Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Adult Child Molester Poses As 12 Yr Old And Goes To Middle School

I was just reeling from a description of court testimony against another child molester who kept meticulous records of the boys he violated: the man had grouped them under categories like "Blond boys" and -- this is the one that broke my heart -- "Boys That Just Cried." Now there's this horrific, too terrible to be believed story of a 29 year old child molester who shared a home with three other sex offenders, posed as a 12 year old (!) and was attending seventh grade. So nightmarish, you have to laugh. Here's one dry bit of detail:
Robin Kaiser’s daughter Kaitlin shared a class with “Casey,” but he failed to make an impression, Ms. Kaiser said. “She remembers him, that he was quiet and sat in the back of the classroom,” she said. “She said he looked like he had been held back.”
But here's the kicker: two of the sex offenders he was living with -- one posing as his grandfather and another as his uncle -- apparently were ALSO tricked into thinking the guy was a minor and had sex with him under that assumption, then moved to another state where they could pose as his guardians.

Orson Welles Lives!

An ad campaign for the cartoon "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" was scattered throughout numerous cities but for some reason sparked bomb scares and massive closures of bridges and other public spaces in Boston.

A New "Friday Night Lights" Tonight

With "The Wire" off the air, "Battlestar Galactica" getting soapy in a not-good way and "Gilmore Girls" a mess, and "24" becoming a cartoon of itself, the best show on TV right now is "Friday Night Lights." You know I love it. You know you should be watching. (You can catch up via iTunes.) Variety wonders if "FNL" will be the most acclaimed show to be cancelled by NBC since the absurdly early pink slip for "Freaks & Geeks," one of the best shows of all time. Entertainment Weekly has a nice feature from about a week ago, too. You already know my fix: save the second season for next spring as football comes to an end, air all original episodes in a rown and put it on...this might get confusing, but bear with me...Friday nights.

Hugs and Kisses All Around

The bigot Isaiah Washington will be back on the set of "Grey's Anatomy" as soon as Thursday. I guess prejudice rehab doesn't take that much time.

"Harold & Kumar Go To Amsterdam!"

The sequel to "Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle" has been a done deal for a while. I mentioned it in a profile of Kal Penn in the NY Daily News weeks ago, along with the news that there was a role for Neil Patrick Harris and he was reading the script. Now the Hollywood Reporter is about to start filming and the new cast members make it sound like a blast. Along with the original stars Kal Penn and John Cho, look for Rob Corddry and Ed Helms of "The Daily Show," David Krumholtz of "Numbers" back for another go-round, Roger Bart from "The Producers" and...yes, Neil Patrick Harris. Dude, I can't wait.

More On "Spring Awakening"

Others are waking up to the growing audience for the Duncan Sheik-Steven Sater musical "Spring Awakening." (I did my second feature on the show last Sunday.) I'll take issue with one comment by Sheik. He says,
"When Paul Simon did The Capeman, he got beat up by the theater community, because he wanted to do things in a different way," Sheik says. "That's what we wanted, so I was worried at first that there might be some kind of backlash. It's great that people were ready for something new, that the community embraced a progressive approach."
That's certainly how Paul Simon and the people behind "Capeman" feel, but it just isn't so. Broadway was THRILLED when Paul Simon decided to create an original musical. They would have loved for the show to succeed. Unfortunately, Simon put a choreographer in charge of directing who had never directed before and then didn't even give him his reins. From the very first previews, the show was clearly stillborn, despite some great songs by Simon. Frankly, everyone on Broadway is usually rooting for every musical to succeed because success breeds success. I know "Capeman" felt beleagured, but the reaction was to the show they made, not to the IDEA of Simon "coming in" to make a musical. It's the same feeling everyone behind a flop musical has -- they think everyone had it in for their show.

More Confusion On "Ugly Betty"

The LA Times talks about "Ugly Betty" and the show's welcoming tone to characters that are different. But just like "Heroes" and their gay teen, it is absurd of the people behind "Ugly Betty" to suggest that the 12 year old brother of Betty isn't clearly depicted as gay. No, he isn't dating, he hasn't come out and he may not even know he's gay himself. But every single scene this boy is in reinforces the idea that he is gay...and that his family is aware he's "different" and loves him. The simple fact is that if they turned around and decided the kid was straight -- like the soon-to-disappear best friend of the cheerleader on "Heroes" -- it would be a betrayal of the fans they won by making him gay in the first place.

Fall 2007 Drama Pilots

This is catnip for me: a rundown of all the TV pilots the five major networks are making for the fall. Everything sounds intriguing or good (or godawful) at this point and anything is possible. It's like baseball on Opening Day -- everyone's got a shot at the World Series and any one of these shows could make it to air and be great, whether it's the vampire as detective or the immortal as detective or the rebooted Bionic Woman or Denis Leary's latest look at gritty public servants or Spike Lee's look at a rebellious mayor. