TARANTINO'S CSI KNOCKS OFF TRUMP'S APPRENTICE
CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation concluded the season with a reverberating bang Thursday night. The Quentin Tarantino episode (based on a story that he conceived) drew an enormous 20.2 rating and a 30 share from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., overwhelming the competition, including the season closer of NBC's The Apprentice, which finished far behind with an 11.3/16. (Donald Trump picked Kendra Todd as the winner, giving her a job with his organization and a $250,000 salary.)
TV REVIEWS: THE MUPPETS' WIZARD OF OZ
Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear and their fellow Muppets are set to return to primetime TV tonight (Friday), with a remake of The Wizard of Oz. Presumably, Disney, whose ABC network is airing the special, did not have to go to MGM (or its current owner, Sony) for rights to the story. L. Frank Baum's 105-year-old book long ago entered the public domain. Still, there are allusions throughout to the 1939 movie, which remains under copyright, including an opening sequence with live characters -- Ashanti plays Dorothy -- that recalls the black-and-white intro to the original film (which may have had more primetime airings than any other movie). The Muppets' effort is getting mixed reviews. Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times praises it as "a clever and colorful two hours, full of incident, handsomely designed and executed." But two hours of the Muppets may bring out the grouch in a lot of viewers, Matthew Gilbert in the Boston Globe suggests. "Frankly, you have to be an adult with an enduring affection for the Muppets to love their adorability for two hours. And you have to be a kid who doesn't mind a lot of visual and narrative clutter to enjoy this somewhat sloppy production." Anita Gates in the New York Times agrees that "the gang are as adorable as ever." However, she comments, "the magic is missing, and when the Munchkins (played by Muppet rats) declare the Wicked Witch of the East officially deceased, there is an awful silence when they should be singing 'Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead.'" David Hinkley in the New York Daily News says that while the show may be "100 percent kid-friendly," it's not the sort of impish Muppet entertainment that adults may recall from the characters' original primetime incarnation in the '70s. "Unfortunately, the trip isn't as much fun as it should be," he writes. One hopes that Disney's legendary nervousness about the sanctity of its image won't mean the Muppets have to lose some of their irreverence."
CONSERVATIVES TAKE AIM AT NEWSPAPER GUILD PRESIDENT
The president of The Newspaper Guild has drawn intense flak from conservative news groups after it was disclosed that she had accused the U.S. military of targeting journalists in Iraq. In remarks made during a panel discussion at the National Conference for Media Reform in St. Louis on May 13, Linda Foley said that not only U.S. journalists were being targeted. "They target and kill journalists from other countries, particularly Arab countries, at news services like Al Jazeera, for example. They actually target them and blow up their studios, with impunity." The conservative website NewsMax.com charged that Foley had accused U.S. soldiers of "committing atrocities without offering any evidence to back the charge up." Foley amplified her remarks in an interview with Editor & Publisher on Thursday, pointing out that Al Jazeera had given U.S. authorities the coordinates of its television station before it was bombed in 2003. "They bombed it knowing it was the Al Jazeera station. Absent any independent inquiry that tells the world otherwise, that is what I believe."
WCBS-TV REPORTER FIRED FOR USING F-WORD
A reporter for the CBS-owned station in New York was fired Thursday after he used the F-word during an early morning broadcast. According to the New York Post WCBS-TV reporter Arthur Chi'en was delivering a live intro to a news feature when two men walked up behind him holding a sign and singing "Opie & Anthony" -- the names of two XM Radio shock jocks. Apparently thinking that the director had rolled tape, Chi'en whirled around and yelled, "What the f*** is your problem, man?" His words went out over the air. WCBS-TV later confirmed that Chi'en had been terminated and apologized "for the use of inappropriate language."
BRITONS TO GET TV ON THEIR CELL PHONES
Mobile phone company Orange announced Thursday that beginning Monday it will offer British subscribers with "3G" handsets the ability to watch live TV shows on them. Initially, nine channels will be offered for a monthly fee of about $19.00. "This is truly a service where 3G comes into its own. We don't expect people to watch for hours at a time but to dip in and out," Julian Diment, head of commercial and brand partnerships at Orange, told Britain's Guardian newspaper.
MASSIVE AD CAMPAIGN GENERATES COMPLAINTS
A saturation ad campaign for Crazy Frog ringtones has generated hundreds of complaints to the British Advertising Standards Authority, according to Britain's Scotsman newspaper. Crazy Frog, owned by the American company Jamster, is reportedly spending nearly $14 million per month on the campaign, putting their spots on the air at least once or twice per hour. A spokeswoman for the ASA told the Scotsman: "People seem to find it very annoying, but how often an advert is aired is not within our remit. We can only take action against the content of ads."
