LENO BREAKING STRIKE RULES?

On the same day that Writers Guild of America West President Patric Verrone told the New York Times that he had "made it absolutely clear" to Jay Leno that writing for The Tonight Show constitutes a violation of the guild's strike rules, Leno once again delivered a self-written monologue on Thursday night's show. Meanwhile, L.A. Weekly columnist Nikki Finke disclosed on her Deadline Hollywood Today blog that a meeting between Leno and Verrone took place on Dec. 31, in which Leno expressed concerns about being depicted as "the bad guy" for returning to work during the strike without his writers. However, a spokesman for the WGA told Finke that at the close of the meeting, Leno said, "OK, I'm going to do the show, and I'm going to do my monologue" and that Verrone raised no objection. The spokesman, who attended the meeting, added, "I don't believe I heard Jay saying he was 'writing' his monologue. I thought I heard him say he was 'doing' his monologue." However, one of Leno's writers who attended the meeting backed Leno, telling the New York Times: "Jay said, 'Let me get this clear: I'm allowed to write my monologue.' ... There was no way Jay could have misinterpreted what was being said." Meanwhile, overnight ratings for Wednesday night's show put Leno well ahead of Letterman, with Leno scoring a 5.3 rating and a 12 share (7.2 million viewers) and Letterman, a 4.3/10 (5.5 million). The audience for each of the talk-show hosts was up considerably over their season average. Also, Conan O'Brien, who did indeed appear to ad lib his way through his show, attracted 2.84 million viewers, his best numbers in more than a year.

STRIKE AGAINST STRIKERS?

In an embarrassing turn of events for the Writers Guild of America, employees of the East Coast branch, who are represented by the Newspaper Guild, are planning to go on strike, claiming that the WGA East has attempted to modify a contract that was ratified by members last October. "It's like a car salesman demanding that you sign a contract after he's changed all the numbers you had agreed upon," Newspaper Guild President Bill O'Meara told the New York Post. A Writers Guild spokesperson said that the dispute has been submitted to the National Labor Relations Board for resolution.

CHRISTMAS RATINGS A LATE PRESENT FOR CBS

Nielsen Research got around to releasing ratings for Christmas week Thursday, and no network had much to boast about. CBS dominated the week with six of the top-ten shows, but its average 5.3 rating and 10 share was well off its season average of 7.4/12. NBC took the remaining top-ten slots, averaging a 5.1/9 for the week. Fox placed third with an average 3.6/7, while ABC trailed with a 3.3/6.

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

1. NBC Sunday Night Football (Tennessee Titans vs. the Indianapolis Colts), NBC, 9.7/16; 2. NFL Saturday Night Special (New England Patriots vs. the New York Giants), CBS, 8.7/15; 3. 60 Minutes, CBS, 7.7/13; 3. NFL Special 12/29(S), NBC, 7.7/13; 5. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 7.0/12; 6. Without a Trace, CBS, 6.9/12; 7. Sunday Night NFL Pre-kickoff, NBC, 6.3/11; 8. CSI: NY, CBS, 6.0/10; 9. Amazing Race 12, CBS, 5.9/9; 9. Criminal Minds, CBS, 5.9/10; 9. Law and Order: SVU, NBC, 5.9/11.

TINY AUDIENCE REPORTED FOR FOX BUSINESS CHANNEL

News Corp's Fox Business Channel has been averaging only 6,300 viewers per day, according to figures from Nielsen research and published in today's (Friday) New York Times. By contrast, the cable network's chief rival, CNBC, averages 283,000 viewers per day. (Nielsen said that the figures for Fox were too low to reveal; the Times obtained them from sources at Fox and CNBC.)

CBS DROPS ITS OMBUDSMAN

CBS News, which set up the website Public Eye in 2005 "to bring transparency to the editorial operations of CBS News," is shutting the site down, according to the TVNewser website. There have been no new postings on the site since shortly after editor Matthew Felling was abruptly let go last month. A spokesperson for CBS Interactive told TVNewser, "We weren't able to find a sustainable business model for Public Eye. We are exploring ways to maintain a similar spirit of public discourse by engaging the CBSNews.com audience and building a community around multiple voices." Kevin Roderick, who oversees the L.A. Observed website, commented, "It's sad to see a project begun with such excitement (and such a budget, oy -- there were THREE editors at one time!) come to such a quiet and unlamented end, without even time for a whimper."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.