i>IDOL GOES LIVE; EVERYTHING ELSE, DEAD

With the audition shows behind it, Fox's American Idol presented its first live telecast of the season Tuesday night and once again overwhelmed the competition. The two-hour telecast averaged a 16.6 rating and a 25 share, translating to 29.44 million viewers. The show peaked in the first half of the 9:00 p.m. hour with 31.32 million viewers. Everything else airing opposite the Idol bulldozer was pretty much flattened, with the exception of CBS's NCIS, which drew a 9.3/15 at 8:00 p.m..

SPIN-OFF FOR GREY'S ANATOMY

Taking a high-risk gamble, ABC is planning to remove the character of Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepherd, played by Kate Walsh, from Grey's Anatomy and place her in a new, as-yet-untitled series, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Wednesday), citing no sources. The newspaper said that series creator Shonda Rhimes has informed the Grey's cast about the project and will write a special two-hour Grey's episode that will would serve as a pilot. ABC, the Journal said, would likely air it during the May sweeps.

ABC SAYS KID'S DIARY WILL CLEAR IT IN MAKEOVER CASE

A diary kept by one of five orphaned siblings after they moved into a home remodeled for them on ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition may reveal that the children left the home voluntarily and were not kicked out by the Leomiti family, which originally took them in, an attorney for the network said Tuesday. As reported by the Whittier Daily News, arguments over the diary, kept by youngest sibling Jeremiah Higgins, became the focus of attention at a court hearing, where defense attorney Mark Block argued that it "explains issues between the brothers" and would show that they left the home voluntarily "because of arguments." ABC also maintained that no contract was ever signed with the children and that the contracts with the Leomitis never promised "an ownership or other interest in the Leomitis' house" to the kids and that the network had "no duty to provide for [the children's] long-term safety and security." The Higgins children claim that they were cheated out of the home as well as other gifts amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, all of which were retained by the Leomitis, after they appeared on the television show.

ANHEUSER-BUSCH REPRIMANDED OVER WEBSITE

The attorneys general of 23 states are frothing over Anheuser-Busch's website, Bud.tv, claiming that the beer company has not done enough to prevent minors from gaining access to it. In a letter to the company, it noted that while the company uses software that checks the identification of those trying to access the site, youngsters can defeat the system simply by using an adult's ID. Moreover, once in, they can copy the company's videos and post them on sites such as YouTube. The letter said, "We feel strongly that, since you are creating the programming and controlling the Internet-based network, not just advertising on it, you have a higher responsibility to ensure that youth are not exposed to the marketing on your site."

GRIFFIN TO INTRODUCE NEW GAME SHOW

It has been more than 30 years since Merv Griffin's Wheel of Fortune debuted and more than 20 years since his Jeopardy became a companion piece. Now, the two most long-lasting game shows in TV history will be joined by a third game show, Let's Play Crosswords, which is expected to be rushed onto the air as a replacement for the failed Megan Mullally Show. The show, distributed by Program Partners, has already landed buys from five NBC owned-and-operated stations, including those in the top three markets of the country, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

WEINSTEINS LAND BERT, ERNIE, COOKIE MONSTER, ET AL

The Walt Disney Co. may now own the rights to Kermit and Miss Piggy, but Bob and Harvey Weinstein -- Disney's old nemeses -- now own the rights to distribute the shows featuring Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird. The Weinsteins-controlled Genius Products announced Tuesday that it had entered into a long-term distribution and co-production agreement affecting four Sesame Workshop franchises, including Sesame Street, which premiered in 1969. In a statement, Harvey Weinstein said, "I consider this to be one of the most important acquisitions I've ever been involved with, both on an artistic and commercial level." At the time that Disney bought the Jim Henson Co. in 2004, the companies observed that the transaction did not include the Muppets created for the Sesame Workshop.

CHINA TV RAKES IN THE MONEY FROM ADVERTISERS

Despite being a state-owned broadcasting network, Communist China's CCTV can still earn an awful lot of money from commercial advertising. Reports indicate that CCTV's telecast of the annual Spring Festival celebration, which attracted 1.3 billion Chinese viewers -- and is the Super Bowl of Chinese TV -- brought in $64 million in advertising revenue, including the equivalent of $742,000 for each spot in the early hours and $1.3 million for those that aired close to midnight.

Brian B.