SURVIVOR, HOUSEWIVES WIN, BUT LOSE VIEWERS

The season finales of CBS's Survivor: Tocantins and ABC's Desperate Housewives scored strongly with two-hour episodes Sunday night, but their audiences were down significantly from previous seasons. Survivor averaged 12.74 million viewers, peaking in the 9:00 p.m. half hour with 13.65 million. It was the lowest-rated Survivor season finale in history, slightly lower than last year's which drew 12.91 million. Desperate Housewives averaged 13.90 million viewers, peaking in the 10:30 half hour with 14.65 million. Last year's season finale delivered 6.8 million viewers.

WHEN WILL SILVERMAN SCORE FOR NBC?

Two years after his appointment as co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, Ben Silverman has yet to produce a bona fide hit for the network, a fact that has spurred industry speculation that he may soon step down. But in an interview with Sunday's New York Times, Silverman insisted: "I am a happy worker at NBC. ... I plan to stay at NBC as part of the NBC family. I'm there. I'm committed." As for why he has not been able to produce the kind of hits at NBC that he once did as an independent producer, Silverman said, "What I didn't realize is, it's really hard to have a vision running a network. ... You can have an agenda. But it's almost impossible to have a vision because of the scale of the business and the entropy that already exists." Meanwhile, as he has consistently done in the past, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker gave Silverman his unqualified support. "Ben made some mistakes in his first year," Zucker said. "The first year was a learning experience. He had to learn how to work inside a corporation." And now that he presumably has done so, Zucker said, he expects Silverman to come up with "better shows -- that is priority No. 1, now."

FAWCETT SPECIAL ATTRACTS RATINGS, CONTROVERSY

Farrah Fawcett's TV special, telling about her reportedly losing battle with cancer, may have attracted nearly 9 million viewers Friday night, but Craig Nevius, the executive producer of the program, insists that "Farrah's Story" is not the one the actress had hoped to tell. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Nevius said that she had wanted the program to be presented as a video diary, not in the traditional documentary format, and that she wanted medical and legal issues to receive greater attention than they did in the final editing. Nevius maintained that creative control of the program was usurped by Fawcett's longtime companion Ryan O'Neal, his business manager, and Alana Stewart, described by the Times as a "junior producer." Nevius told the Times: "One of the reasons we went with NBC is because they said to Farrah, 'This is your story. We'll tell it your way, in your words.' She was adamant about one thing: She wanted this edited like a movie using her diary for narration. She didn't want the talking-head format with its abrupt interruptions. Also, that changes its point of view." In its review of the special, the New York Times condemned it as "an exploitative portrait of a celebrity's fight with cancer ... [featuring] maudlin music, gauzy slow-motion film, and pseudo-revealing interviews with friends, coworkers, doctors and hairdressers."

FOX BOOSTS ITS FALL LINE-UP

Fox, which has always struggled with entertainment programming in the early part of the season, which is interrupted by its coverage of post-season baseball, has decided to introduce four new sitcoms and two dramas in the fall and bring back So You Think You Can Dance, its hit summer series, for a second run in the fall. Two of the comedies, one animated (The Cleveland Show) and one live (Brothers) star African-Americans. The lack of African-American leads in TV sitcoms on all four major networks has been branded "unconscionable" by the NAACP. Meanwhile, ABC is planning to introduce 10 new series, four sitcoms and six dramas, in the fall. Among the comedies are Hank, starring Kelsey Grammer and The Middle, starring Patricia Heaton. Both Grammer and Heaton are Emmy winners.

SAG MEMBERS SET TO VOTE ON NEW CONTRACT

The national board of the Screen Actors Guild sent members an email notice on Sunday, notifying them that voting will begin this week on the union's deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers -- and urging them to vote yes. The email is linked to a video featuring 34 prominent actors calling for a yes vote, among them: Adam Arkin, Amy Brenneman, Steven Collins, Kate Walsh, Ed Begley, Jr.and Ashley Crowe. The notice also reminded members that ballots must be received at SAG headquarters by 5:00 p.m. on June 9. Meanwhile, SAG's Membership First faction, which is urging members to vote no on the deal, held a rally in Griffith Park on Sunday. Daily Variety reported that only about 70 persons showed up.

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