PEACOCK PLUNGES

Only a day after NBC fired Kevin Reilly, its entertainment president and chief programmer, the network got word that its ratings for the previous week had sunk to embarrassing levels -- the worst ever during a regular season. (The season ended on Thursday.) A special embarrassment accompanied the return of its Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The Aaron Sorkin "dramedy," which network executives had once predicted would be a huge hit for the 2006-07 season, drew fewer than four million viewers. (Media buyers said Wednesday that they doubted that the schedule Reilly had unveiled for next season would lift the network out of fourth place. Susan Hajny, broadcast research manager for media buyers GSD&M, told Media Life magazine that the programs represented the "quirky, offbeat stuff that [Reilly's] been supporting, but I don't think it fits the image NBC still has of itself from when they were No. 1." Serge Del Grosso of Lowe New York told the trade publication, "You can argue that Reilly invested in the quality of content but it wasn't popular enough to draw in the masses.") NBC placed only two shows in the top 20 last week -- Heroes at No. 10 and Law & Order: SVU at No. 16. Thanks to the season finale(s) of American Idol, Fox finished the week in the lead with an average 6.9 rating and a 12 share. CBS placed second with a 6.0/11. ABC came in third with a 5.8/10, while NBC trailed with a 3.7/7.

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

1. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 17.8/28; 2. Dancing With the Stars (Tuesday), ABC, 15.0/24; 3. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 14.9/23; 4. Dancing With the Stars (Monday), ABC, 13.4/22; 5. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 9.1/15; 6. NCIS, CBS, 9.0/14; 7. The Bachelor: Officer and a Gentleman, ABC, 8.6/13; 8. CBS Tuesday Movie "Jesse Stone: Sea Change," CBS, 8.3/13; 8. (Tie) Two and a Half Men, CBS, 8.3/12; 10. Heroes, NBC, 8.0/12; 10. (Tie) Lost, ABC, 8.0/14.

MORE VIEWERS LEAVING KATIE

The audience for the CBS Evening News With Katie Couric continues to erode. Last week, the total fell below six million viewers for the first time, averaging just 5,960,000, down 15 percent from the comparable week a year ago. Meanwhile, NBC boasted Tuesday that NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams remained the most-watched network evening newscast throughout the 2006-07 season (although it is questionable whether nightly newscasts can be considered seasonable since they run 52 weeks per year). "Nightly News has now been the top-rated network evening newscast for 11 straight seasons," the network said. For the past several months, however, ABC's World News With Charles Gibson has led Nightly News in the ratings.

DANCE RETURN WINS WEDNESDAY FOR FOX

A two-hour season debut of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance got off on the right foot Wednesday night as it averaged a 6.4 rating and an 11 share, peaking in the 9:30 p.m. half hour with a 7.4/11. It was beaten only in the first half hour -- by ABC's The Next Best Thing: Who Is the Greatest Celebrity Impersonator?, which scored a 5.7/10 to edge out Dance's 5.2/9 in that time period. CBS took over the top spot at 10:00 p.m. with a repeat of CSI: NY, which recorded a 7.5/12 -- the highest-rated show of the night.

TODAY'S LAUER GOING TO CUBA

U.S. officials may have held up Michael Moore's application to travel to Cuba to film part of Sicko, his documentary about the U.S. health system, but they have presumably not been reluctant to approve a request by NBC's Matt Lauer and other Today show staffers to travel to the Communist nation. NBC announced Wednesday that Lauer will report live from Havana next Tuesday. A statement by the network said that Lauer's report will focus on the current health of Fidel Castro and the effects of the continuing U.S.-Cuba embargo on both Cuba and the U.S.

BARNES JUMPS SHIP -- LEAVES WALL ST. JOURNAL FOR NY TIMES

Brooks Barnes, who has covered the television beat for the Wall Street Journal in recent years, is joining the New York Times, where he will cover the entertainment industry from the newspaper's Los Angeles bureau. As Times business editor Larry Ingrassia and media editor Bruce Headlam put it in a memo to staff, Barnes "will cover the business of Hollywood in all of its fascinating iterations -- the players, the studios, the financiers." Unaccountably, the two editors specified that Barnes's assignment will include "the Walt Disney Co. and all its sprawling parts." They mentioned no other entertainment company. He will replace Laura Holson, who is returning to New York "to cover a national beat focusing on the convergence of the communications, wireless and entertainment industries."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.