i>RAISING THE BAR RAISES TNT'S RATINGS

Despite receiving mostly mediocre-to-poor reviews, TNT's new Stephen Bochco-produced cable drama Raising the Bar drew 7.735 million viewers, thereby setting ratings records for a series debut on an ad-supported cable network Monday night. The previous record was set in 2004 by the USA Network's premiere of The 4400 in 2004, which attracted 7.407 million. In a statement, Turner Entertainment Networks President Steve Koonin said that the series "is an important part of TNT's ongoing plans to take on broadcast networks by increasing our lineup of high-profile original series." However, many of the reviews chided Bochco for the series' lack of originality. Verne Gay in Newsday wrote that "it all still feels a little too familiar and old-fashioned." David Hinckley in the New York Daily News wrote that it fit "into the mold formed by dozens of lawyer shows before it." Similarly Nancy DeWolf Smith wrote in the Wall Street Journal that it "doesn't really break a mold." Some reviews were stronger. "The first episode is simply, flat-out terrible," commented Robert Bianco in USA Today. Robert Lloyd in the Los Angeles Times called it "a mediocre misfire." Ellen Gray in the Philadelphia Daily News dismissed it as "warmed-over Bochco." Matt Roush in TV Guide described it as "shockingly ordinary." And Rob Owen in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that it "is as pedestrian as cable dramas come."

LIBERTY MEDIA SPINS OFF LIBERTY ENTERTAINMENT

In a widely expected maneuver, John Malone's Liberty Media said Wednesday that it is planning to split off Liberty Entertainment, currently a tracking stock that was launched to measure the value of the company's entertainment assets, into a separate public company. It will include Liberty's 50-percent stake in DirecTV, which it acquired from News Corp in April, Starz Entertainment, Liberty Sports, and FUN Technologies, among other assets. Analysts had expected the move to be accompanied by an announcement that Liberty had increased its stake in DirecTV, and some predicted that such a move remained an imminent probability.

OPEN MIKE EMBARRASSES WSJ COLUMNIST

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan is the latest personality to learn the perils of the open microphone. Believing that she was off the air she began discussing the choice of Sarah Palin as the Republican's vice-presidential candidate. "The most qualified? No! I think they went for this -- excuse me -- political bulls**t about narratives. ... Every time the Republicans do that ... they blow it." Noonan who had praised the choice of Palin in her column, wrote today (Thursday) that her words were taken out of context. "I am certainly sorry I blurted my barnyard epithet. I am certainly sorry that someone abused my meaning."

PALIN VS. THE MEDIA -- AND VICE VERSA

Even as the news media began scouring Sarah Palin's background, the Alaska governor used her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul to accuse the media of liberal bias. She said that since the announcement that she had been chosen to be Sen. John McCain's running mate, she had learned "that if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone. But here's a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country." Newsweek reported that at this point in her speech a group of delegates began shaking their fists at the NBC booth, chanting "NBC, NBC, NBC!" In fact, the media, by and large, graded her appearance an A+. The Associated Press, which had given Barack Obama's acceptance speech one of a handful of tepid reviews, said that Palin "rocked the GOP convention with a star-turning performance." TV columnist Tom Shales wrote in the Washington Post: "If the Republicans win the presidential election in November, it may well be said that they won it last night -- the night that John McCain's brilliantly screwy choice for a running mate changed from laughingstock to national star." Indeed Daily Variety reviewed her address as if it were reviewing an actress's stage performance, saying that she "electrified the crowd."

RECORD RATINGS FOR PALIN ADDRESS

On the broadcast networks, Gov. Sarah Palin's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night drew a bigger audience than last week's address by Sen. Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, according to preliminary ratings by Nielsen Media Research. The 10:00 p.m. hour, which included Palin's introduction by former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, posted a 5.4 rating and an 8 share (7.72 million viewers) on NBC; a 4.0/6 (5.05 million) on ABC and a 3.1/5 (4.63 million) on CBS. Earlier in the evening, the season premiere of Fox's Bones attracted an average 9.69 million viewers, dominating the two-hour period.

DEAL BACK ON TOP

Last Thursday night's televised address by Sen. Barack Obama to the Democratic Convention may have drawn 30.2 million viewers, but they were divided up among the broadcast and cable networks and barely showed up in the Nielsen Media Research's top-ten list of broadcast shows. NBC held on to its lead as the most-watched network following its overwhelming domination a week earlier with its Olympics coverasge. It once again aired the highest-rated show of the week, the unflagging game show Deal or No Deal, as well as two episodes of America's Got Talent, which finished in second and third place. CBS was close behind with repeats of Two and a Half Men, 60 Minutes, and NCIS. Overall, NBC averaged a 3.8 rating and a 7 share for the week. CBS placed second with a 3.6/6. Fox took third with a 3.0/5, while ABC trailed with a 2.8/5.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. Deal Or No Deal (Monday), NBC, 7.3/12; 2. America's Got Talent (Tuesday), NBC, 6.9/11; 3. America's Got Talent (Wednesday), NBC, 6.5/11; 4. Two and a Half Men, CBS, 5.8/9; 5. 60 Minutes, CBS, 5.4/12; 6. NCIS, CBS, 5.1/8; 7. America's Toughest Jobs, NBC, 4.6/7; 7. Criminal Minds, CBS, 4.6/7; 7. House, Fox, 4.6/7; 10. Democratic National Convention (Thursday) ABC, 4.5/7.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.