END OF WORLD NO COMPETITION FOR HOUSEWIVES
Not even the end of the world could draw viewers away from ABC's Desperate Housewives. CBS's disaster telefilm Category 7: The End of the World produced a strong 9.7 rating and a 14 share Sunday night, but that represented a distant second to ABC's 16.8/23 for Housewives. The first hour of NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent placed third in the hour with an 8.4/12.
AFTRA MOVING TO L.A. TO ESCAPE HIGH RENTS
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) has decided to move its national headquarters from New York to Los Angeles. The union's board approved the move on Sunday and announced that it would take place following negotiations for a new sound recordings and commercials contract. Some departments, like News/Broadcast, it said, will remain in New York. In a statement, AFTRA National President John Connolly said, "This strategic reorganization of AFTRA staff and resources stands as a dramatic confirmation that our union, like our talent, is not limited by zip code. AFTRA is a national union committed to organizing across our vast jurisdiction in every corner of [the] country." In an interview with Newsday, AFTRA spokesman Christopher de Haan said that the primary reason for the move was that "the cost of real estate in L.A. is far cheaper than in New York City."
CRITICS DEBATE LIVE WEST WING DEBATE
TV critics and commentators had mixed reactions today (Monday) to the live "presidential debate" staged on NBC's The West Wing Sunday night between Republican candidate Arnold Vinick, played by Alan Alda, and his Democratic rival, Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits. Associated Press writer Frazier Moore described the confrontation as "the sort of telling clash that actual presidential debates never permit. It was substantial, at times downright wonkish, and a remarkable contrast to the choreographed, antiseptic real thing." David Kronke, the TV critic for the Los Angeles Daily News, added that "the ferocity of Smits' and, particularly, Alda's performances kept it riveting." On the other hand, the Washington Post's Tom Shales described the debate as a "moderately bewildering exercise in exceptional acting and lily-livered irrelevancy" and concluded that "the experiment was a failure, yet not a complete waste of time." Doug Elfman in the Chicago Sun-Times wouldn't even go that far, writing that the debate "stunk so bad, the stench may have polluted everything it touched, including my ability to write about it. It was P.U. stinky, like a baby's diaper or a dog's breath." The live debate did succeed in boosting ratings for the drama, whose ratings had nosedived since moving to Sunday night. It averaged a third-place 7.7 rating and a 11 share, up from a season average of a 5.3/8.
HUSBAND AND WIFE CHUNG AND POVICH TO HOST MSNBC SHOW
Connie Chung, who was once a fixture of network news -- she once cohosted the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and was a weekend anchor on NBC -- but who has rarely been seen on TV since CNN canceled her primetime show nearly three years ago, will host a weekly show on MSNBC with her husband, talk-show host Maury Povich beginning Jan. 7, the New York Times reported today (Monday). The show will air live at 10:00 a.m. on Saturdays, with a repeat due to air on Sundays, the newspaper said. In an interview with the Times, MSNBC President Rick Kaplan said, "We want to have some fun and do a cool half-hour. ... This could be the kiss of death, but for me they have almost a Tracy and Hepburn relationship. They are edgy with each other. Funny. They agree to disagree." Chung appeared eager to return to TV, noting that after she was "dumped" (her word) by CNN, "I couldn't get arrested."
NOVAK OUT FOR GOOD AT CNN?
Robert Novak, who was temporarily suspended by CNN in August when he uttered an obscenity on the air and then stormed off the set, is not likely to return to the cable news network, the New York Post reported today, citing no sources. The newspaper observed that Novak has a contract with CNN that is said to expire in early 2006. A CNN spokeswoman declined to comment, saying that the network does not discuss personnel matters.
DID FOX PAY $14,000 FOR DELAY TRIP?
A report filed by embattled Texas Congressman Tom DeLay indicating that he received free travel worth nearly $14,000 from Fox News Sunday on Oct. 1-2 has raised eyebrows at the capital. Word of the payment was posted on numerous media websites on Sunday, with several noting that that Fox had paid for DeLay ("and his entourage") to be flown in a private jet roundtrip from Sugarland, TX to Washington, D.C. DeLay appeared on the program five days after he was indicted on charges of money laundering and conspiracy in a campaign-finance scheme.
LATIN GRAMMYS DOMINATE L.A. VIEWING
CBS may have dominated the ratings in all demographic categories Thursday night, but not in Los Angeles, where Univision's telecast of the sixth annual Latin Grammy Awards was No. 1 in primetime in the key demo of 18-49 year-olds, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Monday). Moreover, the telecast on Univision attracted 5.1 million viewers, up dramatically from last year when 3.3 million watched when the Latin Grammys aired on CBS.
BBC CHIEF WAS ALMOST OUSTED OVER DIANA INTERVIEW
The chairman of the BBC attempted to oust the director-general after the publicly supported broadcaster aired its now historic interview with Princess Diana in 1995 during which she discussed the reasons for the failure of her marriage, according to a documentary set to air on the BBC on Tuesday, the London Sunday Observer reported. In an interview for the documentary, former BBC director-general John Birt said that BBC Chairman Marmaduke Hussey "set out to unseat me ... He was very vengeful." Hussy, according to Birt, had close links to the royal family and was loyal to Prince Charles. Diana, he indicated, was convinced that Hussy would prevent the interview from being aired if he found out about it in advance. Says Birt: "In a perfect world I should have informed him. But he struggled even there. And he failed to get what he wanted: a stinging rebuke which, he calculated, would force my resignation."
