NETS GIVE BUSH IRAQ SPEECH SHORT SHRIFT

Although CBS's Katie Couric had earlier remarked that President Bush's speech on Iraq Wednesday night was "arguably his most important speech ever," neither CBS nor any of the other broadcast networks devoted much time to analyzing it afterwards. The Washington Post's Tom Shales remarked that the three networks "scurried back to regular programming as fast as they could -- NBC following the president's appeal with quizmaster Howie Mandel asking, "Deal, or no deal?" There was a trace of irony there." The networks filled the 9:00-9:30 p.m. time period mostly with advice on how to find additional discussion of the address on cable news networks or the Internet. They completely ignored the Democratic response to the president's speech by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

AUDIENCES RESISTANT TO CHANGE, SAYS CBS NEWS EXEC

CBS News Vice President Paul Friedman, the executive in charge of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, has acknowledged that all of the tinkering that producers have performed on the program hasn't worked. "The most stunning thing about this experience has been to discover how resistant people are to change," Friedman told the New York Observer. "In the beginning, we seriously underestimated -- as in, we were mistaken -- about how different the audience wants you to be at 6:30. The answer, it turns out, is 'Not that different.' That has been a great disappointment to me. The second shock to me was that there is a big part of our audience out there who still finds it difficult to have a woman anchor. ... That stunned me. But it's true."

CHRISTIAN ACTIVISTS BLAST O'BRIEN SKETCH

Life Decisions International (LDI), a Washington DC-based group that has attempted to organize boycotts against companies that contribute to Planned Parenthood, has lashed out at the broadcast networks for allowing "programming that blatantly mocks Christianity." The group wasted no time denouncing Wednesday night/Thursday morning's episode of Late Night With Conan O'Brien, in which the host introduced a new character, "the homophobic country-western singer," who sang: "Oh I love you Jesus / But only as a friend. / You touched my heart but I hope / That's where the touchin' ends. / You're always lookin' over me / When I need a higher power. / But you better look at somethin' else / When I'm in the shower." In a statement, LDI President Douglas R. Scott, Jr. said, "The idea that anyone would think about the Son of God in this way is simply appalling. The inferences that permeate the song are utterly disgusting." Likewise, last month Scott fired off a letter to CBS after an episode of Two and a Half Men, in which the Charlie Sheen character sang to the melody of Joy to the World: "Joy to the world / I'm getting laid / I'm getting laid tonight. / We'll light the Yule log / Deck the halls / And then we'll play / Some jingle balls." Scott said at the time that the song could be retitled "Joy to Fornication," adding, "CBS has allowed a song about the most precious, sacred and significant moment in history to be turned into a song about having sex outside of marriage."

STUDY CLAIMS VIOLENCE ON TV HAS REACHED "EPIDEMIC PROPORTIONS"

Brent Bozell's Parents Television Council, the group leading the battle against broadcast "indecency," has criticized the growing amount of violence on primetime network programming, claiming that there was an average of 4.41 incidents of violence during each primetime hour last season. At a Washington news conference, the group released a study titled "Dying to Entertain" that claimed that TV violence has reached "epidemic proportions," rising 75 percent since 2000, largely due to the increasing number of forensic and medical dramas on the broadcast networks. Quickly responding to the study, the National Assn. of Broadcasters issued a news release saying, "We're surprised that cable TV programming was not included in the PTC study, since broadcast TV is far less violent than Sopranos-like programming found on cable. ... NAB believes the best approach is to arm responsible parents with the tools needed to screen out shows that may be inappropriate for children, as opposed to censoring some of the most popular programming on television."

ALLIANCE ATLANTIS TO BE DIVVIED UP

CanWest Global Communications and Goldman Sachs announced Wednesday that they have acquired Toronto-based Alliance Atlantis for $1.96 billion and will split the company between themselves. Goldman Sachs will take Alliance Atlantis's 50 percent stake in the CSI television franchise, while CanWest Global will get Alliance Atlantis's 13 specialty cable channels.

CRAMER QUITS AS HEAD OF CNN INTERNATIONAL

Chris Cramer, the British-born managing director of CNN International, which reaches an overseas audience of some 200 million, abruptly resigned Wednesday after serving in his position for 11 years. Cramer, who came to CNN from the BBC, gave no reason for his decision to step down except to say that he wanted to "look for the next challenge." He said in an email to staff that he plans to stay on and assist management in the transition until the end of March. CNN President Jim Walton issued a statement early today (Thursday) saying that Cramer was leaving "at the top of his game, with the international business he oversees in the very enviable position of being the most-watched, most-respected and most-copied news network in the world."

WALTERS BACKS ROSIE, CALLS TRUMP "PATHETIC"

Barbara Walters, who had attempted to remain above the fray in the Donald Trump-Rosie O'Donnell donnybrook, came out firmly on Rosie's side Wednesday. After Rosie read Trump's latest missive in which he claimed that Walters had told him that working with Rosie was like "living in hell," Walters remarked, "That poor, pathetic man." The remark touched off cheers from her audience and high-fives from Rosie. (Walters had selected Trump as one her "10 Most Fascinating People of 2006.") In a statement sent to the syndicated TV show The Insider, Trump shot back, "They didn't even have the courage to mention me by name. It was sad to see Barbara read her statement off a cue card. Rosie just pushed her out like a ... puppet." Later, he told the New York Times, "Barbara is a sad case. This has revealed the real Barbara," then added without explanation, "I know a lot about Barbara."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.