HTML>Studio Briefing for May 7, 2008Movie Picture

May 7, 2008

Edited by Lew Irwin

Copyright 2008, Studio Briefing. All Rights Reserved


SWEEPS SWEPT BY LOW RATINGS

It certainly didn't look like a sweeps week last week as many ordinarily top-rated television shows recorded some of their lowest ratings ever. Even the No. 1 show, American Idol, saw a worrisome drop in audience figures. The Associated Press observed that CBS's CSI: Miami had its smallest audience ever. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation drew its second smallest audience ever for an original episode. (The smallest audience was recorded a week earlier.) ABC's Grey's Anatomy recorded its smallest audience since moving to Thursday nights two years ago. NBC's Deal or No Deal had its third smallest audience. For the week overall, CBS continued to lead with an average 6.5 rating and an 11 share. ABC placed second with a 6.0/10. Fox came in third with a 5.7/10. (It ranked first among adults 18-49, however.) And NBC trailed with an average 4.3/7.

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

1. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 14.5/23; 2. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 13.6/21; 3. Dancing With the Stars (Monday), ABC, 11.8/18; 4. Dancing With the Stars (Tuesday), ABC, 11.4/17; 5. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 11.1/17; 6. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 10.8/17; 7. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 10.2/16; 8. NCIS, CBS, 9.4/15; 9. CSI: Miami, CBS, 9.2/15; 10. House, Fox, 8.8/13.

FIRST A STRIKE, NOW RUNAWAY PRODUCTION

ABC-TV production crew members, already experiencing sleepless nights as they worry about the possibility of an actors' strike shutting down the industry this summer, now have new reason for concern. The Los Angeles Times reported today (Wednesday) that ABC Studios plans to move production of Ugly Betty to New York in order to take advantage of an increase in that state's film tax credit. The move reportedly will cost two-thirds of the show's 150 crew members their jobs. The newspaper said that it was unclear whether other shows produced by the network would also pull up stakes and move to New York. Cast members of Ugly Betty have been told to report for work in New York for the beginning of production of the show's third season by June 30. (Ironically, that is also the date that the current SAG contract expires.) Ugly Betty, the Times suggested, could be the first of several TV shows to relocate to New York following passage of a new law tripling the state's film tax credit.

PUNDITS PONDER PRIMARIES

Hillary Clinton canceled media appearances and other engagements for the day in order to assess the results of Tuesday's primary results. With Barack Obama surpassing analysts' projections in North Carolina and losing in Indiana by only a few thousand votes, TV commentators were predicting that Clinton will issue a concession statement by the end of the week. "We now know who the nominee will be," NBC commentator Tim Russert remarked Tuesday night as the final tally was coming in. The Drudge Report featured a picture of Obama captioned "The Candidate." Meanwhile, CBS was taking flak for projecting a Clinton win in Indiana at 8:00 p.m., when votes from several major Obama strongholds had yet to be counted. At 8:09, Katie Couric broke into the telecast of NCIS to announce Clinton's apparent victory. She then asked commentator Jeff Greenfield, "Does this change anything?" He replied, "It sure doesn't. We go on till June 3." Such a scenario now appears unlikely. Other networks, including the cable news channels, characterized the race as "too close to call." Even as late as 11:00 p.m., Russert was saying that the Indiana race "could go either way." It was not until after 1:00 a.m. that the networks called the state in favor of Clinton.

FCC ASKED TO PROBE "MILITARY ANALYSTS"

Revelations by the New York Times of an apparent Pentagon propaganda program -- in which more than 75 former military officers were recruited to appear on TV shows to support the administration's policies in Iraq -- may receive the attention of the FCC. The April 20 Times report also disclosed that several military analysts appearing on network news programs and cable news channels were on the payroll of military contractors. Broadcasting & Cable magazine reported on its website Tuesday that Michigan Congressman John Dingell and Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, both Democrats, have sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin asking the commission to determine whether the Pentagon program had violated "sponsorship identification requirements" of the law. "The American people should never be subject to a covert propaganda campaign but rather should be clearly notified of who is sponsoring what they are watching," the lawmakers' letter said. The Times report, which appeared on the front page of the newspaper under the headline: "Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand," has been largely ignored by TV news programs.

WALTERS SAYS SHE IDENTIFIES WITH COURIC

Barbara Walters says she can identify with the problems that Katie Couric is currently facing as anchor of the low-rated CBS Evening News. Like Couric, Walters left NBC's Today show to anchor an evening news program -- in her case, ABC's World News Tonight, where she shared the anchor desk with Harry Reasoner beginning in October 1976. The newscast, already last in the ratings, fell even further under the Reasoner-Walters team, and by July 1978 the pair were gone, replaced by an experimental format in which the traditional anchorman was eliminated. In an interview with today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Times to promote her new book Audition, Walters compared her own experience with Couric's: "She's going through a very difficult time," she said. "And I think, like me, she'll survive." Asked about her supposed bitter rivalry with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Walters insisted that they have always been on friendly terms and recently had lunch together. "People will be very surprised that we have that kind of relationship," she told the Times. "Diane and I were pitted against each other, deliberately. We hated it. ... But we never had animosity toward one another." Walters is being interviewed for a one-hour ABC special tonight -- not by Sawyer, but by Sawyer's longtime Primetime and Good Morning America cohost, Charles Gibson.

SEX SCANDAL MAY INTERFERE WITH SALE OF WEATHER CHANNEL

The Weather Channel, which reportedly is seeking to sell itself for around $5 billion, is attempting to keep secret an arbitration ruling in favor of a former anchorwoman who sued the channel and her former male co-anchor charging sexual harassment, the Smoking Gun website reported today (Wednesday). Hillary Andrews had accused the channel of firing her after the arbitrator's findings were issued on January 31. TSG said that Andrews's predecessor, had also been forced out of her job after she, too complained about the behavior of co-anchor Bob Stokes. In her lawsuit, Andrews said that she had initially been reluctant to complain about Stokes for fear of committing "career suicide," and that after she reported his behavior to the channel's officials, she was reassigned to the overnight shift.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.