EVEN WITH OSCARS, ABC CAN'T BEAT FOX'S IDOL

Despite recording the highest ratings of the season for entertainment shows with the Academy Awards telecast and Grey's Anatomy, ABC was nevertheless unable to overcome competition from three American Idol telecasts on Fox that dominated five hours of primetime last week. In overall numbers, Fox led with an average 8.7 rating and a 14 share. ABC settled for second place with an 8.1/13. CBS placed third with a 7.2/11, while NBC was left far behind with an average 5.2/8.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. Academy Awards, ABC, 23.6/37; 2. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 17.2/26; 3. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 16.9/25; 4. Road to Oscars 2007, ABC, 16.7/26; 5. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 16.5/25; 6. American Idol (Thursday), Fox, 14.1/21; 7. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 13.0/19; 8. CSI: Miami, CBS, 12.2/20; 9. Deal or No Deal (Monday), NBC, 10.8/16; 10. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 10.4/15.

GIBSON AGAIN TAKES OVER LEAD IN NEWS RACE

In the nightly news race, ABC's World News With Charles Gibson beat NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams for a second time this month. The ABC newscast drew 9.38 million viewers versus 9.07 million for NBC's. CBS Evening News With Katie Couric fell to its lowest numbers yet, recording just 6.91 million viewers (Couric did not anchor the news program on three nights of the week and was replaced by Russ Mitchell.) Meanwhile, Radar magazine has reported that Nightly News executive producer John Reiss "has been shown the door" following the newscast's loss to Gibson's. The magazine commented that a decision was made to delay the official announcement of Reiss's departure "to avoid the appearance of NBC panicking at losing ground."

5TH GRADER EARNS AN A

Appearing to inadvertently validate the notion that television executives believe that the average TV viewer has the intelligence of a 12-year-old, Fox scored strongly Tuesday night with the premiere of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? The show, which followed American Idol at 9:30 p.m., drew a huge 14.8 rating and a 12 share, beating CBS's The Unit (8.1/12) and NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent (6.4/10) combined. Earlier in the evening, a 90-minute Idol posted a 16.5/25 during the 8:00 p.m. hour, rising to an 18.5/27 at 9:00 p.m.

TV SHOWS TEACH TORTURE, SAYS EX-ARMY INTERROGATOR

A former U.S. military interrogator in Iraq has admitted that he and his colleagues were encouraged to mimic torture techniques that they had seen in movies and TV shows -- particularly Fox's 24. In an interview with Newsweek.com, former U.S. Army Specialist Tony Lagouranis said that he was told by his superiors in Iraq "that the Geneva Conventions didn't apply any more. So our training was obsolete, and we were encouraged to be creative. We turned to television and movies to look for ways of interrogating." Lagouranis said that he eventually learned that the torture techniques enacted on 24 are not effective for gaining intelligence "and his success rate isn't lifelike at all. [Plus] the tactics he uses are completely illegal, under U.S. and international law." Lagouranis also told the magazine that he had recently met with the producers of 24 to discuss the issue. "I can't fault them because they're creating art, and the military is responsible for training. But we were simply asking them to think responsibly about what they're doing, and perhaps try to portray this a little bit more realistically."

NEWSPAPER LAUNCHES VIDEO SITE, NEWSCASTS

The Washington Post, which already has equipped more of its journalists with video cameras than any other newspaper, announced Tuesday that it is launching an ad-supported video channel with the broadband video company Brightcove. The channel, which will also include video content from the Post's other properties, including Newsweek and the online Slate magazine, will feature Post reporters delivering daily newscasts. The company said that it also plans to solicit video news clips from readers.

MEDIA CRITIC CONDEMNS WHITE HOUSE VIDEO PRESS RELEASES

Ken Auletta, the media critic for the New Yorker says that the White House has cut back the number of news conferences the president holds in favor of brief one-on-one interviews with individual reporters and distributing video news releases to TV stations. "This White House has been pretty aggressive about getting its video news releases out there to local stations," Auletta said in an interview with ABC's Nightline. "And local stations, which increasingly are under cost pressures, want to raise their profit margin. They like cheap news programming. It's basically public relations masquerading as news. We shouldn't allow that without a disclaimer at least."

TOMB RAILERS

Criticism continued to swell Tuesday over Discovery Channel's planned telecast Sunday night of The Lost Tomb of Jesus, executive produced by James Cameron, which claims that a tomb has been discovered in Israel containing bone boxes of Jesus's family, including one that is inscribed, "Judah, son of Jesus." CNSNews.com, a unit of the conservative Media Research Center, which has close ties with Christian fundamentalist groups, quoted Asbury Theological Seminary professor Ben Witherington as saying, "This is a story full of holes, conjectures and problems." Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families, said, "The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is an immovable foundation of what I know is true." Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, the nation's largest lay Catholic organization, commented, "Not a Lenten season goes by without some author or TV program seeking to cast doubt on the divinity of Jesus and/or the Resurrection."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.