With NBC's America's Got Talent now out of the picture on Wednesday nights, CBS moved into the lead for the night on the strength of reruns of its two procedural dramas, Criminal Minds in the 9:00 p.m. hour and CSI: NYin the 10:00 p.m. hour. Mindsposted a 5.7 rating and a 9 share, while CSI:NYclimbed to a 6.0/10. Ratings for all other shows on the major networks stood at 4.3 or below with the exception of ABC's Primetime: Medical Mysteries, which registered a 4.9/8 (good enough for second place at 10:00 p.m.) and remained the network's only successful summer entry.


A Florida judge has given former teacher Debra LaFave an exemption from her probation conditions to permit her to appear on NBC's Dateline. She is to be interviewed by Todayco-host Matt Lauer in Tampa, FL where she is serving a three-year house-arrest sentence, after pleading guilty to charges related to her sexual encounters with a 14-year-old student. Her attorney, John Fitzgibbons, told the Associated Press Wednesday that LaFave wanted to discuss her "bipolar illness" so that others might understand her conduct.


The number of TV households in the U.S. grew by 1.1 percent to 114.4 million, Nielsen Research said Wednesday, thereby altering the principal factor used to compute its national ratings. Nielsen said the demographic group comprised of persons 55-64 years old -- the so-called baby-boomer generation -- expanded 3.9 percent. The ratings company also downgraded hurricane-hit New Orleans to No. 54 among the country's largest markets. Before Katrina, it had been ranked No. 43. The figure is significant inasmuch as many national advertisers will only buy commercial time in the top 50 markets.


A Muslim militant group in Gaza has released a video, similar to the sort that militant groups in Iraq have put out in the past, showing abducted Fox News journalists Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig. The video, sent to the Al Jazeera news channel, was accompanied by an ultimatum demanding that the U.S. release "Muslim female and male prisoners in American jails in return for the prisoners that we have." The statement gave the U.S. 72 hours "to take your decision." No mention was made of what would happen to the two journalists if the U.S. did not comply with the demand. In the video Centanni and Wiig said that they were in "fairly good condition" and asked their families to rally political support to secure their release. Reporting on the development, Britain's Guardian newspaper observed that the statement "had uncomfortable echoes of the many videos produced by kidnappers in Iraq. The kidnappers' statement was filled with rhetoric and religious quotations, a change from the usual terse ones issued by Palestinian militants."


CBS is testing yet another form of interactive marketing. It said Wednesday that it will beam clips of four new shows plus CSI: Crime Scene Investigation to travelers with Bluetooth-enabled cell phones and PDAs circulating through New York's Grand Central Station. The clips, about 30 seconds long, will be transmitted from a billboard in the train station. If the tactic proves to be successful, the network said, it will mount similar campaigns in other markets. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, George Schweitzer, president of the CBS marketing group, said. "We leave no stone unturned, no egg uncracked in trying to figure out how to reach viewers." [Schweitzer was alluding to another ad campaign in which the logos of some of CBS's new shows were stamped on eggs.]


The producer of Survivoris attempting to defuse controversy over his plans to divide "tribes" on the show along racial lines next season -- even before the controversy begins. Following the announcement on Wednesday that the each tribe will be either all black, Asian-American, Hispanic or white, producer Mark Burnett told the New York Timesthat his intent was not to promote racial divisiveness. "In America today," Burnett told the newspaper, "even though people may work together, they do tend in their private lives to divide along social and ethnic lines." He acknowledged that he was reacting at least in part to criticism that the show lacked ethnic diversity. "We're always hearing about how we only have two token blacks on the show," he said. So, for the new season, the show attempted to reach out to social and church groups to bring in more non-white applicants. "We got so many good people we expanded the number of contestants to 20 instead of the usual 16," he said. Nevertheless, Burnett said, he was aware that the format would produce criticism. "I know it's going to be controversial," he told the Times. "I'm not an idiot."


The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has added a tribute to the late Aaron Spelling to Sunday night's Emmy awards telecast. Among those due to appear in the segment are several stars of Spelling-produced shows, including Joan Collins (Dynasty), Heather Locklear (Melrose Place), and Stephen Collins (7th Heaven). Spelling died in June at age 83.