RATHER VS. MOONVES: ROUND 2

CBS chief Les Moonves and former CBS anchor Dan Rather continued to duke it out Tuesday after Rather complained that CBS was "dumbing down" the nightly newscast now anchored by Katie Couric and "tarting it up." Moonves immediately denounced Rather's remarks as "sexist." On Tuesday, Rather replied that his remarks had nothing to do with gender. Appearing on Fox News Channel's Your World, Rather first remarked that he found Moonves's words "insulting," then changed his description to "disappointing." "That's a better word," he said. Rather noted that Moonves sees himself as the head of both entertainment and news for the network -- and that the previous line of demarcation between the two has "disappeared." He added, "Les Moonves knows about entertainment, but he doesn't know about news." On Tuesday, CBS Evening News executive producer Rick Kaplan sided with Moonves. He told the TVNewser website, that many of the same people who worked for the evening newscast when Rather was anchoring it are doing so now. "They don't like to be told they're not doing a hard news show because they damn well are." In a separate interview with the Washington Post, Kaplan added, "We are very much a hard-news broadcast now. The show's a pretty good program. Clearly, Dan is not watching or he wouldn't have said what he said." Rather responded that he occasionally watches the show and that he had received a "very nasty note" from Kaplan, who, in turn, replied that he had simply expressed his disappointment to Rather about his remarks. "That's nasty? I think Dan has a thinner skin than we thought."

MORE HIGH-DEF MOVIES COMING TO HBO

HBO plans to expand its high-definition program feeds later this year with completion due by the second quarter of 2008, it announced Tuesday. The pay-TV channel said that all 26 HBO and Cinemax channels will have HDTV counterparts (many of the 26 represent separate feeds for the East and West Coast). HBO chief Bill Nelson said in a statement, "Such a commitment reinforces our tradition of giving our customers the best programming when they want it and how they want it." It was unclear, however, how many cable systems and satellite operators would be able to carry all 26 channels.

WWE'S MCMAHON DID NOT DIE IN A CAR BOMBING, SAY REPORTS

Despite claims by the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) that authorities in Wilkes Barre, PA are investigating the explosion of a limousine in which WWE Chairman Vince McMahon was supposedly riding Monday night, the local newspaper, the Times Leader, said Tuesday that authorities had been alerted that the explosion was a stunt and that no investigation is taking place. In fact, the newspaper said, citing the city's zoning officer, the explosion was supervised by Zenith Pyrotechnology of Deer Park, NY -- which applied for and received required permits to stage it -- and was actually taped late Saturday night.

AUDIENCES TUNING IN NEW SHOWS DURING RERUN SEASON

With summer reruns in full force, original episodes of game shows, magazine shows, talent contests, and the NBA finals rushed to the top of the Nielsen list last week. NBC, the usually fourth-ranked network of late, aired the most-watched show of the week, the American Idol-like America's Got Talent.

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

1. America's Got Talent, NBC, 8.3/14; 2. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 7.4/12; 3. So You Think Can Dance (Thursday), Fox, 6.9/11; 4. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 6.8/11; 5. Deal or No Deal, NBC, 6.7/12; 6. CSI: Miami, CBS, 6.6/11; 7. So You Think Can Dance (Wednesday), Fox, 6.5/11; 8. CSI: NY, CBS, 6.4/10; 9. NBA Finals (Game 1), ABC, 6.3/10; 9. NCIS, CBS, 6.3/11; 9. Shark, CBS, 6.3/11.

THE SOPRANOS WOULD HAVE BEEN #2 FOR THE WEEK

Although HBO can be seen in fewer than a third of U.S. households, its telecast of the final episode of The Sopranos was watched by more people than any other program on the air Sunday night -- 11.9 million. In fact it was watched by more people than any other program aired by the broadcast networks for the whole of last week, except the top-rated show, NBC's America's Got Talent. It was not, however, the most-viewed episode of the mob drama. The season-four premiere in Sept. 2002 attracted 13.4 million, and the closing episode that year attracted 12.5 million. The 2004 premiere was also watched by more than the finale's -- 12.1 million.

TVNEWSER WRITER JUMPS FROM COLLEGE TO NEW YORK TIMES

"After three years reporting about reporters, it's time to be a reporter. Starting next month, I'll be covering the media world for The New York Times," Brian Stelter, who operates the lively TVNewser blog, wrote Tuesday. Stelter will be coming to the Times straight out of college. He was graduated only last month from Towson University with a degree in mass communication. In a memo to the newspaper's business staff, business editor Larry Ingrassia wrote that Stelter's hiring "underscores the expansion of our efforts to integrate what we do online and in the print edition." In an interview with Poynter Online, Stelter said that he expects to focus on the migration of television programming to the Internet. "I watch a lot of TV," he said. "But I don't watch it with a remote control anymore. I watch it on my computer." He said that he will be leaving TVNewser on July 20.

BANCROFT FAMILY TO PROPOSE EDITORIAL "BUFFER" TO MURDOCH

The Bancroft family will sell Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp if Murdoch is able to assure the family that he will not meddle with the newspaper editorially, the Washington Post reported today (Wednesday), citing an unnamed source. The family reportedly plans to submit a proposal to Murdoch today outlining requirements for a "buffer" that would guarantee the editorial independence of the newspaper.

TV'S MR. WIZARD DEAD AT 89

TV pioneer Don Herbert, known as "Mr. Wizard" on television for 14 years as he introduced a generation of younger viewers to basic science on Saturday mornings beginning in 1951, died of bone cancer in Bell Canyon, CA Tuesday at the age of 89. His Watch Mr. Wizard, which aired on NBC, entertainingly presented scientific experiments using ordinary household items. In its obituary, the New York Times referred to him as "an influential showman-science teacher." The Museum of Broadcast Communications noted on its website that NBC attempted to revive the program in 1971, "but Herbert's old leisurely pace of the 1950s seemed outdated and the show left the air" the following year.

Brian B.