Although CBS News chief White House correspondent John Roberts and 60 Minutescorrespondent Scott Pelley appear to have the inside track on replacing Dan Rather as anchor of The CBS Evening News, Newsweek,in its current issue, is reporting that NBC Todayshow co-host Matt Lauer and Meet the Presshost Tim Russert are also high on CBS's wish list. An announcement of a successor is expected following the release of an independent investigation into Rather's controversial 60 Minutesreport about President George W. Bush's National Guard service, the magazine said. The report is expected to give CBS chief Les Moonves the opportunity to institute a renovation of CBS News, which until now has maintained a staunch independence from programming. Newsweek, quoting sources at Viacom, reported that as part of the shake-up, CBS News President Andrew Heyward is likely to be asked to resign.


Networks are receiving a growing number of complaints -- particularly from users of personal video recorders like TiVo -- about their practice of extending hit shows by a minute or so in order to add commercials, USA Todayreported today (Monday). It also discourages viewers from clicking to another program that is already in progress. The newspaper observed that the practice causes people with video recorders to miss the start or end of certain programs. TiVo says it has begun sending warnings of conflicts to its 2 million subscribers.


Reflecting an international decline in the appeal of pop music, the BBC announced today (Monday) that it is moving its Top of the Popsvariety show from its more popular BBC One channel to its niche culture channel, BBC Two. In a report on its website, the BBC said, "The move is the biggest shake-up in the history of the show, which was first broadcast in 1964 and has always been on BBC One." However, as with the sale of pop music in record stores, ratings for Top of the Pops have plummeted in recent years. It currently attracts an audience of just three million viewers, less than half the size of its audience ten years ago. In a statement, the BBC attempted to put a best face on the decision, quoting BBC Two chief Roly Keating as saying, "It's an exciting new era for Top of the Pops. We want to make it bigger and better so that it becomes the ultimate pop music show for music lovers of every generation."


NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol survived the crash of a corporate jet during takeoff from an airport near the Telluride ski resort in southwest Colorado Sunday. His older son Charles, a senior at Notre Dame in South Bend, IN, where the plane was heading, also survived the crash and reportedly helped his father escape the burning wreckage. A second son, Edward, was missing. The pilot and copilot were killed.


Despite the uproar over Nicollette Sheridan's towel-dropping teaser on Monday Night Football two weeks ago, critics have failed to note that more children watch her in equally randy scenes on Desperate Housewives, New York Timesmedia critic Frank Rich observed in the Sunday New York Times.In a column titled "The Great Indecency Hoax," Rich produced previously unreported figures showing that while 540,000 children between the ages of 2-11 make up part of the audience for MNF, 870,000 are seated in the audience for Housewives. Among children 12-17, Housewivesranks No. 5 among all primetime shows, while MNF ranks 18th. "This may explain in part why [Housewives'] current advertisers include products like Fisher-Price toys, the DVD of Elf and ... Christmas With the Kranks," Rich wrote. The onetime chief theater critic of the Timesdared groups that have raised the to-do over the MNF spot to do the same with Housewives,which, he noted, is an even bigger hit in the red states than it is in the blue. He concluded: "A 'moral values' crusade that stands between a TV show this popular and its audience will quickly learn the limits of its power in a country where entertainment is god." (Meanwhile, the spoof website "reports" that a group of "frustrated gardeners" has sued the show claiming that it encourages women to treat them like "boy toys" or "sexual objects." One of them was quoted as saying, "I'm trying to plant the wild daffodils, but ... the lady I work for can't keep her hands off me. All she wants is hot, animal sex, but I need to start mulching.")


