IN DEBUT, BELLS CLANG

Fox premiered The Wedding Bells following American Idol Wednesday night, but it did not achieve anything like the huge ratings that greeted Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? last week. Nevertheless, the show grabbed an 8.9 rating and a 14 share (versus a 14.1/21 for 5th Grader last Wednesday), good enough to lead its time period as it narrowly edged out a repeat of CBS's Criminal Minds, which recorded an 8.8/13. At 10:00 p.m., ABC's Lost returned to the lead as it scored an 8.3/13 to beat a repeat of CBS's CSI:NY, which posted an 8.1/13, but Lost's ratings remained well below what they had been in previous seasons. Earlier in the evening American Idol once again overwhelmed the competition with a 17.4/27, representing 28.45 million viewers.

TV NEWS VET KAPLAN TO TAKE OVER CBS EVENING NEWS REINS

CBS is expected to name as early as today (Thursday) veteran news producer Rick Kaplan to take over as executive producer of the struggling CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. Kaplan would replace Rome Hartman, who had been producing the program before Couric arrived on the scene last September and who had seen the ratings of the newscast rise significantly under her predecessor, Bob Schieffer. Since Couric's advent, however, ratings for the invariably third-place CBS newscast have dropped precipitously. They are now down more than 6 percent from what they were a year ago. Moreover, critics have drubbed the newscast for including too many soft features, apparently in an effort to win over Couric's former Today show viewers. In the meantime, ratings for ABC's World News have overtaken NBC's Nightly News, resulting in the replacement of the executive producer of the NBC newscast earlier this week. Kaplan is a former president of CNN and MSNBC and was an executive producer on ABC's World News Tonight and Nightline.

STAR ALSO RISES

Star Jones Reynolds, who was ousted from ABC's The View last year, has been hired by Court TV, where she made her TV debut in 1991 as a legal commentator, to host her own daily talk show. "This is a perfect situation," she told today's (Thursday) Philadelphia Inquirer. "I'm returning to my roots." In the Inquirer interview and those with other newspapers and TV shows Wednesday, Reynolds refused to discuss The View or the show's producer, Barbara Walters, who fired her. "It's not my show anymore," she told the Associated Press. "I wish them the best and I hope they wish me the best."

C-SPAN TO ALLOW WEB COPYING

In an extraordinary policy shift, C-SPAN, which focuses on the activities of government, announced Wednesday that it would permit the "copying, sharing and posting" on Internet sites of most of the programs that it currently airs and those in its archives going back to the late 1970s. In a statement, C-SPAN President and CEO Rob Kennedy said that the cable network's intent was "to expand the conduit between the government and the people." However, about half the channel's programming would remain covered by copyright, including special events such as the White House Correspondents' Dinner, in which public figures are roasted.

NEW SITCOM TO OFFEND ONLY CAVEMEN

Television networks may have done themselves in in their effort to mount successful new sitcoms while at the same time shying away from anything that might offend "blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, Christians, gays, women, stutterers, the physically challenged, Tom Cruise if he's working on a movie for your studio, the Amish and even Beverly hillbillies," Washington Post TV critic Lisa de Moraes commented today (Thursday). That may be why ABC has decided to order a pilot for a new series called Cavemen, starring the three actors who appear in the current ads for Geico Insurance. De Moraes quoted a network spokeswoman as saying, "We felt it was a way of doing a social satire without offending any particular group -- other than cavemen."

U.K. ADVERTISER PULLS $6 MILLION IN ADS FROM BIG BROTHER

A British advertiser that spent $6 million per season on sponsorship of the U.K. version of Big Brother said Wednesday that it will not advertise on the show next season. Carphone Warehouse cited the incident in which Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty was subjected to bullying and racist slurs by other contestants during episodes that aired on Britain's Channel Five. The cellphone company had been a primary advertiser on the show since 2003. Meanwhile, Channel Five announced today (Thursday) that it will suspend all programs involving pay telephone services after it was revealed that the names of some winners who had supposedly called in were actually fictional, and that in one instance a member of a show's production team was introduced on the air as a winning contestant.

Brian B.