THE LAST DANCE

ABC's Dancing With the Stars pulled gigantic ratings Tuesday night, averaging a 17.7 rating and a 26 share between 8:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Monday night for the final performance episode of the season. In what some TV critics regarded as a manufactured outcome, the Dancing With the Stars judges scored each of the dances perfectly, effectively creating a tie and leaving it up to the viewers to decide the winner. Some writers suggested it was all a ploy to avoid the controversy that developed during the first season when judges gave higher scores to Kelly Monaco than they did to John O'Hurley, who had been favored to win. Meanwhile, the debut of Show Me the Money, hosted by William Shatner, was clearly a disappointment as the game show, which followed Dancing, lost half of its lead-in's audience as it continued to lose audience in each half hour of the program. At 9:30 pm., it posted a 10.6/15; at 10:00 p.m., a 9.3/14; and at 10:30 a dismal 6.9/12.

RATINGS FOR HOUSEWIVES SOAR

Like some of its characters, Desperate Housewives appears to be benefiting from the misfortunes of others -- the "others" in this case being CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on CBS and Grey's Anatomy on ABC, last year's two top scripted shows, which have cut into each other's ratings by airing opposite one another this season on Thursday nights. Housewives has also seen a rating fall-off, largely due to competition from NFL football on NBC, but when all the smoke cleared last week, it was solidly in place in as the top scripted entertainment show with a 13.9 rating and a 20 share, its best numbers of the season, beaten only by the penultimate episode of Dancing With the Stars (14.1/20). Each of the networks had something to boast about as Nielsen Research released its latest ratings. CBS could claim that most viewers overall; ABC could claim the most in the adults 18-49 demographic category, the group most courted by advertisers; NBC could claim honors as the most-improved network and for mounting the biggest new hit of the season, Heroes; and Fox could claim continued strength for its drama House and also for the long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons. Among the nightly newscasts, NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams came out well ahead during election week with 9.8 million viewers; ABC's World News with Charles Gibson placed second with 8.8 million viewers; while the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric remained in third place with 7.7 million. It was the first time this season that the CBS newscast produced fewer viewers than it did a year ago when it was hosted by Bob Schieffer.

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

1. Dancing With the Stars, ABC, 14.1/20; 2. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 13.9/20; 3. Dancing With the Stars Results, ABC, 13.7/21; 4. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 13.5/20; 5. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 12.6/19; 6. Sunday Night Football, NBC, 12.4/19; 7. Dancing With the Stars Recap (Tuesday), ABC, 11.6/17; 8. Criminal Minds, CBS, 11.1/17; 9. CSI: NY, CBS, 10.9/18; 10. 60 Minutes, CBS, 10.8/17.

AL-JAZEERA ENGLISH LAUNCHES TODAY -- BUT WHO'LL BE WATCHING?

After numerous delays while it attempted to find cable outlets in the U.S., the English-language version of al-Jazeera is launching today -- without a single cable or satellite system in America carrying it. It will, however, be available on the Internet at aljazeera/english.net and on cable systems worldwide reaching 80 million households. Dave Marash, the former ABC Nightline correspondent who now heads the Washington bureau of al-Jazeera English (AJE), told today's Washington Post that the difficulties encountered by the Qatar-owned cable network stem from its frequent interviews with Arab militants. He commented: "Do they broadcast hate speech? Yes, they do. Is it put in context and is it discussed as hate speech? Yes, it is. Hate speech is part of the dialogue of the Middle East. To censor or to exclude it would be to lose all credibility" among al-Jazeera's viewers. Meanwhile, NBC anchor Brian Williams expressed consternation over the growing fascination with the YouTube website. As for those bloody videos posted by troops in Iraq, any of which would rival any footage aired by al-Jazeera, Williams said, "I shot video [in Iraq] I would never dream of putting on the air. ... I think about them when I go to sleep at night."

MONEY FOR CAPTURED FNC JOURNALISTS FUNDED WEAPONS, SITE CLAIMS

The $2 million that was paid to a Palestinian terrorist group to secure the release to Fox News reporter Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig was used to purchase weapons for the group, the conservative website WorldNetDaily (WND) claimed Tuesday, citing a senior leader of one of the suspected terrorist groups. WND quoted its source as saying that the weapons would be utilized "to hit the Zionists" and that it would encourage like-minded groups to carry out further kidnappings of Americans.

O.J. SIMPSON TO CONFESS?

In what is shaping up to be another bizarre milestone in the murder case involving O.J. Simpson, Fox announced Tuesday that it plans to air a two-part interview with Simpson on November 27 and 29 (within the November sweeps) in which, according to the Fox news release, he "will tell how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible for the crimes." The news release quoted Fox reality chief Mike Darnell as saying, "This is an interview that no one thought would ever happen. It's the definitive last chapter in the Trial of the Century." The person interviewing Simpson has not been identified. The interview is scheduled to air days before Fox's corporate sibling, Harper Collins, publishes Simpson's If I Did It, Here's How It Happened on November 30.

Brian B.