FCC FINES ABC $1.43 MILLION OVER BLUE SCENE

A scene in a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue in which an actress's bare backside was visible could subject ABC to a $1.43-million fine. In its notice to the network, the FCC said that the program, which aired at 9:00 p.m. in the Central and Mountain time zones, violated the commission's rules against airing indecent programming between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. when children are likely to be watching. "We find that the programming at issue is within the scope of our indecency definition because it depicts sexual organs and excretory organs -- specifically an adult woman's buttocks," the FCC said on Friday. "Although ABC argues, without citing any authority, that the buttocks are not a sexual organ, we reject this argument, which runs counter to both case law and common sense." ABC said immediately that it would appeal the ruling, saying that when the episode was broadcast, NYPD Blue "had been on the air for a decade and the realistic nature of its storylines was well known to the viewing public." Moreover, it said, the program was also broadcast with parental warnings and was "V-chip enabled." Dennis Franz, whose own backside was shown on an NYPD Blue episode in the series' second season, told the Hollywood Today website, "I loved the way they approached it. A little embarrassing to watch it with my daughter, but nevertheless it was one of the most memorable things on the show."

LAW AND ORDER GOES TO COURT

NBC has sued producer Dick Wolf, responsible for the Law and Order series, over a contractual dispute. The network has asked an L.A. Superior Court judge to decide just what Wolf, the executive producer of three Law and Order shows that air on the network, should receive if any of them is canceled.

REGAN SETTLES LAWSUIT AGAINST NEWS CORP

Publisher Judith Regan, who had alleged that News Corp had launched a campaign to smear her following a dispute over her decision to publish a book by O.J.Simpson and to interview him for a TV special, has settled her $100-million lawsuit against the Rupert Murdoch-owned company. News Corp refused to publish the book or air the television show -- and subsequently fired Regan for instigating the project. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Among other things, News Corp had claimed that Regan had complained to a company attorney that she had become the victim of a "Jewish cabal." However, in announcing its decision to settle the matter with Regan, News Corp said, "After carefully considering the matter, we accept Regan's position that she did not say anything that was anti-Semitic in nature, and further believe that Regan is not anti-Semitic."

AFTER STRIKE, PILOTS MAY NO LONGER TAKE OFF

Many television executives acknowledge that -- regardless of how the writers' strike pans out -- there will be fewer pilots produced in future seasons and that most decisions on what to air will depend instead on the gut instincts of network executives. One unnamed studio executive told Saturday's New York Times: "We can't do any worse than we've been doing." Despite tens of millions spent on series pilots last year, he observed, "There were no big successes this season."

TV PRODUCTION HALTS IN L.A.

As of this week, there are no scripted television series remaining in production in Los Angeles, Daily Variety reported today (Monday), citing figures from Film L.A., an intermediary between film producers and permitting agencies. At the time of the writers' walkout in November, 52 shows were in active production. Nevertheless, the trade publication noted, feature-film production, which depends primarily on scripts that were already completed before the strike started in November, is up 31 percent over the same period a year ago.

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE BRITISH STAGE VERSION

The Disney Channel's High School Musicalis about to hit the stage in London's West End, According to the BBC, the musical will open a 10-week run in June. Actors have not yet been cast. A road-show edition of the U.S. cable musical has also been making the rounds in the U.K. The BBC says that nearly $20 million in advance ticket sales has already been raked. in.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.