30 MILLION TUNE IN TO IDOLA predictably enormous audience tuned in for the final night of competition on Fox's American IdolTuesday with finalists Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee each performing three numbers. The penultimate episode (final results are due to be announced tonight) produced a 19.2 rating and a 30 share, representing 30.63 million viewers. The show also provided a potent lead-in for Fox's Houseat 9:00 p.m., which scored a 16.5/24. The two shows left the competition in the dust. CBS, which aired the Country Music Awards throughout primetime, averaged a 6.8/10. ABC offered Stephen King's Desperation, which drew a 5.5/8, while NBC's Most Outrageous Moments scored a lowly 3.6/5 and the conclusion of the miniseries Apocalypsewound up with a 5.0/8.


The 2005-06 television season appears to be ending pretty much the way the previous season did, with Fox capturing the ratings title among adults in the 18-49 demo and CBS in total viewers. Last week's ratings exemplified the year-long ratings battle, with Fox tying itself for first place with the two editions of American Idoland CBS drawing strong numbers for such shows as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Without a Traceand CSI: Miami. (However, the Washington Post's Lisa De Moraes observed that last week's season finale of CSI drew 25 million viewers versus 31 for last season's finale of the series "and that's a downward trend no network wants to see.") Meanwhile, NBC returned two long-time Must-See-TV favorites to the Nielsen top-ten list as the series finale of Will & Graceprovided a strong lead-in for E.R.In overall ratings, CBS led last week with a 7.8 rating and a 13 share. Fox placed second with a 6.8/11, edging out ABC, which registered a 6.7/11. NBC trailed with a 6.3/10. The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:1. American Idol(Tuesday), Fox, 16.6/26;1. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 16.6/25; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,CBS, 15.8/24; 4. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 15.0/23; 5. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 14.2/21; 6. House, Fox, 13.6/20; 7. Without a Trace, CBS, 13.0/21; 8. Will & Grace, NBC, 11.7/18; 9. CSI: Miami, CBS, 11.6/18; 10. E.R., NBC, 10.7/18.


As ratings continued to fall for ABC's World News Tonight, ABC News chief David Westin announced Tuesday that Charles Gibson would become the sole anchor of the program next Monday, replacing Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff, who had been named co-anchors in January. Woodruff was seriously injured in Iraq a few weeks later, leaving Vargas as the de facto sole anchor ever since. After taking a maternity leave, Vargas will return to the network in the fall, continuing to co-anchor the network's magazine show, 20/20,with John Stossel. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) New York Times, Gibson observed, "I am to some extent a creature of circumstance to horrendous events," referring to the death last year of Peter Jennings and Woodruff's injury. In a separate interview on ABC's website, Gibson attributed his ascension to events that had "conspired to derail an experiment here." Gibson will remain on Good Morning Americawith Diane Sawyer through next month. The Timessaid that three other ABC News personalities are expected to be showcased on the morning show after Gibson's departure: Bill Ritter, an anchor on WABC-TV in New York, who occasionally contributes to 20/20; Bill Weir, a co-anchor of the weekend GMA, and Chris Cuomo, co-host of ABC's Primetime.


Al-Jazeera's English-language channel, which has already experienced a number of delays, has sustained yet another. Britain's Guardiannewspaper reported that the launch will be delayed "until September at the earliest." The newspaper also observed that managers of the channel are increasingly locking horns with owners, who are concerned that it will wind up as "a watered down version of the BBC or CNN" or a "damp squib managed by non-Muslim westerners."


Look4Love TV, an over-the-air digital channel, is being investigated by Britain's advertising watchdog following a commercial for an online service, Babestar.tv, which featured women wearing underwear and using sex toys, according to Britain's Guardiannewspaper. "She is just 18. She is barely legal. If you like them young, take advantage of our young girl here at Babestar," the announcer says. Look4Love defended the ad, saying it was shown after 10:00 p.m., could be blocked by parents, and that it had warned that its programs were suitable only for persons over 18. The newspaper said that that the Advertising Standards Authority had ordered the broadcaster to drop the campaign, and when it did not do so, the matter was referred to OFCOM, the British broadcasting regulator. CRITICS REVOLT AT MARIE ANTOINETTE SCREENINGMany Cannes attendees had been forecasting that Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst,would turn out to be the sleeper at the festival. After an early screening for the press today (Wednesday), many agreed that it was a sleeper all right -- but in the wrong sense of the word. A thunder of boos erupted when the closing credits appeared, followed by a smattering of applause. At a news conference, Coppola insisted that she had intended to make a film that reflected life at the court of Versailles prior to the French Revolution and the life of the young queen in particular. She insisted that the film had no political intent (even though it argues that the French revolution was caused in large part by the costly decision of the king to send troops to America to support the colonists' revolt against the British). One reporter observed that it seemed ironic that $40 million had been lavished on a movie that depicts royal decadence. Producer Steve Coogan responded that $40 million does not represent a decadent film budget.


Some 4,500 film projects, most of them incomplete, are being hawked at the Cannes Film Market, mounted in conjunction with the festival, the Wall Street Journalreported today (Wednesday). Lionsgate President Nick Meyer told the newspaper, "More product has come to the marketplace from independent producers, financiers and distributors than I've seen in years." According to the Journal, a significant percentage of the projects are horror films. Liz Mackiewicz, senior vice president of world-wide distribution for Media 8 Entertainment, which is selling a trilogy of horror films, a supernatural thriller, and a zombie comedy, told the newspaper that they were "selling well ... because that's one genre that is successful everywhere."


The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano implied Tuesday that the Church had been maneuvered into contributing to a "gigantic marketing strategy" involving The Da Vinci Codeintended to increase ticket sales. In the end, the newspaper said, the film amounts to a dull version of Dan Brown's novel and the controversy "much ado about nothing.". Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Releasing and the Indian Censor Board have reached a compromise, permitting The Da Vinci Code to be released in that country on Friday. Indian censors had demanded that its own disclaimer, stating the the film is "a work of pure fiction and has no correspondence to historical facts of the Christian religion," be inserted at the beginning and at the end of the feature. Sony had agreed to run the standard disclaimer -- that "the characters and incidents portrayed and the names herein are fictitious, and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional" -- once only. In the end, Sony agreed to run its own disclaimer at both the beginning and end of the film.


Michael Eisner will take what today's (Wednesday) New York Postdescribes as "a subtle jab" at Robert Iger, who succeeded him as CEO of the Walt Disney Co. when the two appear on Eisner's CNBC talk show Thursday night. According to the newspaper, Eisner calls Disney's $7.4-billion acquisition of Pixar Animation "expensive" and a "big bet." He also dismissed widespread reports that he was unable to reach an agreement with Pixar's Steve Jobs because of a strained relationship. It was "quite the opposite," Eisner reportedly says on the show. "I made the original Pixar deal, I made the second Pixar deal. My issue with Steve Jobs was about money."