IT'S HOUSEWIVES' RIVALS WHO ARE DESPERATE
ABC's Desperate Housewives continued to overwhelm the competition Sunday night, scoring an 18.4 rating and a 26 share, representing 27 million viewers. NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which previously dominated the 9:00 hour on Sunday, attracted just 42 percent of that number -- 12 million viewers. At 10:00 p.m., ABC's Grey's Anatomy also dominated, posting a 12.6/19, well ahead of NBC's Crossing Jordan, which settled for an 8.8/14. Earlier in the evening, ABC's America's Funniest Home Videos scored a respectable 5.1/8 at 7:00 p.m., while at 8:00 p.m. ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition turned in a solid 9.1/13. Both shows, however, were beaten by rivals on CBS. At 7:00 60 Minutes, which aired an interview with Elián Gonzalez,led with an 8.5/14 and at 8:00 Cold Case led with an 11.7/17. (On the East Coast, the NFL overrun at 7:00 p.m. on Fox led with a 10.7/18.)
CBS SWEEPS FRIDAY
On a night that saw a significant decline in the overall audience from a year ago, CBS on Friday placed first in every hour of primetime, winning the night with an average 6.9 rating and a 12 share, well ahead of second-place ABC's 5.1/9. NBC finished third with a 4.1/7. CBS continued to pull strong ratings at 8:00 p.m. from the critically reviled Ghost Whisperer, which scored a 7.3/13, well ahead of NBC's Dateline, which devoted its entire hour to a report on last August's Peruvian plane crash, interviewing a group of survivors. CBS remained ahead at 9:00 p.m. with the new drama Threshold, which nabbed a 5.7/10. ABC took over second place with the season premiere of Hope & Faith, which registered a 5.3/9. NBC's Three Wishes placed third with a 4.5/8. CBS got its highest numbers of the night at 10:00 for Numb3rs -- a 7.6/14. ABC's newsmagazine 20/20 followed with a 5.9/11, while Inconceivable on NBC tanked with a 3.4/6. CBS remained ahead on Saturday, as most of the networks devoted the night to repeats of season premieres that aired earlier in the week.
ETHERIDGE TRIES ANOTHER SITCOM FORMAT
Rock singer Melissa Etheridge, who said last year that she was filming a TV pilot in which she would play a single lesbian raising a child with a straight roommate, has now indicated that she'll try again in another pilot with a far different premise. In an interview with Time, Etheridge said that the new pilot will concern "what my life might have been like had I not left to find my fame and fortune, and stayed in Kansas and became a teacher and been gay and dealt with life there." In 2000, she revealed that the biological father of her two children was fellow rocker David Crosby. She spent much of last year battling breast cancer.
HOMETOWN NEWSPAPER CITES INACCURACIES IN BTK MOVIE
The Witchita Eagle, a newspaper that was instrumental in tracking down Dennis Rader, the so-called BTK Killer, has listed ten significant inaccuracies in CBS's made-for-TV movie about the case due to air next Sunday. Nevertheless, Witchita police Lt. Ken Landwehr, who headed the BTK Task Force, has told the newspaper that while he noticed some inaccuracies, they "did not appear to be outlandish." The newspaper noted that Rader himself, who appeared to relish the national notoriety his killings generated, will not be able to watch the television drama. Kansas Department of Corrections spokeswoman Frances Breyne told the newspaper that Rader must serve time and show good behavior before he can have access to TV.
CBS LIKELY TO OUST HEYWARD, SAYS REPORT
CBS is not likely to renew the contract of CBS News chief Andrew Heyward, New York Daily News columnist Lloyd Grove reported today (Monday), citing unnamed company insiders. Grove said that the move to dump Heyward was presaged by CBS Chairman Les Moonves's recent interview with the New York Times, in which he said, "We have to break the mold in news" and "I want to bomb the whole building." Heyward, according to Grove, is also likely to come out favorably in a book due to be published on Nov. 8, in which former CBS producer Mary Mapes, who was fired in the Bush/National guard controversy, reportedly writes unfavorably about Heyward.
FAMED BRITISH INTERVIEWER FROST REPORTEDLY SIGNS WITH AL-JAZEERA
Raising the respectability quotient of the new English-language service being mounted by Arab satellite news channel al-Jazeera, veteran interviewer David Frost has reportedly been signed to host an interview program on the network, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported today (Monday). "Having him on board will help the station dispel the mistrust felt towards it in some quarters of the U.K. and the U.S. His access to top politicians on both sides of the Atlantic may lead to better relations between US officials and al-Jazeera," the Guardian observed. Earlier this year, Frost interviewed U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has accused al-Jazeera of encouraging terrorists by broadcasting their videos showing the beheading of hostages. Al-Jazeera has denied ever showing a beheading.
