DANCING FINALE DRAWS SEASON'S BEST RATINGS

The season finale of ABC's Dancing With the Stars contest, won by actress-model Brooke Burke, drew the best numbers for any regular show of the season Tuesday night, averaging 20.58 million viewers over its two hours. The show's audience built steadily, beginning with 18.75 million at 9:00 p.m., then rising to 19.41 million at 9:30 p.m., 21.99 million at 10:00 p.m., and peaking at 22.17 million for the announcement of the winnert during the final 10:30 p.m. half-hour. Amazingly, CBS drew solid numbers despite the strong competition. After attracting 18.16 million viewers to NCIS at 8:00 p.m. -- making it the top show in that hour -- the network's The Mentalist registered 15.91 million viewers against the first hour of Dancing, while Without a Trace recorded 10.3 million. NBC, meanwhile, continued to struggle. Even its Law & Order franchise faltered, hitting a series low with just 8.55 million viewers.

CRITICS: VARIETY SHOW NOT COMING UP ROSEY

Rosie O'Donnell's effort to revive the live variety format on TV Wednesday night was pilloried by critics today (Thursday). Perhaps the mildest comment came from Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times, who wrote, "Ms. O'Donnell can be very funny, but she didn't try very hard Wednesday night." Mary McNamara in the Los Angeles Times was tougher, concluding: "O'Donnell was clearly attempting to recapture the uplifting unapologetic wonder of the big Broadway musical and the television variety show. But having a bunch of talented guests does not a terrific show make -- you have to actually give them something interesting to do. Otherwise you're left with, well, a rubber turkey." In the Hartford Courant, Roger Catlin wrote, "It was tough to put a finger on exactly what was going on. ... There was not a single well honed sketch." Tim Graham of the conservative Media Research Center, posted a review on the NewsMax website complaining that O'Donnell did not keep her vow to keep politics out of the show. Moreover, he wrote, "The show was supposed to be some nostalgic version of an old-time variety show, but it wasn't really for the family-hour set. O'Donnell began by repeatedly touching her breasts and making jokes about how her Spanx undergarments were holding her together. She also said 'dammit' in the first few minutes." And Matt Roush in TV Guide began his review by remarking, "If the TV variety format weren't already dead, the ghastly ego trip of NBC's Thanksgiving-eve turkey Rosie Live would surely have killed it."

CNBC BOUGHT PALIN OUTFIT FOR INTERVIEW

Business channel CNBC paid $300 for clothing worn by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin during an interview with anchor Maria Bartiromo before Palin was nominated as the Republican party's vice-presidential candidate, the Washington Post reported today (Thursday). According to the newspaper's "Reliable Sources" column, the first part of the interview was conducted in Palin's office in Anchorage, where she wore her own clothing. However, it noted, the producers then asked to film part of the interview in nearby oil fields, but since the governor didn't have any outdoor clothing at her office, a CNBC assistant was sent out to buy her a jacket and hiking shoes. Palin later reported the clothing as a gift.

MORE FINANCIAL WOES FOR REDSTONE

The falling stock prices of CBS and Viacom may force Sumner Redstone, the chairman of both companies, to sell part or all of his National Amusements theater chain and his stakes in the videogame company Midway Games and slot machine maker WMS Industries, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Thursday), citing people close to the situation. The theater chain is overseen by Redstone's daughter Shari, who has engaged in numerous public disputes with her father in the past but has not commented on the reported plans to sell parts of the theater chain in order to fulfill debt covenants hinged to the value of CBS and Viacom shares. However, the Times quoted one person familiar with the situation as saying that Redstone is determined not to relinquish his holdings in either CBS or Viacom.

EU TO PROBE AFGHAN PRESS FREEDOM

Although its stated purpose is to help build unity and democracy in war-torn Afghanistan, the European Commission indicated Wednesday that a forthcoming conference will focus on the perilous tasks carried out by media professionals under current Afghan rule. The conference, dubbed "Civil society, media development and cultural perspectives in Afghanistan," is expected to take up the issue of press freedom, particularly as it concerns journalists whose opinions run counter to authoritarian Muslim ideology. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported last January that 23-year-old Afghan journalism student Sayed Perwiz Kambaksh was sentenced to death following a closed trial in which he had no defense lawyer for "disseminating defamatory remarks about Islam." (He had circulated an article that he had discovered online criticizing the Koran's teachings about the rights of women.) His sentence was subsequently commuted to 20 years in prison. Another reporter, Tawab Nizai, was sentenced to one year in prison for interviewing a spokesman for the Taliban. Radio journalist Salam Watandar fled Afghanistan after he was arrested twice by Afghan secret services. He now runs the blog Kabulpress.org dedicated to providing "breaking news stories and images focusing on human rights, freedom of speech and good-government issues."