ACTRESS SHEREE NORTH DEAD AT 72
Sheree North, who was to television in the 1950s what Marilyn Monroe was to movies (she once played Monroe's mother in a 1980 TV biopic), died Friday in Los Angeles of complications following surgery, the Associate Press reported. She was 72. She made her TV debut in 1954 on the Ed Sullivan show and appeared in numerous variety programs and specials during the Golden Age of live television. North co-starred in an assortment TV sitcoms and dramas in the 1970s and made many guest appearances in the '80s and '90s, including regular appearances on The Golden Girls as Blanche's sister; on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as Lou Grant's girlfriend; and on Seinfeld as Cosmo Kramer's mother.
CHICKEN LIFTS MOUSE
The sky fell on box-office pundits, not on the Walt Disney Co., as the studio's computer-animated Chicken Little opened with $40.1 million, well above most forecasts of $25-30 million. In an interview with today's (Monday), Los Angeles Daily News, Chuck Viane, head of Buena Vista Pictures, Disney's distribution arm, clucked, "We always knew that it was a special movie, but this is at the upper, upper, upper end of where we thought it would open." Also opening stronger than expected was Universal's Gulf War #1 drama Jarhead, which pulled in $28.8 million, to place second. Still, the overall box office was down more than 10 percent from the same weekend last year when Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles opened with $70.3 million. Among movies receiving platform releases, Warner Independent's Good Night, and Good Luck expanded to 657 screens and brought in $3.1 million, to bring its total to $11 million after five weeks. Disney's Steve Martin romantic comedy Shopgirl moved onto 493 screens and tallied $2.5 million, bringing its total to $3.5 million after 3 weeks.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Chicken Little, $40.1 million; 2. Jarhead, $28.8 million; 3. Saw II, $17.2 million; 4. The Legend of Zorro, $10 million; 5. Prime, $5.3 million; 6. Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story, $4.8 million; 7. Good Night, and Good Luck, $3.1 million; 8. The Weather Man, $2.9 million; 9. Shopgirl, $2.5 million; 10. Flightplan, $2.3 million.
HOW MUCH MEAT ON THIS CHICKEN?
Analysts generally agreed that the solid performance of Chicken Little indicated that Disney could turn out successful computer-animated fare on its own, particularly when it didn't have to share the profits with Pixar. Nevertheless, they noted, Chicken Little's weekend gross was eclipsed by other CGI features from Pixar and DreamWorks animation. Jim Hill, who follows the fortunes of Disney animation on his website JimHillMedia.com, pointed out that Chicken Little took in only $1.2 million more than the opening of Disney's 2000 feature Dinosaur, which played on 400 fewer screens when the average ticket price was $5.48 vs. the current $6.40, which, said Hill, "is not exactly what I'd call a decisive victory." Hill also pointed out that Chicken Little averaged just $10,970 per theater, slightly less than the hand-drawn animated films Tarzan and Lilo and Stitch. Meanwhile, today's (Monday) Wall Street Journal reported that Disney has decided to slow down production of some of its planned animated features and will have no new release in 2007. Citing people familiar with the situation, the newspaper said that Disney will not release American Dog until the summer of 2008. Meet the Robinsons remains set for a release in December 2006, but Rapunzel Unbraided, originally scheduled for release in 2008,will now be delayed until the summer of 2009.
GET RICH BILLBOARDS COME DOWN IN PHILLY
Community activists in Philadelphia have become the latest group to have succeeded in forcing the removal of billboards advertising Get Rich or Die Tryin', starring rapper 50 Cent. In a statement, George Kauker head of the local office of Clear Channel Outdoor, the billboard company, said, "Based on clear and vocal negative response from local Philadelphia community groups, we agreed to remove this particular advertisement" at 21 locations. The ads show a shirtless 50 Cent holding a microphone in one hand and a gun in another. In an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News over the weekend, Director Jim Sheridan, who initially called the protests over the billboards "insane," said he now has no objection to their removal. "I'm conscious of why people are worried," he said. "We don't want to be promoting the idea that you just get a gun and that solves your life. The film kind of says the opposite."
ACTOR GALLO SELLS HIS SEMEN ONLINE
In one of the most bizarre attempts ever by a lesser movie celebrity to capitalize on his fame, actor/director Vincent Gallo has offered to sell his semen for $1 million including "all costs related to attempt at an in vitro fertilization." Fertilization by Gallo "the old fashioned way" will cost $1.5 million. Gallo says that his offer is not open to "those of extremely dark complexions" and offers a $50,000 discount to any woman who is blonde, blue-eyed, or related to "any of the German soldiers of the mid-century." Gallo, who posted the offer on his website, did not return calls from reporters seeking to discover whether he was serious.
FIRST POTTER REVIEWS ARE IN
The first British reviews are in for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire following Saturday night's London premiere, and if they are any indication of how the film will be received elsewhere, Warner Bros. executives will have reason to raise a goblet or two of their own to their future box-office success. "The passage of Harry and his friends into their teenage years has come off smoothly," James Christopher writes in the London Times. "Adolescence is Harry's new foe. And it brings the kind of challenges that most parents hate." Christopher credits director Mike Newell for a "considerable triumph" in keeping "the thrills up to exhilarating scratch." David Edwards in the Daily Mirror calls the fourth Potter film "the best yet -- a magnificent, magical and truly mesmerising fantasy epic that reminds you just how great a kids' movie can be."