JENNINGS LEAVES $50-MILLION ESTATE
The late ABC News anchor Peter Jennings left an estate of more than $50 million and signed a final will just 16 days before disclosing that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer in which he left half the estate to his wife, ABC News producer Kayce Freed, and most of the remainder to his two grown children from a previous marriage, Elizabeth and Christopher.
PARAMOUNT SWITCHES SIDES IN FORMAT WAR
In a surprise announcement on Sunday, Paramount Home Entertainment switched its support to Sony's Blu-ray DVD format from Toshiba's HD DVD giving the Sony-developed high-definition DVD format the backing of four of the six major studios. Until Paramount's switch to the Blu-ray camp, the studios had lined up evenly behind the two incompatible formats. Some analysts predicted Sunday that Warner Bros. will also join the Blu-ray backers, perhaps as early as today (Monday). That would leave only Universal in the HD DVD camp. In a statement, Thomas Lesinski, president of worldwide home entertainment for Paramount Pictures, said that he was primarily influenced by "new data on cost, manufacturability and copy-protection solutions" and the fact that Sony will gain a significant advantage in volume production by including Blu-ray in its PlayStation 3 video game players. Virtually all of the studios are hedging their bets, saying that they might release high-definition versions of their movies in both formats until a final shake-out occurs. Paramount's announcement came less than a week after Microsoft and Intel joined the HD DVD backers.
HO-HUM WEEKEND AT BOX OFFICE
Moviegoers showed little enthusiasm for a slate of new movies and instead returned Disney's Flightplan to the top position for the second week in a row. The film earned $15 million, down 39 percent from its opening-weekend figures. Universal's Serenity, based on Joss Whedon's quickly canceled TV series Firefly, debuted in second place with $10 million. Analysts observed that nearly half of those who went to see it identified themselves as fans of the TV show. The animated Tim Burton's Corpse Bride followed in third place with $9.8 million. Expanding into wide release, David Cronenberg's critically praised A History of Violence finished with just $8.2 million. Another newcomer, Sony's Into the Blue was set to come into the red as it posted just $7 million. And Disney's golf movie The Greatest Game Ever Played finished in the rough with $3.75 million. Overall, the box office earned $92 million, down 18 percent from the comparable weekend a year ago.
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Flightplan, $15 million; 2. Serenity, $10.1 million; 3. Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, $9.8 million; 4. A History of Violence, $8.2 million; 5. Into the Blue, $7 million; 6. Just Like Heaven, $6.1 million; 7. The Exorcism of Emily Rose, $4.4 million; 8. Roll Bounce, $4 million; 9. The Greatest Game Ever Played, $3.75 million; 10. The 40-Year-Old Virgin, $3.1 million.
SCHWARZENEGGER SIGNS PAPARAZZI LAW
Paparazzi convicted of assaulting celebrities could now receive hefty fines in California. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law a bill that triples damages celebrities can win from paparazzi if they are assaulted. The governor himself was involved in an incident in 1998 when photographers surrounded his car as he and wife Maria Shriver picked up their children from day care. The photographers were later convicted of false imprisonment and reckless driving. In a statement incoming SAG President Alan Rosenberg called the new law "a victory for guild members who have been terrorized by unprofessional paparazzi." The law is due to take effect on Jan. 1.
SONY IN HOT WATER WITH ITALIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
One week after it was reported that Sony Pictures had rejected Albert Brooks's latest movie, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, because of concern that the title would offend Muslims, Sony's computer entertainment division was under fire from the Catholic Church in Italy for a series of print ads depicting a young man wearing a crown of thorns in honor of the tenth anniversary of Sony's PlayStation. The ad was headlined "Ten Years of Passion." Antonio Sciortino, editor of the magazine Famiglia Cristiana (Christian Family),, wrote: "This time they've gone too far. If this had concerned Islam there would have been a really strong reaction." Sony Computer Entertainment Italia later released a statement, saying that the company was withdrawing the ads and apologizing for them. Meanwhile, Sony has denied that Brooks's title played any role in its decision not to release his movie. In a statement, the company said, "To those looking for truth in this manufactured controversy, here it is: We made our decision to pass on Brooks' movie the same way we did to accept Fahrenheit 9/11 -- on the merits, with neither fear nor favor."