Alexanderwas vanquished over the Thanksgiving weekend by a disparate alliance that included Jerry Bruckheimer, a paunchy superhero, a family named Krank, a kid riding a train to the North Pole, and a sponge. In other words, the $160-million Warner Bros. movie debuted in sixth place with just $21.6 million over the five-day holiday. National Treasure, on the other hand,turned out to be just that for Disney, which produced it, taking in an estimated $46.2 million in its second weekend, to bring its gross to $87.9 million. Disney also could claim second place at the box office with The Incredibles,as it earned $33.2 million in its fourth week and brought its gross to $214.7 million. It was the first time any studio had ever captured the top two places at the box office over a Thanksgiving weekend. Sony's Christmas with the Kranks, which received generally poor reviews, opened in third place with $32 million, far better than analysts had expected. Taking the sting out of Warner Bros.' Alexandertrouncing, the studio's The Polar Express saw its box-office take improve a surprising 28 percent from the previous weekend as it took in $27.2 million in its third week ($3.8 million at 61 IMAX theaters alone). Paramount's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, however, dropped from second place to fifth as it earned $23.4 million. Exhibitor Relations estimated that the top 12 films grossed about $215 million for the five-day period, the second-best Thanksgiving holiday ever, behind 2000, which recorded $232.2 million.

The top ten films for the three-day weekend (Friday through Sunday), according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. National Treasure, $33.1 million; 2. The Incredibles,$24.1 million; 3. Christmas With the Kranks, $22.7 million; 4. The Polar Express, $20.1 million; 5. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, $17.8 million; 6. Alexander, $13.4 million; 7. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, $6.8 million; 8. Finding Neverland, $4.7 million; 9. Ray,$3.9 million; 10. After the Sunset, $3.3 million.


In its first weekend at the international box office, The Incrediblesearned $45.5 million, the most ever earned abroad by a Disney film on a single weekend, the Hollywood Reporterreported today (Monday). The film earned a record $18.6 million in the U.K. alone, smashing the record of $12.3 million set by Finding Nemolast year.


Civic and business leaders in Memphis plan to mount a campaign to urge Tennessee legislators to provide tax incentives and other subsidies to film and TV companies matching those offered by nearby states. Memphis and Shelby County film commissioner Linn Sitler told today's (Monday) edition of the Memphis Business Journalthat producers of a CBS miniseries about Elvis decided to film in New Orleans rather than Memphis because of Louisiana's film incentive package. She pointed out that, with the savings, the producers will be able to build a "Graceland imitation." Sitler remarked, "We don't have the incentives, but we have the real Graceland." John Elkington, president of Performa Entertainment Real Estate, told the publication, "To lose the Elvis series down there is unacceptable." His son, he said, recently moved to New Orleans to work on the set of Sony's All the King's Men (which is based on the career of former Louisiana Gov. Huey Long.)


Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema plan to release films in Toshiba and NEC Corp's high-definition DVD format (HD-DVD) by next Christmas, Toshiba announced today (Monday). The Wall Street Journal,citing people familiar with the matter, said that the four studios plan to release up to two dozen titles that can be viewed on HDTV TV sets equipped with the new DVD players. A second, incompatible HDTV DVD system, Sony's Blu-ray, is due to debut in 2006.


A French court has ruled that the French-language movie A Very Long Engagement,which is being touted as an Oscar contender, may not compete in French film festivals, including Cannes, because it was financed in part by the U.S. studio Warner Bros. The court held that Warner Bros. had created a French company, 2003 Productions, for the sole purpose of allowing its French subsidiary, Warner Bros. France, "to benefit from [state] financial help even though [the fund] is reserved for the European cinematographic industry." The film, titled Un Long Dimanche de Fiancaillesin French, was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Alien Resurrection, Amelie) and stars Audrey Tautou (Amelie). Jodie Foster, in her first French-speaking role, is also featured in the film. France's National Center for Cinematography, which provided the state funds for the production, said that it is studying the court ruling "and its consequences." In an interview with the BBC, Jeunet pointed out that Oliver Stone's Alexanderhad received state funding because Stone's "mother is French and he did the post-production in Paris. So it's French, no problem. And this one is not French, can you believe it?" The film opens in the U.S. on December 3rd.