NO NEW SHOWS TO UNVEIL IN JANUARY?

In yet another sign that the television networks are preparing for a long siege with the Writers Guild of America, NBC on Tuesday announced that it will not participate in the winter press tour of the Television Critics Association, an annual January gathering in Southern California when the networks unveil their new shows for midseason and introduce the stars and producers to the press. Budgetary cutbacks by the major newspapers had already threatened the affair even before the strike had begun. Today's (Wednesday) Hollywood Reporter reported that only 40-50 non-Los Angeles-based journalists had been planning to attend the January get-together, down from the usual 60-70.

SCORNED BY EASTERN WRITERS, ELLEN CANCELS NY TRIP

Singled out for attack by the Writers Guild of America East for continuing to appear on her syndicated daytime talk show during the current writers' strike, Ellen DeGeneres has canceled plans for taping in New York next week. She will continue to tape episodes of her show in Burbank, however, a publicist for the show said. Her decision to continue the show -- sans her daily monologue -- was defended by AFTRA and the show's producer, which pointed out that DeGeneres is doing the same sort of work that Oprah Winfrey, Montel Williams, and other talk-show hosts have been doing since the strike began -- without criticism from the WGA-East. In a statement, WGA-East President Michael Winship said, "We're delighted that Ellen DeGeneres has decided not to come to New York to tape her program. She knows that the Writers Guild East would have been there to protest her lack of solidarity, not only with her Guild writing staff but all the striking members of the Writers Guild, of which she is a member."

WGA-EAST PLANS TO SEND SOAP WRITERS DOWN THE DRAIN

Word that writers on some daytime soap operas are continuing to work on the shows during the strike drew sharp comments from the Writers Guild of America East. The writers have been placed in a particularly complicated situation since their shows are already facing uncertain futures and would likely be canceled without fresh episodes. Some writers have opted for "financial core" status, essentially giving up their guild membership, while others are reportedly writing in secret, hoping that the guild does not learn that they are continuing to work on the shows. Most soap operas are still produced by New York advertising agencies representing soap companies. WGA East spokeswoman Sherry Goldman accused the soap-opera writers of "prolonging the strike" and added: "They will never be full members of the Writers Guild again."

NEWS MAGAZINES SET TO REPLACE STRUCK SHOWS

As the networks run out of fresh sitcoms and dramas in the coming weeks, news magazines are likely to replace them. "The reality is that 48 Hours is the utility player for the network, a role we cherish and consider part of our core responsibility," the CBS show's executive producer, Susan Zirinsky, told today's Los Angeles Times. The newspaper also noted that NBC is preparing to air as many as three Dateline episodes per week after the first of the year, while ABC is speeding up production of several Primetime series, based on the themes "family secrets," "medical mysteries," and "the outsiders." However, one unnamed network producer noted that all of the shows will be produced with staffs that have been vastly reduced in recent years. "You'd love to use this opportunity to strut your stuff," the producer told the Times. "But there's not a lot of money and not a lot of time."

WHO NEEDS WRITERS? ABC WINS WITH UNSCRIPTED SHOWS

Clearly ABC was not dependant on scripted shows last week as it easily defeated the opposition with huge ratings for Dancing With the Stars and the Country Music Awards. The network placed first in overall households and among viewers 18-49. It was the second time this season that ABC has edged out CBS in the ratings race. The networks lined up this way: ABC: 7.8 rating, 13 share; CBS: 7.6/12; Fox: 5.3/8; NBC: 5.2/8.

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

1. Without a Trace, CBS, 13.8/23; 2. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 13.7/20; 3. Dancing With the Stars (Monday), ABC, 13.5/20; 4. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 12.5/19; 5. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 11.9/18; 6. Dancing With the Stars (Tuesday), ABC, 11.4/17; 6. NCIS, CBS, 11.4/17; 8. House, Fox, 10.8/16; 8. Sunday Night Football: Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers, NBC, 10.8/18; 10. Country Music Association Awards, ABC, 10.0/16.

PECULIAR LIST OF 50 GREATEST TV ICONS

In advance of a special to air on the nostalgia channel TV Land, the channel and Entertainment Weekly have issued a list of the 50 greatest TV "icons" of all time. The list is headed by Johnny Carson, with Lucille Ball listed in second place. But it is heavily weighted in favor of personalities from the '70s on. For example, while it lists Barbara Walters at No. 23, it makes no mention of Edward R. Murrow (or Mike Wallace Chet Huntley, David Brinkley or Walters' ABC colleague Diane Sawyer, for that matter.) Jerry Seinfeld, Bea Arthur, Jon Stewart and Flip Wilson make the list at Nos. 8, 38, 41, and 43 respectively, but not Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, or Red Skelton. While Kermit the Frog takes 21st place, Howdy Doody is passed over. And while Regis Philbin ranks 27th, Dave Garraway and Steve Allen are ignored.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.