ALL HAIL IDOL -- EVEN ITS FOES

Executives at rival TV networks have expressed grudging astonishment at the rising ratings of Fox's American Idol this season. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) New York Times, Kelly Kahl, chief scheduler for CBS, remarked that the show "is a big monolith sitting out there. It's the ultimate schoolyard bully." NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker told the newspaper, "I think Idol is the most impactful show in the history of television." According to the Times, the show, which expands to three nights a week this week, has averaged 33.5 million viewers over its first five weeks, versus 31.7 million last year and 28.3 million in 2005.

LOOKING OVER JORDAN?

A band of idols will be coming after Crossing Jordan beginning next month as the NBC Sunday drama, now in its sixth season, moves to Wednesday night opposite Fox's American Idol. The network also plans to move The Apprentice, now taking a beating opposite ABC's Desperate Housewives, to 10:00 p.m on Sundays. The Wednesday edition of NBC's Deal or No Deal will be transplanted into Crossing Jordan's time slot (opposite Housewives).

NBC STRIPS STUDIO 60 FROM ITS SCHEDULE

NBC's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, once regarded as the show that would become a hit on the magnitude of Friends, went out with a whimper Monday night, drawing a minuscule 4.8 rating and an 8 share, representing 6.4 million viewers. Studio 60 is due to be replaced by the mob drama The Black Donnellys next week, and while NBC says that the drama about a sketch comedy show is officially "on hiatus," some TV journalists are expressing skepticism and wondering if the remaining six episodes of the Aaron Sorkin series might be destined for final disposal on the NBC website. Monday night's episode was watched by fewer than a third of those who tuned in to CBS's CSI:Miami in the same hour. That show attracted a 13.1 rating and a 21 share -- or 19.08 million viewers.

SPIKE LEE RECEIVES JOURNALISM AWARD

One of the most prestigious awards in print and broadcast journalism, the annual George Polk Award, has been won by director Spike Lee for his HBO documentary, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, which shined a light on government malfeasance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Lee's longtime producer, Sam Pollard, was also honored. The only other broadcast winners of the Polk award were correspondent Lisa Myers and producer Adam Ciralsky of NBC Nightly News.

SAWYER SAYS SHE'S ON AN "ENDURANCE COURSE"

Good Morning America cohost Dianne Sawyer says she regards her recent reporting forays into the heart of Syria, North Korea, Iran, and Camden, NJ (for a primetime feature about poverty in America) as her "own personal endurance course." In an interview with the Washington Post, Sawyer responded to accusations that she has given America's enemies a propaganda platform. "We may violently disagree with them, but first we must try to understand the way they see the world if we can," she said.

NBC'S ENGEL TO REPORT ON COST OF IRAQ WAR -- IN HUMAN TERMS

Richard Engel, who has covered the Iraq war since it began in March of 2003, is completing work on a documentary about it that MSNBC plans to air on March 21, the fourth anniversary of the war, according to TVNewser. The website also published an excerpt from Engel's proposal for the Iraq war documentary: "As Iraq has changed, I have changed. The war has cost me my marriage. I've had friends killed and kidnapped, survived bombings and attempts on my life. I have seen Iraqis freed from the numbing, terrifying fetters of totalitarianism, and had their lives destroyed by the religious bigotry, ignorance, greed and opportunism unleashed by this war. It has changed my outlook. Violence and cruelty now seem, to me, to come easily to mankind; a new belief that disturbs me. But I am also more appreciative of how quickly life can turn for the better, or for the worse."

Brian B.