THE PEACOCK FLIES AGAIN

NBC, which once dominated the weekly Nielsen ratings but which had fallen to has-been status in recent years, was back on the victors' stand again thanks to its coverage of the Summer Olympics in Beijing. Friday's opening ceremonies and the weekend competition trounced everything else in sight and gave the network its best ratings in nearly three years. With just those three days of Olympics telecasts, NBC was able to finish the week with three times the audience of its closest competitor. (It was also helped by Tuesday's two-hour edition of America's Got Talent.) For the week, NBC averaged a 10.1 rating and an 18 share. CBS was a distant second with a 3.8/7. Fox finished third with a 3.2/6, while ABC trailed with a 2.4/4.

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

1. Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies, NBC, 18.8/34; 2. Summer Olympics (Sunday), NBC, 18.1/31; 3. Summer Olympics (Saturday), NBC, 13.9/27; 4. America's Got Talent, NBC, 7.7/13; 5. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 6.5/11; 6. Criminal Minds, CBS, 6.0/10; 7. NCIS, CBS, 5.9/10; 7. So You Think Can Dance (Thursday), Fox, 5.9/10; 9. CSI: Miami, CBS, 5.5/10; 9. So You Think Can Dance (Wednesday), Fox, 5.5/10.

CHINA JUSTIFIES CHEATING DURING OPENING CEREMONIES

China has justified its decision to include computer-generated scenes of fireworks "footprints" and use a nine-year-old girl to lip-sync a recording by a seven-year-old during Friday's opening ceremonies. The actual fireworks display, it said, could not have been presented live because haze over Beijing would have obscured the spectacle (the virtual fireworks were reportedly made to look more realistic by adding "camera shake"). Reports also indicated that 15 minutes before the ceremonies were to begin, 7-year-old Yang Peiji was replaced on stage by 9-year-old Lin Miaoke, who then lip-synced Yang's recording of "I Sing for My Country" as China's flag enter the stadium. In an interview with Beijing Radio, Chen Qigang, the ceremonies' musical director, said that the switch was made "for the nation's interest. The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings, and expression." But UC Berkeley Professor Xiao Qiang told Bloomberg News today (Wednesday), "People feel like they eat a great meal and later on you tell them there was a fly in it."

PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT DIGITAL SWITCH -- BUT ARE DOING LITTLE

More and more people who receive television signals over the air -- rather than by cable or satellite -- are aware that they will not be able to do so come September without purchasing a converter box, but relatively few of them have done so, according to a new survey by the Association of Public Television Stations and reported on the Broadcast Engineering website. The study found that 70 percent of over-the-air households said they know that they need to purchase a converter and that 8.8 million said they would do so. Of those requesting government-issued coupons to cover most of the purchase price of the converters, only 54.2 percent said they had redeemed them, and of that group just 38 percent have installed the converters. Only 12 percent of the over-the-air households said they would sign up for cable or satellite.

BARACK OBAMA: THE INFOMERCIAL

Coming to the screens of wee-hour television are half-hour infomercials selling not a product but the politics of Barack Obama. Advertising Age reported on its website Tuesday that the first Obama infomercial aired Sunday morning at 1:30 a.m. on the ION Television network. The trade publication noted that the Obama campaign is referring to it as a "long-form commercial" that is mostly biographical. AdAge did not indicate whether it also included a pitch for campaign contributions; however, it did quote Evan Trace, COO of TNS Media Intelligence's Campaign Media Analysis Group as saying, "It is a first. I guess they are going after the insomniac vote."

SORKIN SAYS WRITER-PRODUCERS FORCED END OF WRITERS' STRIKE

TV writer-producer Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) has disclosed that as the writers' strike dragged on into January, he and "seven or eight" other top screenwriters were invited to a dinner at the home of writer-producer Paul Attanasio (House) -- each of whom was concerned that the strike was creating unwarranted hardship to hundreds of members of the industry. In an interview with GQ magazine, Sorkin said, "We all agreed that we had been irresponsible and that, in an effort not to seem elitist, we had remained quiet during this strike. We hadn't voiced our objections. We hadn't put pressure on Patric Verrone and the other heads of the union to end this thing." Sorkin said that the meeting took place the day after the Directors Guild had reached an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. He said that at some point that evening, a call was placed to the WGA leadership. "We named who we were in the room and said that if we didn't see fast action over the next forty-eight hours, that we would have to make our feelings public." Asked whether the threat was effective, Sorkin replied that he had no idea if it did. "I know that the strike ended. I could have been for entirely different reasons."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.