NETFLIX, WAL-MART UNITE; BLOCKBUSTER ATTACKS
The brutal war over online DVD rentals accelerated Thursday as Netflix and Wal-Mart announced an agreement, which was followed by an announcement by Blockbuster offering incentives to anyone switching from Netflix and Wal-Mart. Under the Netflix-Wal-Mart deal, Netflix will take over Wal-Mart's online DVD rental business beginning June 16 while at the same time promoting Wal-Mart's sell-through business. Wal-Mart is believed to have about 300,000 subscribers. Shares in Netflix rocketed up 24 percent following the announcement. Later in the day, Blockbuster offered to give Netflix and Wal-Mart online rental subscribers two months of online rentals free, a free DVD of their choice to keep, and two coupons for free in-store rentals. In a statement, Blockbuster chairman and CEO John Antioco said, "We remain committed to growing our online rental business and plan to continue to compete very aggressively in" online DVD rentals.
ATTACK OF THE BOOTLEG SITHS
Bootleg DVDs of Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith were already being sold on the streets of New York City Thursday, just hours after the movie's premiere, for about $5 each, ABC News reported. The copies were of high-quality -- not the sort taken with a camcorder inside a movie studio. A time code, however, indicated that the source was a studio print, probably from someone working within the industry. Videos were also being circulated on the Internet. The Los Angeles Times reported that the demand for copies had created massive congestion, with downloads taking more than 40 hours -- even over broadband. Wired magazine writer Xeni Jardin told ABC, "A lot of people were expecting this and there are actually Internet betting pools as to exactly how fast this would happen." MPAA President and CEO Dan Glickman immediately issued a statement saying, "My message to illegal file swappers everywhere is plain and simple: You are stealing, it is wrong and you are not anonymous. In short, you can click, but you can't hide."
RECORDS FALL ON OPENING DAY OF SITH
The trade in bootleg copies of Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith appeared to have little effect on the movie's premiere. Box-office trackers Exhibitor Relations estimated that the opening midnight screenings alone took in $16.5 million. Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian told the Associated Press that the premiere results "just says so much about how excited people are to see this film that they lined up at midnight and just got on board and went along for the ride." Separately, Dergarabedian told Reuters that the midnight figure "portends a huge opening day number. I think the sky's the limit right now." Analysts were estimating that the film would earn $30-40 million for the entire Thursday date and that it would probably surpass the record $134.3 million taken in by The Matrix Reloaded when it debuted over the comparable weekend in 2003. Meanwhile, Fox International said Thursday that in its Wednesday opening, Sith exceeded the $576,544 taken in by Reloaded on its opening day in that country. It did not provide an actual estimate.
U.K. REVIEWS: STAR WARS: EPISODE III -- REVENGE OF THE SITH
While U.S. reviews for Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith were generally -- if not overwhelmingly -- positive, most British reviewers have aligned themselves with the dark side. Wendy Ide, writing in the London Times, faults not only the dialogue (like many U.S. critics) but even the special effects. "There's almost too much going on," she writes. "It's a textbook example of style over substance and, more importantly, soul." Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian writes that when the climactic moment in the movie arrives when the words "Henceforth you will be known as Darth Vader!" ring out, "after what seems like seven hours of CGI action as dramatically weightless as the movement of tropical fish in an aquarium -- I looked blearily around the cinema and sensed thousands of scalps failing to prickle. We had all been bored into submission long ago." Several British reviews mirror the American, praising the technology while criticizing the script. "This long-awaited finale is imperfect, with flashes of absolute brilliance sitting side by side with shockingly silly moments, "writes James Bregman on the BBC website. "However," he adds, "Revenge of the Sith is breathtaking more often than it is ridiculous and shouldn't disappoint the fans who have waited 28 years for the series to come full circle." And that's just the point, writes David Edwards in the London Daily Mail. "The Sith hits the fans," he remarks. "And prepare to be blown away because George Lucas's latest space opera is an absolute belter."
SONY CLASSICS PICKS UP CANNES FAVORITE
At the Cannes Film Festival, Sony Classics has picked up domestic rights to Austrian director Michael Haneke's Hidden (Caché), starring Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, currently regarded as the front runner for the Palme d'Or, to be announced Saturday night. Critics have observed that the film can be regarded on several levels -- as a social commentary, as an effective thriller, and as a mind-twisting whodunit.
BOMB SCARE AT CANNES
A bomb scare briefly disrupted activities at the Cannes Film Festival today (Friday) after a woman's bag was left unattended near one of the main press rooms. Guards sealed off the room and barred reporters from leaving as a bomb squad, complete with bomb sniffing dogs, was dispatched to check out the suspicious bag. The activities were called off when the owner retrieved it.