i>KNIGHT RIDER RETURNS: IT'S A SMASH

Knight Rider appears to be fast-tracked to a regular series slot after it attracted 12.70 million viewers to NBC Sunday night. The two-hour TV movie (described in the industry as a "back-door pilot") based on the '80s series smashed the competition, which included CBS's premiere of Showtime's Dexter, which averaged just 8.1 million viewers. Knight Rider did not perform as well with critics. Writing in today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times, Mary McNamara notes that time has not been kind to the series -- that cars actually do talk to their drivers these days. "As with Bionic Woman, technology has out-stripped what was once science fiction. For KITT to have resonance in today's world, the vehicle would have to be equipped for space travel or time travel, read minds or at least have nuclear capabilities. Instead, this car's big claim to fame is it can change colors. Whoopee." Several critics, including McNamara, belittle Val Kilmer's voice-over performance as KITT, the talking car. Matt Roush of TV Guide says that it "served to remind me how William Daniels' haughty line readings was the sole asset of the original series." Kevin Kelly, writing on the sci-fi website io9.com, writes that Kilmer's "monotonal" delivery "lacks all the charm and wit of William Daniels' snotty car voice." He suggests that there's little in the new Knight Rider for sci-fi fans and that if the show actually does become a series, "be sure to look for another weekly opportunity for us to bitch about it."

REALITY-SHOW PRODUCERS SHUNNING HDTV

Producers of reality TV series and game shows have, by and large, been slow to make the transition to high-definition television, blaming higher costs and the unreliability of HD equipment, USA Today reported today (Tuesday). Jonathan Littman, executive producer of CBS' The Amazing Race and president of Jerry Bruckheimer Television, told the newspaper that HD cameras "are not meant yet for that type of rough travel" necessary to turn out the program and that any effort to produce the show in HD would add "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to the show's budget. Survivor producer Mark Burnett indicated that many of his shows are shot with HD cameras but are not edited in HD. "The costs of post-producing in HD are tending to drop, and probably not only reality TV will be in HD, but all programming," he said. Of more than two dozen primetime reality and game shows, only Fox's American Idol and NBC's American Gladiators air in high definition, according to the newspaper. Program producers, it suggested, are probably deterred by the fact that currently only 11 percent of American consumers watch programs on HDTV sets.

NO PRESIDENTS DAY HOLIDAY FOR FOX BUSINESS NETWORK

Fox Business Network got the jump on its competitors Monday, Presidents Day, by remaining live throughout the day, while CNBC and Bloomberg, for the most part, aired taped programming. (The stock markets were closed in the U.S. for the holiday.) The News Corp-owned network took an ad out Saturday in the weekend edition of its corporate sibling, the Wall Street Journal, advising investors: "While CNBC takes another holiday ... your investments won't." It might have been more appropriate for the ad to run in the Journal on Monday, except that the newspaper is not published on federal holidays.

MARTHA STEWART BUYS EMERIL'S SHOWS AND OTHER ASSETS

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has cooked up a deal to buy TV chef Emeril Lagasse's television shows, cookbooks, and branded products for $45 million cash and $5 million stock, the company announced today (Tuesday). If certain performance goals are met in 2011 and 2012, the deal could be worth as much as $70 million. The announcement noted that Lagasse's eleven restaurants and corporate office were not included in the transaction. Analysts said that the move represents an effort to diversify Stewart's company after relying on her name alone in the past and that MSLO may now attempt to build other celebrity brands within the company. The company observed the deal with Lagasse will "contribute immediately to our performance." In 2007 the Lagasse properties involved in the deal generated $14 million in revenue.

IDOL NOW ON IPOD

Fans of American Idol are now able to buy performances by their favorite contestants and download them onto their iPods for 99 cents, Apple and the show's producer, 19 Entertainment, jointly announced Monday. Moreover, they'll be able to purchase the video of the top 12 finalists for $1.99 starting March 11 from Apple's iTunes store. "We have some truly outstanding talent this year, and by working with Apple and iTunes, we're giving viewers another great way to enjoy America's brightest new stars from Idol" Simon Fuller, creator of the popular talent contest, said in a statement.

BIG BROTHER IN TROUBLE AGAIN

The head of Autism United, an advocacy group, has demanded that CBS apologize for airing comments by a contestant on Big Brother last week in which he called victims of autism "retards." When a fellow contestant took him to task for using the term, he replied that he worked for an autism foundation and that he could therefore "call them whatever I want." Responding to the complaint by Autism United's executive director, John Gilmore, CBS said in a statement, "We certainly find the statements made by Adam [the contestant] to be offensive but believe they were countered by the immediate reaction of shock and condemnation from a fellow houseguest, Sheila. ... Adam's remarks would not have been permitted to air unchallenged."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.