THREE IDOLS IN TOP TEN

All three editions of American Idol -- the performance show, the results show and the "Gives Back" show -- wound up in Nielsen's top ten ratings for last week; however, the total number of viewers who tuned in to watch them was significantly lower than last year's count during the comparable week. But then, the total TV audience was down significantly as well, as the aftereffects of the recent writers' strike continued to linger. Idol's Tuesday-night show topped the list with a 14.2 rating and a 22 share, followed by the Monday-night edition of ABC's Dancing With the Stars, which posted a 12.8/20. A new episode of CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation followed in third place. For the week, CBS retained the ratings crown with an average 6.6 rating and an 11 share. Fox followed in second place with an average 6.1/10. ABC placed third with a 5.3/9, while NBC trailed with a 4.3/7.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 14.2/22; 2. Dancing With the Stars, ABC, 12.8/20; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 12.5/19; 4. NCAA Basketball Championships (Kansas vs. Memphis), CBS, 12.1/20; 5. American Idol (Thursday), Fox, 12.0/19; 6. Dancing With the Stars (Tuesday), ABC, 11.1/17; 7. Idol Gives Back (Wednesday), Fox, 10.4/16; 8. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 10.3/15; 9. Without a Trace, CBS, 9.7/16; 10. NCIS, CBS, 8.8/14.

SOAP ACTRESS SAYS SHE INITIATED TALKS WITH SAG

A member of the cast of The Bold and the Beautiful has released a letter through the Screen Actors Guild maintaining that no fellow member of the cast has been asked to leave AFTRA and join SAG instead. Release of the letter from actress Susan Flannery follows AFTRA's accusation that SAG was attempting to muscle in on its jurisdiction of daytime dramas. In the past, SAG has usually represented actors on shows that are shot on film; AFTRA, those that are shot on tape. Soap operas are generally shot on tape. In the letter, Flannery said that the idea to explore the possibility of switching unions originated with her, not SAG, and that she and co-star John McCook then met with SAG leaders Doug Allen and Allen Rosenberg "to ask what our options were." She said that they advised her to take her complaints directly to AFTRA. In the letter Flannery also maintained that what is really preventing a change of representation is an AFL-CIO rule requiring a two-year waiting period for such a switch to occur. Calling it an "anti-union clause," the actress said that it "withholds from union members the protection of a union shop and collective bargaining agent of their choice, in this case, SAG." The letter, which was posted on Nikki Finke's Dateline Hollywood Daily blog, touched off mixed reactions. One writer commented that if the clause did not exist, "every show would continuously be up for grabs and all union energies would be spent fighting turf wars between the unions and there would be no time left to protect workers against their employers." Another wrote, "AFTRA needs to allow itself to be swallowed up by SAG or just die and go away."

SAG AND AMPTP BEGIN BARGAINING TALKS

Contract negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers opened Tuesday with neither side commenting on what matters were discussed. In a joint statement issued at the end of the day, the two sides merely said that they had submitted proposals and would meet again on Wednesday. However, in an interview with the New York Times, SAG President Alan Rosenberg said, Aside from my family, I have two great loves in my life: acting and the fight for social justice." He added, "Oh yes, we are very serious."

DAN RATHER SAYS HE SUPPORTS PELLEY TO SUCCEED COURIC

Dan Rather said Tuesday that the expected departure of Katie Couric as anchor of the CBS Evening News would give "the program a chance for a semi-fresh start." Speaking to the Huffington Post's Rachel Sklar, Rather said that the program's "big need" is a shoring up of CBS News's infrastructure, the "staff who care -- who really care-- about quality journalism. Their numbers have been reduced, and there's been a systematic winnowing back and cutting out of that infrastructure." As for who might replace Couric, Rather said that it should be someone "from the inside." His own favorite -- 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley, a fellow Texan. Rather indicated that after it was announced that Couric would be succeeding him he tried to "reach out" to her. "I thought I cold help her because frankly, I didn't think she had any idea ... what she was stepping into." He acknowledged that she became "peeved at me after my criticism of the broadcast -- not of her, of the broadcast. They tried to put on the Today show in the evening and that didn't work." As for his current lawsuit against CBS, Rather insisted that the court's decision to throw out some of his claims did not affect the key issues. Most important, he indicated, he will have the opportunity during the discovery process to see what really led to his removal as anchor of the CBS Evening News. "Everything that was open to us before the judge rendered his decision is still open to us," he said.

MSNBC REJECTS GUN AD

Both conservative and liberal websites were trying to figure out what possessed MSNBC to turn down an ad urging passage of a law that would plug a current loophole that allows convicted felons to purchase firearms at gun shows. The cable news network's decision was reported by the Washington-based Politico, which quoted MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines as saying, "We don't accept controversial issue advertising." However, as numerous commentators have pointed out, the law does not appear to have any opposition. The ad was produced by Mayors Against Illegal Guns and includes comments in support of the law by all three major presidential candidates and several U.S. mayors affiliated with both major parties. Both Fox News and CNN are airing it.

U.K. TV TALENT WINNER TO DEBUT AT NO. 1 ON BILLBOARD

Even winners of British TV talent contests can become stars in the U.S., it seems. Leona Lewis, winner of Simon Cowell's X-Factor show in the U.K., will become the first British female singer to debut at No. 1 on Billboard magazine's U.S. album chart this week, the publication said Tuesday. Her single "Bleeding Love" hit No. 1 on the singles chart last month. Billboard said that the album Spirit sold 205,000 copies during the week ended April 13.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.