PEACOCK SHOWS NEW FEATHERS NBC became the first network to unveil its fall schedule Monday, promising five new shows in the fall and seven more in mid-season. The network particularly highlighted its Friends spin-off, Joey,starring Matt LeBlanc -- showing the entire pilot -- and the digitally animated Father of the Pride, which features the voices of John Goodman and Carl Reiner. In addition, the network has scheduled three new fall dramas: Medical Investigation, starring Neal McDonough and Kelli Williams; Hawaii,starring Michael Biehn and Sharif Atkins; and LAX, starring Heather Locklear. The network also announced a number of specials for next season, including a two-hour musical based on Dickens' A Christmas Carol, starring Kelsey Grammer as Scrooge, and a four-hour miniseries version of Hercules. (Separately, NBC suddenly yanked the reality series The Restaurantfrom its current schedule for the rest of the May sweeps.)


Dennis Farina will replace Jerry Orbach in the 15th season of Law & Order, NBC announced Monday. Like Orbach, the veteran actor will be playing a New York City police detective. (Before becoming an actor, Farina was a cop in real life -- on the Chicago police force.) Orbach, who starred in the series for 12 years, is leaving to head the cast of a series spin-off, Law & Order: Trial by Jury,as his character, Lennie Briscoe. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) New York Post,Orbach remarked: "I used to say when I was working in the theater that if I ever had five seasons of a hit TV show I'd never have to worry about money and wouldn't have to do anything I didn't want to do. ... The 12 seasons on Law & Order really made that possible."


Only a day before it was to present its fall lineup to advertisers, ABC had still not set it in stone, and ABC and Disney executives were said to be quibbling over which shows will get the go-ahead, USA Today reported today (Monday). The newspaper said that a planned comedy series starring bumbling beauty Jessica Simpson was out of the lineup, while a new drama, Fleet Street,starring James Spader and William Shatner, was in.


Fox News has demanded that the New York Timespublish a correction after a reference to it as "the conservative cable network" appeared in the newspaper. Referring to an article by Alessandra Stanley, Fox News spokesman Robert Zimmerman said that the reference either reflected "either the writer's editorial opinion, which should not have been evidence (sic) in a news story, or an intentional attempt to mislabel Fox News." In an interview with the Washington Post,the newspaper's culture editor responded that Stanley was writing as a critic and was therefore "well within her rights to call Fox pretty much whatever she wants."


The Australian government has hired a media monitoring company, Rehame, to examine political coverage by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. to ensure that the network is free from political bias, the Australian Associated Press reported today (Tuesday). Word of the government's move touched off angry comments from members of the Labor Party who charged that the independence of the ABC was being undermined by the government. At least one member of the ABC board also expressed consternation over the plans. Board director Ramona Kovai sent an email message to other directors, charging that the action represented "serious, improper and continuing political interference in the processes of the ABC board and the editorial policies of the corporation." ANALYSTS ASSESS TROY WEIGHT Brad Pitt's muscles may have been a primary attraction of Troy,based on Homer's The Iliad, but the box office for the movie appeared to have all the strength of a different Homer -- Homer Simpson. The Warner Bros. film took in $46.9 million, ordinarily a fair sum -- except for a movie costing nearly $200 million to produce. (The New York Post's "Page Six" column quoted unnamed insiders as saying that the film actually cost $220 million and cited one unnamed "movie maven" as blaming director Wolfgang Petersen for the huge expenditure and saying that former studio chief Lorenzo di Bonaventura warned top Warner execs about Petersen's "budget appetite.") Studio executives could only hope that the film would perform the way several other historical epics have in the past, producing solid business for weeks to come. Meanwhile, Universal's Van Helsing performed exactly the way cheap horror flicks often do -- dropping more than 60 percent in its second week. Only Van Helsingwas no cheap flick -- costing some $160 million to make. Its $20.7-million weekend take brings its two-week gross to $85.1 million. Paramount's Mean Girls,meanwhile, remained a stand-out success, as it took in $10.2 million to bring its total to $55.4 million. It cost just $17 million to produce.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):1. Troy, Warner Bros. $46,865,412, (New); 2. Van Helsing, Universal, $20,727,515, 2 Wks. ($85,095,305); 3.Mean Girls,Paramount, $10,182,766, 3 Wks. ($55,400,970); 4. Man on Fire, 20th Century Fox, $5,101,128, 4 Wks. ($64,169,492); 5. Breakin' All the Rules, Screen Gems, $5,088,577, (New); 6. 13 Going on 30, Sony, $4,107,023, 4 Wks. ($48,522,282); 7. New York Minute,Warner Bros. $10,783,723, 2 Wks. ($3,814,307); 8. Laws of Attraction, New Line, $2,009,380, 3 Wks. ($15,301,189); 9. Kill Bill: Volume 2, Miramax, $1,628,802, 5 Wks. ($60,836,074); 10. Envy, DreamWorks, $1,042,949, 3 Wks. ($11,899,458).


By the end of the year, Britain is likely to take the world lead in equipping movie houses with digital projectors. Breaking the deadlock between film distributors and exhibitors over who should pay for the projectors, the British Film Council, which distributes money from the National Lottery to support independent film producers, has offered to install some 250 digital projectors in theaters throughout the country at no expense to the theaters. Britain's Empiremagazine reported that in return, the theaters will only have to agree to dedicate a portion of their screening time to showing independent films produced by British companies. John Woodward of the Film Council said that the council regards such a network of digital theaters as "a cost-effective way of making a broader range of films available to the public." Currently, only about 190 digital projectors are installed in theaters throughout the entire world.


Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11received a 20-minute standing ovation when it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday. Thierry Frémaux, the festival's artistic director, told today's (Tuesday) New York Timesthat it was the longest ovation he had ever witnessed at Cannes. Meanwhile, the Times reported that instead of making a deal with a single distributor, Miramax chiefs Harvey and Bob Weinstein are attempting to put together a consortium that would ensure the anti-Bush documentary the widest theatrical release possible. Timescritic A.O. Scott called Fahrenheit "the best film Mr. Moore has made so far, a powerful and passionate expression of outraged patriotism. ... Is it partisan? Of course. But there are not many important films that haven't been." Desson Thomson in the Washington Postcalled it "the film to beat" in the festival's competition. "What's remarkable here isn't Moore's political animosity or ticklish wit. It's the well-argued, heartfelt power of his persuasion," Thomson concludes. Jami Bernard of the New York Daily Newsconfessed that she was "in tears" after watching the movie. "As annoying and outrageous as he can be, he has the guts and talent to tie together various aspects of the post-9/11 era in a way that makes you question many things," she wrote. Peter Bradshaw commented in Britain's Guardiannewspaper: "It was strident, passionate, sometimes outrageously manipulative and often bafflingly selective in its material, but Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 was a barnstorming anti-war/anti-Bush polemic tossed like an incendiary device into the crowded Cannes festival." However, the Hollywood Reportercommented that the film offers "no debate, no analysis of facts or search for historical context. Moore simply wants to blame one man and his family for the mess we are now in." And Lou Lumenick in the New York Postdescribed the film as an "incredibly superficial and misleading treatment. ... Far from [being] the political hot potato ... Fahrenheit 9/11 is more like a lot of hot air."