"MUST SEE?" NO, THANKS

CBS had much to be thankful for on Thanksgiving night as it swept every half hour on a night that NBC used to dominate. Starting off with a repeat of Cold Case at 8:00 p.m., CBS scored a 7.4/15, while two back-to-back repeats of NBC's Friendsaveraged only a 6.1/13. At 9:00, a rerun of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation produced the best rating of the night, a 10.0/19, while two more episodes of Friends on NBC averaged a 6.5/13. At 10:00 CBS finished off its primary rival by taking an 8.3/16 withWithout a Trace against an all new Harry Connick Jr. special that managed only a 4.3/8. Overall, CBS averaged an 8.6/17 for the night, while NBC was well behind with a 5.7/11. Fox placed third with a 3.5/7, while ABC trailed with a 3.3/6.

WITHOUT MOVIE HITS, PARAMOUNT PICKS TV SHOWS FOR DVD FARE

Paramount Home Entertainment plans to increase the number of television shows being released on DVD next year, Video Storemagazine reported today (Friday), noting that the company is a Viacom sibling of CBS, UPN, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Television. (Not mentioned is the fact that PHE ordinarily relies on movies released by Paramount Studios, which has been experiencing a prolonged box office slump.) Among the releases will be season packages of I Love Lucy from CBS, Star Trek: Voyager from UPN, Cheers from Paramount TV, Punk'd from MTV, and SpongeBob SquarePants from Nickelodeon. Today's (Friday) Los Angeles Times also observed that a number of other small-screen "classics" are set to be released by other companies on DVD shortly, including Jackie Gleason's The Honeymooners; the Beatles' four appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show; a complete season of The Dick Van Dyke Show (co-starring Mary Tyler Moore); and Battlestar Galactica (featuring the special-effects work of John Dykstra).

FOX: DOWN WITH HILLARY; UP WITH DUBYA

While Fox News was selected to cover President Bush's Thanksgiving Day trip to Iraq, the channel's Geraldo Rivera was covering Senator Hillary Clinton's visit to Afghanistan. "The G.I.s here at the Bagram base were reasonably excited, I think it's fair to say, to see the former first lady," Rivera observed, then quickly added: "They were even more impressed with their turkey dinner." As reported by the conservative NewsMax website, the channel depicted the president's visit to Iraq as a morale booster, presenting one female soldier who remarked: "It was a wonderful moment. I think everyone there was so overjoyed just to see the president." The president's visit also received generally good notices from much of the Washington press corps. CBS's Bob Schieffer told today's (Friday) Washington Post: "It was extremely important for the president to demonstrate that he's willing to go where those young men and women he sent over there have gone." But CNN's Kathryn Kross remarked: "Apparently the White House put together its own group of people to accompany the president on this trip, and we're real interested to learn their reasons for doing that."

BBC NEWSMEN TO LOSE OUTSIDE INCOME

The BBC is expected to issue an ultimatum to its top news personalities to stop writing newspaper columns or quit the broadcasting corporation, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today (Friday). The newspaper observed that some high-profile news anchors for the BBC earn more than $175,000 a year from their newspaper columns, and that exceptions to the publicly funded broadcaster's general policy of barring reporters from outside employment have been made in the past. The more stringent policy comes following an uproar over a freelance column by BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan in the Mail on Sunday in which he amplified his on-air claim that Prime Minister Tony Blair's communications director, Alastair Campbell, had demanded that an intelligence dossier on Iraq be "sexed up" to indicate that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction that could be deployed against the West on 45-minutes notice. The Guardian quoted one BBC source as saying, "If one or two people say 'I'm leaving', we will regret that very much -- but we are not going to fudge this this time round. We are mindful that there are some very big, big names involved, but at the end of the day nobody is indispensable."

NBC QUEERS BRITISH QUEER EYE DEAL

The U.K. production company Making Time has taken a $860,000 hit after NBC Enterprises and Scout Productions pulled the plug on its effort to produce a British version of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, according to Britain's Guardian newspaper. The show had been scheduled to air on cable channel Living TV, with Queer Eye's U.S. outlet, the Bravo channel, having first dibs on airing it in the U.S. A spokeswoman for Living TV told the Guardian, "We halted production due to a translation of the format. We wanted a closer adherence to the original [US] format." Living TV currently airs the Bravo version.

WARNER'S TO "SNEAK" SAMURAI NEXT WEEK

Warner Bros., which had originally announced a Dec. 12 opening for its big holiday release, The Last Samurai, then moved it up a week to Dec. 5, now says that it will offer "sneak preview" screenings of the film in more than 500 theaters on Nov. 29. "The response to this film in advance screenings -- both in the U.S. and in Japan -- has been so extraordinary that we believe word of mouth about it is our most powerful tool for bringing The Last Samurai to the attention of audiences," Warner's distribution chief Dan Fellman said in a statement. "As of this week, we now have enough prints to be able to screen the picture across the country, and we are taking this opportunity to give holiday audiences a special early look at a picture we're very proud of."

MCGREGOR ANGERED OVER CENSORSHIP OF NUDE SCENE

Although the MPAA has in the past granted R ratings to several films showing brief scenes of non-sexual male frontal nudity, Sony Classics has elected to remove a scene from the U.S. release of its forthcoming Young Adam in which star Ewan McGregor is seen nude. The decision has angered McGregor, who previously appeared naked in Trainspotting and The Velvet Goldmine, and who told Premiere magazine, "If you want to see my penis [in Young Adam], you'll have to fly to Britain." McGregor suggested that the censorship underscores the hypocrisy of the U.S. film ratings system. "It does amuse me, the horrific violence that comes out of American cinema. But someone's c**k is too much. If I'd blown away 5,000 people with a semiautomatic machine gun, that would be fine. But I showed my penis."

FATHER IN BECKHAM BECOMES CHIEF CENSOR IN INDIA

Anupam Kher, who in Bend It Like Beckham portrayed the expatriate Indian father of a soccer-loving teenager living in England, has been appointed India's new film censor. "I have taken on this job at one of the most sensitive times in Indian cinema," Kher told today's (Friday) London Financial Times. Like the character he played in Beckham, Kher, as head of the Central Board of Film Certification, will be forced to come to terms with the current cultural reformation taking place in Indian filmmaking. "Indian cinema is in fantastic transition," he acknowledged, "which is challenging much that is central to Indian values -- and I'm involved at every level."

ALL-TIME MOVIE TURKEYS ANNOUNCED ON TURKEY DAY

John Travolta's Battlefield Earth has the dubious honor of coming out on top in the online balloting for "The Top Turkeys of All Time." Based on the votes of some 1.2 million members of the Yahoo! My Movies website, the "turkey" list was also topped by (in order) Gigli, Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, From Justin to Kelly and Glitter.

TIMBERLAKE TO SELECT MOVIE PROJECT BY JANUARY, SAYS REPORT

Justin Timberlake is expected to choose his first starring role in a movie as early as January, USA Today reported today (Friday), citing a spokeswoman for the singer. The newspaper said that Timberlake has been receiving movie offers since his Oct. 11 appearance on NBC's Saturday Night Live in which he reportedly impressed film executives.

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