NO FOOTBALL, BUT FOX SCORES ANYWAY

Fox had no NFL playoffs to buoy its ratings last week, but it did have American Idol, and even though the talent contest's ratings were somewhat off from what they were a year ago, they still looked better than anything else in sight, as Tuesday and Wednesday's telecasts finished first and second for the week among overall viewers and those 18-49. A rerun of Fox's House also crushed the competition on Tuesday night. Overall, Fox averaged a 6.9 rating and an 11 share for the week. CBS followed with a 6.1/10. NBC came in third with a 5.1/8, while ABC trailed with a 4.4/7.

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

1. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 16.2/24; 2. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 15.1/23; 3. Moment of Truth, Fox, 12.9/19; 4. 60 Minutes, CBS, 9.5/15; 5. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 8.6/13; 5. Hallmark Hall of Fame: "The Russell Girl," CBS, 8.6/13; 7. Deal or No Deal, (Monday), NBC, 8.5/13; 7. Deal or No Deal (Wednesday), NBC, 8.5/13; 7. House, Fox, 8.5/13; 10. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 8.4/14.

IDOL REMAINS STRONG; HOUSE AFIRE

American Idol remained far ahead of its rivals last night (Tuesday), with its fifth audition episode posting a 15.7 rating and a 24 share. Almost as impressive were the huge ratings of House, which climbed to a 12.9/19 coming out of Idol. That's a huge 52-percent increase from the previous week.

DISNEY CHANNEL TROUNCES SIBLING ABC WITH MINUTEMEN

Aided by a strong public relations campaign, Minutemen, a two-hour Disney Channel movie about students who travel in a time machine a few minutes back into the recent past, drew 6.5 million viewers Friday. During the same hour, corporate sibling ABC attracted just 3.87 million viewers. The strong showing gave Disney Channel a win in primetime among cable channels and also in total day. According to Nielsen figures, 2.9 million of those who tuned in to Minutemen were 6-9 years old. The TV movie co-starred 19-year-old Steven R. McQueen, grandson of the legendary movie actor.

ABC ATTACKED FROM ALL SIDES OVER VACCINE DRAMA

ABC has been caught in a tug of war over a forthcoming premiere episode of the legal drama Eli Stone, which deals with a lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company claiming that a vaccine was responsible for a boy's autism. On Monday, the program was denounced by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which warned that it could cause many parents to refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated against life-threatening disease. It asked ABC to withdraw the show. In its response, the network said that it would not do so but would air a disclaimer at the beginning of the show stating that the story was fictional. On Tuesday, an organization called SafeMinds, composed mostly of researchers and parents who claim that their children were diagnosed with autism or other disorders after receiving vaccines that used thimerosal, a mercury-containing compound, as a preservative. The group applauded SafeMinds for resisting the AAP's demands and said that the program "is a needed addition to continued discourse on this important subject for our children's health."

MALONE-DILLER FEUD ESCALATES

Attorneys for Barry Diller's IAC have gone to court to block John Malone's Liberty Media from taking over the company and ousting him and those loyal to him from the IAC board of directors. In a filing in Delaware chancery court, the attorneys accused Malone and Liberty of going "off the deep end." They called Malone's accusations against Diller "preposterous" and added, "the contention that Liberty is now in control of [IAC] is inexplicable." Diller issued a separate statement saying that Liberty's actions amounted to "a desperate sideshow designed to exert pressure on the board and management of IAC as they attempt to responsibly act in the best interest of their stockholders. All it demonstrates is that Liberty will stop at nothing to advance their own interests at the expense of the other stockholders. Needless to say, IAC will not be daunted." New York Post business columnist Peter Lauria quoted an unnamed source today (Wednesday) as saying that Diller's "name calling has got Malone smiling ... because it means he's accomplished his objective of putting Diller on the defensive."

SCHIEFFER TO RETIRE IN JANUARY

Bob Schieffer, who replaced Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News in 2005 -- and improved the newscast's ratings -- and has hosted Face the Nation since 1991, said Tuesday that he plans to retire next January. "I think that's probably going to be it," Schieffer told today's (Wednesday) New York Times. "Inauguration Day 2009, I think I'm probably going to wind it up then," he said.

MIKE WALLACE UNDERGOES TRIPLE BYPASS

Veteran 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace, who turns 90 on May 9, underwent triple-bypass heart surgery in New York Friday. "Mike is recovering nicely and has taken his first steps after undergoing heart bypass surgery late last week," a CBS News spokesman said Tuesday. "His doctors say it was a great success."

FAMED TV DIRECTOR DWIGHT HEMION DEAD AT 81

Legendary TV producer-director Dwight Hemion, who held the record for the most Emmy nominations (47) and who won 17 times, died Monday of kidney failure at age 81, a source said. Hemion also won the Directors Guild of America top TV award five times. Among the most memorable specials that he produced and directed were: My Name Is Barbra (1965), Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music (1965), Peter Pan (1976), Baryshnikov on Broadway, (1980), and Barbra Streisand: The Concert (1994).

Brian B.