JON STEWART RETURNS, SWIPING AT WGA & NETS

Jon Stewart became the first late-night TV host to express criticism of demands by the Writers Guild of America. Returning to the air Monday night without his writing staff, Stewart at one point ridiculed the WGA's demand to be paid for shows that are downloaded from the Internet. "If you download a show on an iPod, do you think people should get paid for that?" he asked. "If you were to walk [into] a Hickory Farm with cheese on a stick, you wouldn't pay for that. No -- that's promotional cheese. That's what a show on an iPod is, promotional cheese." On the other hand, Stewart also took several whacks at the producers and networks, noting, for example, that Viacom has sued YouTube for a billion dollars for unauthorized use of its shows. However, he then added, "If there were real money in the Internet, don't you think they would have gone with a believable figure?" At the end of the show, Stewart segued to Stephen Colbert, who seemed to be caught feeding his script into a shredder, destroying any evidence that he might be breaking strike rules against writing his monologue. Later, Colbert remarked that Barack Obama had said he would not appear on his program during the strike but that he has said that he wanted to talk to the leaders of Iran, North Korea and Syria. "He'll talk to them," Colbert scolded, "but he won't talk to me?"

CAN DEXTER BE A KILLER ON BROADCAST TV?

Dexter, Showtime's popular series about a cop, played by Michael C. Hall, who "channels" his compulsive killer instincts into a secret life as a vigilante, will make its debut on CBS Television on Feb. 17. The corporate parent of both CBS TV and Showtime is CBS Corp. The cable TV series, which employs graphic sex and violence, will require heavy editing to comply with FCC rules for broadcast network television. It will mark the first time that an entire season of a cable TV series will be rerun on a broadcast network. On Monday Writers Guild of America officials observed that the show's writers will not be able to contribute to the editing and that the episodes will therefore have to be edited by production personnel who have little understanding of story development and exposition.

DR. PHIL DROPS PLANS FOR BRITNEY SPECIAL

Dr. Phil McGraw, who touched off a round of public controversy over the weekend after he arrived at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles to visit Britney Spears, said Monday that he has decided to shelve a planned show about her. In an interview with the Associated Press on Monday, psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Sugar noted that while Spears may have been removed to the hospital involuntarily following a complaint by her former husband, Kevin Federline, "there's a difference between being detained involuntarily for psychological treatment and being forced to endure Dr. Phil involuntarily." In a statement posted on his website Monday, McGraw said that he had canceled the show "because the Spears situation is too intense at this time." He did not explain further. Dr. Richard Harding, professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of South Carolina, welcomed the decision. He told the A.P., "This isn't the time to be exploiting anybody and making examples out of anybody."

DISH NETWORK ADDING HD CHANNELS

EchoStar's DISH Network plans to expand its ability to deliver high-definition channels to customers this year following the launch of three new satellites this year. The company said Monday that it will be able to offer 100 national channels in HD, up from the current 76, and add numerous local HD channels in some 100 markets, up from the current 65. Customers who sign up for the HD packages, which start at $10 per month for a package of 20 channels, will receive a free ViP722 HD digital-video recorder, three months' free programming, waived activation fees and nine free months of its DISH Home Protection Plan.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.