies of the original hardcover version have been sold since the thriller was released in March 2003.
POSTER FOR MOVIE ABOUT GUANTÁNAMO PRISON BANNED
Although the image pales in comparison with those published in the press and shown on TV of Americans torturing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, a poster for a semi-documentary film about the Guantánamo prison in Cuba has been rejected by the Motion Picture Assn. of America. The poster, for the award-winning The Road to Guantánamo, showed a man hanging by his wrists with a burlap sack over his head. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Washington Post, Howard Cohen, co-president of distributor Roadside Attractions, said he was told that a poster depicting torture was not appropriate for children to see. Gayle Osterberg, a spokesperson for the MPAA, further explained: "If it's a poster that's hanging in a theater, anyone who walks into that theater, regardless of what movie they've come to see, will be exposed to it." However, Cohen observed that some posters for horror movies were far more disturbing. "This is a film with a serious purpose, and this is the subject of the film itself, and the marketing materials were appropriate to the subject," he told the Post. The film is now due to open on June 23 with a poster showing only shackled hands and arms.
BLU-RAY DISCS START ROLLING OUT
Sony began manufacturing high-definition Blu-ray discs at its plant in Terre Haute, IN Tuesday. In a statement, Dieter Daum, president of Sony Disc and Digital Solutions, said, "Blu-ray is going to revolutionize the way consumers enjoy and interact with high-definition entertainment content." The company said that it expects the first releases on Blu-ray discs to hit the shelves next month. That's also when Sony expects to begin shipping its Blu-ray-equipped VAIO AR Premium laptop computer at an eye-raising price of $3,499. It has said that it expects to ship stand-alone Blu-ray players in July. Samsung said last week that it will be the first to sell a Blu-ray player when it begins shipments on June 25.
REDSTONE DEFENDS VIACOM SPLIT
Sumner Redstone, the chairman of Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp., urged investors in the two companies to be patient Tuesday and maintained that splitting the company will eventually result in boosting share price. Since January, when Viacom was split in two, CBS stock has remained virtually unchanged, while shares in Viacom have dropped 7 percent. "I think you will see my deal exonerated so to speak...The share prices have not moved very much [since the split]," Redstone told Reuters. "Again, you have to give it time." He said he especially has high hopes for a resurgence of Viacom's film business following the merger of Paramount and DreamWorks. "The resurgence is taking place very quickly," he said.