THE DEBATE IS ON!

The first televised presidential debate, due to take place in Oxford, MS tonight (Friday), will be held as scheduled. Republican presidential candidate John McCain announced today that he had reversed his previous decision to suspend his campaign inasmuch as significant progress had been made on a deal between Congress and the White House for a bail-out package. In a statement, the McCain campaign said that it "is resuming all activities and the senator will travel to the debate this afternoon." Earlier, Democratic candidate Barrack Obama had said that he intended to appear in front of the cameras in Oxford with or without McCain. Although it was originally announced that the debate would focus on foreign policy, debate moderator Jim Lehrer told the New York Times: "I am not restrained from asking questions about the financial crisis." Meanwhile, David Letterman resumed his comedic onslaught against McCain for pulling out of his show at the last minute on Wednesday. On Thursday's Late Show, Letterman said that when McCain called to tell him that he had to rush back to Washington, he felt that accommodating McCain was the patriotic thing to do. But when he learned that he had decided to sit down with Katie Couric instead, he felt "like an ugly date." As the audience howled, Letterman continued, "I feel used. I feel cheap. I feel sullied." A McCain spokesperson later said that the campaign "felt this wasn't a night for comedy."

ANALYST: FINANCIAL CRISIS COULD CRUSH MEDIA

"The financial implosion occurring on Wall Street will hit Madison Avenue by 2009 with a force that will take down some media companies and prompt many to seek financial relief in digital interactive solutions," MediaPost.com editor-at-large Diane Mermigas predicted Thursday. She cited respected RGE Monitor economist Nouriel Roubini who recently warned of an 18-month recession in which stocks and housing will fall 40 percent even as corporate debt climbs, banks fail, and the FDIC goes bust trying to cover insured accounts. "This will inevitably lead to companies reducing expenses, including their advertising and marketing budgets," Mermigas predicted. She cited a study by TNS Media Intelligence that spending by advertisers in the second quarter, even before the current financial crisis hit, was down 3.7 percent from last year, the steepest quarterly drop since 2001.

DISTURBING NEWS FOR NEW SERIES

Fox's Do Not Disturb may have become the first new show of the fall season to bite the dust. (Fox gets a head start on the other networks because its fall schedule is interrupted in October for post-season baseball.) Entertainment Weekly reported on its website Thursday that the critically flayed comedy, starring Niecy Nash and Jerry O'Connell, was axed after three episodes because of low ratings. However, TV Week reported today that the show was merely being preempted next week and that 20th Century Fox TV was insisting that it had not been notified of any cancellation. In what industry observers regarded as a somewhat tongue-in-cheeky apology, the producers of the show sent a letter to TV critics early in the week asking to be forgiven "for being the perpetrators of such bad television."

NBC NOT FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS

Wednesday night's low-rated debut of Knight Rider, the first show of the new season to have been put into play by NBC Entertainment Co-chairman Ben Silverman, has set tongues wagging in Hollywood. Only 7.3 million people tuned in, far below the 12.7 million who watched the two-hour Knight Rider TV movie in February. Mediabistro's FishbowlNY asked Thursday, "Could last night have been the middle of the end for Ben Silverman?" Some industry observers have speculated that the success or failure of NBC's adventure drama Crusoe, set to debut three weeks from tonight, may ultimately decide Silverman's fate. Like Knight Rider, the expensive show, produced in the UK, South Africa and the Seychelles, was heavily promoted during NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympics. Critics have not been shown a pilot of the show and are suggesting that the fact that they have not is a bad sign.