The debut of a number of new series and new episodes of some old ones were hammered by NBC's Sunday Night Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears. The game, and its lead-in, averaged an 8.9 rating and a 15 share for NBC or about 16.9 million viewers. As strong as that might appear, the Sunday Night Football telecasts are off from the 20.1-million-viewer average at this point last year. Analysts pointed out, however, that ratings were down across the board for the major networks Sunday night, with only the veteran CBS news magazine 60 Minutesholding its own with a 7.7 rating and a 14 share or 11.45 million viewers in the 7:00 p.m. hour. On the other hand, The Power of 10, which followed at 8:00 p.m., drew only a 5.0/8 for the network. The season premiere of Cold Caseat 9:00 p.m. improved to a 7.9/12, while the season premiere of Sharkproduced a 7.6/13 for CBS at 10:00 p.m. ABC drew indifferent numbers for a two-hour repeat edition of Extreme Makeover: Home Editionand retrospectives of Desperate Housewivesand Brothers & Sisters. Fox attracted good ratings with an NFL overrun at 7:00 p.m. that drew 15.28 million viewers, followed by the postgame The O.T., which drew 9.14 million viewers. But viewership was down for The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and Family Guy,which followed.


In a kind of reverse product placement, unaired footage from ABC's Dancing With the Stars will be available for viewing by AT&T Wireless customers on their cell phones following each week's broadcasts. AT&T is a primary sponsor of the talent contest. Advertising Agealso reported today (Monday) that, in addition, AT&T intends to incorporate its Video Share service, which allows customers to share live or recorded video with other users, into the program. David Garver, executive director of business development and wireless sponsorships for AT&T Mobility, suggested that the reality show will give AT&T and other advertisers direct involvement in its creative process. "Ten years ago, you wouldn't see anything like this," he told AdAge.


Rome Hartman, a former executive producer of the CBS Evening News, has weighed in on Dan Rather's $70-million lawsuit against the network and its owners. Interviewed on CNN's Reliable Sources Sunday, Hartman said that "it made me sad for him" when he read about the lawsuit. "I don't understand why he would choose to dredge back into the spotlight what's undoubtedly going to be remembered as the darkest moment of his career and a very dark moment for CBS News." Hartman agreed that Rather had filed the lawsuit not for the money but "to find vindication in this affair. The problem is, I just don't think that's how it is going to end up."


China has suddenly cracked down on American Idol-type talent shows, which have reportedly become as popular in China as they are in the U.S. On Saturday, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television issued a series of rules that would bar such shows from being broadcast between 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. and would prohibit voting via the Internet, telephone or text messaging. Commenting on the ban, the French wire service Agence France Presse observed, "Inviting the public to cast votes had been seen by some observers as, in a small way, education in democratic procedures." But the new rules also would affect content of the shows. As reported by the state news agency Xinhua, the rules require that Chinese networks "select qualified competitors who show characteristics such as perseverance, maturity, confidence, and health." They also warn judges against making "inflammatory or sensational remarks" about the contestants.


Disney Channel's High School Musical 2has turned out to be almost as big a hit in the U.K. as it was when it premiered to a record number of viewers in the U.S. last month. A showing on Disney Channel U.K. averaged 1.2 million viewers, 63 percent of them between the ages of 4 and 15. In a statement, Disney Channel UK managing director Rob Gilby said: "Kids around the world are as enthusiastic as ever for High School Musical and these U.K. viewing figures for the sequel show there is continued appreciation for the music, the characters and the stories kids find relevant to their lives."


Marçel Marçeau, the mime artist who was a frequent guest on U.S. TV variety shows in the '50s and '60s (he won an Emmy in 1956 for Best Specialty Act) and who made regular appearances on the Tonightshow with Johnny Carson in the '70s, has died in France of undisclosed causes at the age of 84. At the 1974 Academy Awards, Marçeau, who never uttered a word on stage, presented the Oscar for Best Sound.