i>DANCING PUTS ON THE RITZ

ABC's Dancing With the Stars produced the best ratings of any entertainment show of the fall season Monday night as the final competition night nabbed a 15.7 rating and a 23 share in the 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. hour, according to Nielsen research. Judges' final scores had the team of Indy car racer Helio Castroneves and Julianne Hough and the team of Melanie Brown (The Spice Girls' Mel B or Scary Spice) and Maksim Chmerkovskiy in a dead heat while the team of Marie Osmond and Jonathan Roberts placed third. Judges on Monday night's show ruthlessly criticized Osmond's "free style number" in which she dressed as a rag doll. "This is the loopiest thing I've ever seen. It defies criticism," remarked judge Bruno Tonioli. Osmond, visibly perturbed by the criticism, shot back, "I don't buy it." As she left the stage, host Tom Bergeron said to her, "Don't have a hissy fit." Final results are due to be announced tonight (Tuesday) following a showdown between the two leaders.

THEY'RE BACK! (AT THE NEGOTIATING TABLE)

Rumors spread throughout Hollywood Monday that the first day of renewed talks between the Writers Guild of America and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers produced concrete results and were likely to lead to a quick settlement. Citing an unnamed insider, L.A. Weekly columnist Nikki Finke reported on her website Monday evening that the AMPTP negotiators arrived at the session with "a very comprehensive proposal." Each side has agreed not to discuss the negotiations with the press; even the site of the talks remains secret. Talks were reportedly set to resume today (Tuesday). Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported today (Tuesday) that NBC's Last Call With Carson Daly will become the first late-night talk show to return to the air since the strike began. Daly is expected to resume production in Burbank this week with new episodes set to air beginning Monday, the A.P. said, citing unnamed sources.

IMUS DEFENDED BY WOMEN'S RIGHTS ADVOCATE

The imminent return of Don Imus to the airwaves has been welcomed in an Op-Ed piece in the Boston Globe by the writer of a book about discrimination against women in the legal workplace. Lauren Stiller Rikleen, author of Ending the Gauntlet: Removing Barriers to Women's Success in the Law, called Imus's remarks about the Rutger's women's basketball team "reprehensible" but maintained that "hypocritical" broadcast media have turned a blind eye to similar outrageous comments since Imus's dismissal. "Imus should be back on the air because he remains one of the few interviewers willing to ask the tough questions that most others ignore," Rikleen wrote. "Unlike so many other journalists who treat their interviewees gingerly so as not to scare away other 'gets,' Imus did not let his guests off the hook with evasive answers." She acknowledged that at times Imus could be crude. "When that happened, many of us probably did the same thing: We changed the station. It's an old-fashioned approach, but it still works." Meanwhile, published reports have indicated that when Imus returns on Dec. 3, he'll have a co-host for the first time. Monday's New York Post suggested that Imus "partner up with an African-American woman, as Howard Stern did so successfully with the lovely Robin Quivers, who keeps Stern from straying into misogynistic, racist territory."

RATHER SAYS REDSTONE WAS "THE HEAVY"

Dan Rather has accused Sumner Redstone of being "the heavy" in his ouster as anchor of the CBS Evening News. In an interview with New York magazine, Rather avoided discussing details of his $70-million lawsuit against CBS, Redstone, CBS CEO Les Moonves and former CBS News president Andrew Heyward. He told the magazine that he expects critics to understand the reasons for his suit "when people hear what I was told and what I was not told by CBS executives" concerning the story about President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard that led to his dismissal and which he now insists was accurate. In the interview, Rather insisted that his on-air apology for the story was "coerced" by Heyward and that it was written by the news chief.

LENO, EVEN IN RERUNS, RULES

After at first seeming to benefit from the writers' strike as it rose to first place among the late-night shows, Late Show With David Letterman dropped to third place last week, according to Nielsen Research. The Tonight Show With Jay Leno regained the lead with an average of 3.93 million viewers versus Letterman's 3.43 million. Each show is airing reruns. Taking over second place was ABC's Nightline, which averaged 3.57 million viewers.

SO, HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE WATCHING NETWORK TV SHOWS ONLINE?

Although the networks touted the results as a great success, Nielsen figures for the month of October indicate that ABC attracted 10.6 million unique visitors to the website where it streams episodes of its shows; NBC, 8.1 million to its site; CBS, 6.1 million; and Fox, 3.4 million. The results seem to indicate that the total number of viewers recorded by each of the networks for an entire month was about what a single network program averages on any given night. Nevertheless, TV Week quoted network executives as saying that the figures for October exceeded their estimates. The trade publication also noted that the networks now run advertisers' spots during online episodes until they deliver the guaranteed number of viewers. After that, they fill the time with promos for other network shows. The result, TV Week observed, is that while "it's next to impossible to buy ads in Desperate Housewives or Heroes on TV, spots in episodes of those shows are available online."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.