EARLY SALES KICK OFF 2009 SUPER BOWL

February 1, 2009, when Super Bowl XLIII is due to be played, is a long time away, but NBC reportedly has already sold 85 percent of its 65 commercial availabilities for its telecast with about 12 selling for $3 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. That is the price the remaining 15 percent -- or 10 30-second spots -- will go for, the newspaper said. It observed that usually at this time of year about half the spots are sold.

MURDOCH DEFENDS FOX NEWS

Rupert Murdoch may own 20th Century Fox, the Fox TV Network, MySpace, the London Times, and the New York Post, among other media properties, but it is his ownership of Fox News that has brought him the most public recognition, he suggests in an interview with Esquire magazine. "I can go into restaurants and a whole table will get up and clap if they recognize me because they love Fox News," he said. He called the cable news channel "a core asset in every sense, in terms of its popularity and in terms of its profit." He turned aside claims that the channel is a mouthpiece of conservatives. "The thing that I am proudest of is that it is very, very fair," he said. He praised conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly for booking guests on both sides of controversies. "[MSNBC's] Keith Olbermann is trying to make a business out of destroying Bill O'Reilly. He's done certain things to Bill O'Reilly that I believe were way over the line. I think that's bad behavior. But it's okay for him to criticize Bill. And Bill shouldn't be so sensitive. He should ignore that."

BROKAW DENIES HE CRITICIZED MSNBC

Former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw has denied rumors that he has complained about the liberal leanings of MSNBC hosts to top executives at NBC Universal and corporate parent, General Electric. In an interview with the New York Observer Brokaw also said that there was no truth to the report that John McCain's campaign had threatened to pull out of the Oct. 7 presidential debate because it is due to be moderated by Brokaw. Brokaw said that he had spoken to McCain advisers who assured him that they had "no issue" with plans for him to moderate the debate. "There's no problem there," Brokaw said.

LAURIE BECOMES HIGHEST-PAID BRITISH TV ACTOR

Hugh Laurie is likely to become the highest-paid British television actor ever after signing a new deal to star in Fox's House at $400,000 per episode, or more than $9 million a year, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The only two actors who receive a higher per-episode fee, according to the trade publication, are CSI's William Petersen, who earns $600,000 per episode, and 24's Kiefer Sutherland, who earns $500,000 per episode.

SEINFELD AND GATES RETURN

A four-minute version of Jerry Seinfeld's latest commercial for Microsoft was posted on several websites Thursday, and it once again left people wondering what it was supposed to be selling. The commercial features Seinfeld and Microsoft's Bill Gates moving into an ordinary tract home to get in touch with "real" people. But not a single Microsoft product is mentioned, and Gates, who appears to be playing straightman for Seinfeld, often has a look on his face that suggests that he is thinking, "I'm paying $300 million for this?"

CRITICS SAY PALIN DODGED GIBSON'S QUESTIONS

Sarah Palin's interview with ABC's Charles Gibson did not receive the same kind of praise from critics that her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention did two weeks ago. Palin, critics said, seemed determined to respond to Gibson's questions with her own prepared remarks, avoiding direct responses to his questions. "I got lost in a blizzard of words there. Is that a yes?" Gibson asked her at one point. In the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley wrote, "At times, her eyes looked uncertain and her voice hesitated, and she looked like a student trying to bend prepared answers to fit unexpected questions." David Hinckley in the New York Daily News wrote that Palin "was composed and forceful even when she was clearly scrambling to bring a question back into her message zone." Meanwhile, a group called the Political Fish has set up a website, www.palinpetition.com, where Republicans are asked to sign a petition urging Oprah Winfrey to interview Palin before the election. Winfrey, who has announced her support for Barrack Obama, has said that she has decided "not to use my show as a platform for any of the candidates." Meanwhile, the website TMZ claimed that Barbara Walters "lost" the Palin interview to Gibson. Collared by a TMZ cameraman in New York and asked to comment on Gibson's "get," Walters said, "That's wonderful" but refused further comment.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.