AFTRA-AMPTP DEAL REPORTEDLY CLOSE

Although trade journals had predicted that a deal between the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists would be struck by today (Friday), AFTRA President Roberta Reardon on Thursday said only that "We're making progress," while published reports indicated that the bargaining talks may spill into the weekend. Nevertheless, most observers expressed the conviction that the two sides will reach an agreement within days. They were less certain about whether a similar agreement would be thrashed out between the AMPTP and the Screen Actors Guild. Indeed, entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel, a frequent blogger on Hollywood's labor unrest, predicted that if no agreement between SAG and the studios/networks is reached by June 30, SAG negotiators are not likely to seek strike authorization since they may not be able to persuade 75 percent of their members that they can force the AMPTP to accept a better deal than the ones negotiated with AFTRA, the WGA, and the DGA. The more likely scenario, Handel wrote Thursday in the legal daily Los Angeles Daily Journal is that producers will halt production until a deal is reached -- in effect, imposing a de facto lockout. "Let's hope last year's work stoppage doesn't yield a bad sequel as well," Handel concluded.

FOX TO HALVE COMMERCIALS FOR NEW SHOWS

Fox Broadcasting plans to draw viewers to its new dramas Fringe and Dollhouse by drastically cutting the number of commercials and promos in them to half the usual number. Today's (Friday) Hollywood Reporter quoted Fox Entertainment Chairman Peter Liguori as saying that by doing so, "we're going to have ... less reason for viewers to use the remote. ... It's a simple concept and potentially revolutionary. ... We're going to redefine the viewing experience."

THURSDAY'S RATINGS RISE -- BUT NOT MUCH

Thursday night saw a slew of season finales and therefore an uptick in overall ratings for the night, which have fallen steadily since the writers' strike. Nevertheless, they remained well below their levels of a year ago. ABC's Ugly Betty may have won the 8:00 p.m. hour, but its total audience of 8.47 million was down by more than 2 million from the same week a year ago, CBS's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation won the 9:00 hour with 17.73 million viewers, but even that number was down by 2.72 million from last year. The worst drop was recorded by ABC's Grey's Anatomy, which dropped to 15.18 million from 22.57 million a year ago.

IDOL MORE POPULAR WITH OLDER VIEWERS THAN YOUNGER ONES

More viewers over the age of 65 watch American Idol than those who are 18-24, according to an audience analysis of the show by Nielsen Media Research. As reported by Broadcasting & Cable magazine, although most of the contestants on the show have been in their teens or early 20s, Nielsen's audience breakdown includes these demographic percentages: 18-24, 7 percent; 35-49, 29 percent; 50-64, 23 percent; over 65, 11 percent. B&C did not disclose figures for viewers younger than 18 and those in the 24-34 demo. Meanwhile Fox Entertainment Chairman Peter Liguori said Thursday that he is not satisfied with the ratings performance of Idol. He told B&C he will be working with the producers of Idol to bring more "energy" to the show.

ARCHULETA'S FATHER STILL HAS HIS SAY

Jeff Archuleta, who has been banished from backstage at American Idol tapings for behaving like the male equivalent of a "stage mother," in his relationship with his son, finalist David Archuleta, continued to bark orders to his son from his seat in the audience during a taping of the show last Wednesday, the New York Post reported today (Friday). According to the newspaper, following a coin toss to determine whether David or fellow finalist David Cook would perform first during the final show next week, the elder Archuleta stood on his seat and screamed to his son, "Second! Second!" The Post observed that the contestant who gets to close the Idol show usually has an advantage.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.