CHANGE OF MINDS FAILS TO HURT CBS

CBS's Criminal Minds made an easy transition from Mandy Patinkin to Joe Mantegna Wednesday night. Mantegna's debut on the show drew a 9.4 rating and a 15 share, making it the highest-rated show of the night. It beat ABC's Private Practice, which scored a 7.7/13. NBC had a tough time for the night as a two-hour edition of Phenomenon and one hour of Life together averaged just a 3.8/7. Without baseball playoffs, Fox had an even tougher time, averaging just a 2.9/5 for the night.

CHANNEL BITES DOG

A&E has suspended production of its Dog the Bounty Hunter series after the National Enquirer posted a nine-minute tape of the show's star, Duane Dog Chapman, ranting often incomprehensibly and employing racist insults directed at his son Tucker's girlfriend, who is black. Excerpts of the tape were uploaded on other celebrity websites, including TMZ, whose headline read, "Dog Goes Nuts." On Wednesday night A&E issued a statement saying, "We take this matter very seriously. Pending an investigation, we have suspended production on the series. When the inquiry is concluded, we will take appropriate action."

FCC HIT FROM RIGHT AND LEFT ON CONSOLIDATION

Conservative family organizations and liberal consumer groups joined in condemning media consolidation at a public hearing of the FCC on Wednesday. Don Isett of the Parents Television Council, the group primarily responsible for generating the majority of letters the FCC receives condemning "indecent" programming, blamed consolidation for allowing a few persons in the media to determine what the general population will be permitted to watch. Later, Andrew Schwartzman of the Media Access Project told the commission: "Effective local service requires institutional and personal attachments to the community."

FCC HALTS EXCLUSIVE DEALS BETWEEN APARTMENTS AND CABLERS

In a unanimous vote, the FCC on Wednesday ended the ability of cable companies to make exclusive deals with apartments condos, and other multiple-unit buildings. The commission said that its decision will permit phone companies and other telecommunications providers to compete against the cable companies on price and services. The decision was condemned by Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, which said that residents of such buildings "will lose the benefit of significant concessions building owners have been able to negotiate on their behalf."

NEW CRIMINAL INTENT EPISODES LIFT USA NETWORK

Putting original episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent on USA Network has significantly boosted ratings for the cable network, it said Wednesday. The spinoff series, which moved from NBC to USA on Oct. 4, have averaged about 4 million viewers, according to the network. Although small by previous L&O standards as a broadcast network offering, the figure represents a 95-percent jump from the time period average a year ago for the cable network.

STRIKE? HO, HUM, SAY SOME VIEWERS

Unlike 1988, when the last strike by the Writers Guild of America occurred, the public will have the Internet and video games to turn to as an alternative to TV, thereby reducing the pressure on the writers and producers to settle, the Washington Post observed today. In an interview with the newspaper, Greg Garcia, a so-called hyphenate (both a writer and producer) on NBC's My Name Is Earl, told the newspaper, "What scares me is that during the last strike, in 1988, people were longing for the TV shows to come back on. ... Kids today, you take TV away, they'll say, 'Big deal,' and they'll click on the computer."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.