Like a TV series stumbling from one weekly climax to the next, negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers suffered a new hitch Monday when SAG President Alan Rosenberg filed a lawsuit seeking the reinstatement of former chief negotiator and National Executive Director Doug Allen, who was fired by the union's board last week. The lawsuit also aims to revive the union's negotiating committee, which the board replaced with a task force, and to overturn a directive barring Allen from speaking on behalf of the union. The legal action effectively blocked the resumption of talks between SAG and the AMPTP that had been scheduled for today (Tuesday). "Screen Actors Guild has advised us that it has a court proceeding that will conflict with our meeting this week, and for that reason, both parties felt it made sense to reschedule the meeting to a later date," the AMPTP said in a statement. Legal experts generally agreed that the lawsuit had little chance of success but that it would delay new bargaining talks for at least a week and possibly longer if appeals are filed. Moreover, even if talks do resume and a new deal is negotiated, it is almost certain to be opposed by Rosenberg and the Membership First faction of the union.


Broadcasting's loss is increasingly cable's gain, a new report by the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau seemed to indicate Monday. According to the report, cable aired 1,837 original shows last month compared with 725 original shows that it aired during the fourth quarter of last year. Reporting on the results, Advertising Age commented Monday. "The growth in original programming is a key factor in increasing viewership for cable at a time when ratings at the broadcast networks are falling." The trade magazine observed that among young adults, ratings for cable are up 5.1 percent this season, while those for broadcast are down 8.3 percent from a year ago. The CAB study also revealed that so far this season, primetime ratings for the 18-49 adult demo grew 5.1 percent, while those for broadcast declined 8.3 percent.


Altogether some 147 million people tuned in at one time or another to watch Sunday's Super Bowl, making it the second most viewed Super Bowl in history after last year's, which attracted 148.2 million, according to NBC, which carried the game. "The Super Bowl, once again, proved its ability to captivate America," said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics, adding, "These numbers confirm the power and consistency of the Super Bowl as the top property in all of television." The game averaged 95.4 million viewers during any half-hour, making it the third-highest-rated TV show of all time, behind last year's game and -- No. 1 -- the series finale of M*A*S*H*, which drew 106 million.


In advance of an expected House vote Wednesday on delaying the switch from analog to digital TV until June, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher have sent letters to their colleagues asking, "How Many Families in Your Congressional District Are Waiting for a Digital Television Converter Box?" Broadcasting & Cablemagazine, which reported on the missives, said that they included a link to data from the Commerce Department on the number of households in each Congressional district that are on the waiting list to receive the $40 vouchers that subsidize the cost of converter boxes.


Producers of the Feb. 22 Oscars telecast indicated Monday that it will offer a number of surprises but they gave little hint of what sort of surprises they intended to produce. Today's (Tuesday) New York Times reported that at the annual Oscar nominees luncheon at the Beverly Hilton hotel, Motion Picture Academy President Sid Ganis told the nominees that the show would carry "many, many risks" and that the nominees should "be prepared." He said producers Bill Condon and Laurence Mark had asked him to tell the nominees "to stay alert." The Times, citing people close to the show, said that this year's Oscars show will "have its own narrative line -- not merely handing out the awards, but doing it in a way that tells a story -- while including surprises that are designed to staunch the ratings erosion of recent years."