QUICK RESTARTS FOR CBS SITCOMS

The cast and crew of How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men got word Wednesday that they were all blessed with the luck of the Irish -- that their shows will be the first to return to the CBS schedule with new episodes beginning March 17, St. Patrick's Day. The network also said that it plans to air new episodes of CSI: Miami and Cold Case on March 24 and March 30 respectively and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: NY Without a Trace, Ghost Whisperer and Numb3rs in early April. NBC also announced some post-strike returnees but indicated that they would not air until April. My Name Is Earl, it said, will be the first back on April 3, to be followed by the rest of the Thursday-night lineup a week later. Meanwhile, analysts indicated that the strike had little effect on the balance sheets of the networks. "They've escaped pretty much unscathed," David Bank, entertainment analyst at ABC Capital, told MarketWatch.com, noting that ad rates at the network have remained strong despite the strike and despite the economic downturn. (At Fox they're up by double digits.)

LATE-NIGHT COMEDY SHOWS UNAFFECTED BY STRIKE

An Associated Press review of the ratings of the late-night comedy shows during the period of the writers strike has revealed that the strike had little effect. In fact Stephen Colbert's audience actually rose 6 percent during the strike from the same period a year ago. (And some critics commented that Colbert was funnier without his writers than with them.) Jon Stewart's Daily Show ratings remained identical with 2007's. Jay Leno's numbers improved slightly to 5.17 million viewers from 5 million, while David Letterman's audience grew to 4.05 million from 3.8 million -- still considerably behind Leno's. ("For Letterman, it undoubtedly represented his last, best chance to eclipse Leno," the A.P. observed.) Conan O'Brien's ratings were unchanged.

NBC'S SILVERMAN SELLS HIS "BABY"

Erasing the appearance of a conflict of interest, NBC Entertainment Co-chairman Ben Silverman has sold his television production company Reveille to Shine, the U.K. production house owned by Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Thursday). "I love Reveille. It was my baby, and a huge amount of energy, commitment and life force went into building it," Silverman told the Times. "But I realized that I just wanted to focus 100 percent on NBC." According to the newspaper, Silverman will receive $125 million for Reveille, plus a share of the profits of the Reveille-produced The Office for five years, which could make the final deal worth about $200 million.

JUSTICE ALITO FINDS SOPRANOS GUILTY OF STEREOTYPING

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. -- one of two members of the high court born in New Jersey with, as Frank Sinatra used to say, "names ending in vowels" (the other is Justice Antonin Scalia) -- spoke out Wednesday against the portrayal of Italian Americans in movies, on television, and in pizza parlors. "The most prominent image of Italians in popular culture is the image of the Mafioso," he said during a lecture at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. "There's an insidious connection popular culture often makes between being a gangster and being Italian." Add being from New Jersey to the list, and "you have a trifecta -- gangsters, Italian-Americans, New Jersey -- wedded in the popular American imagination," he said. He referred specifically to The Sopranos television series, noting that he himself once lived in the same general area where Tony Soprano did. He also mentioned the Godfather books and movies and decried the fact that pizza franchises like Little Caesar's and Capone's are named for gangsters or gangster movies. "I think it's important that the true stories of immigrants be heard," he said.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.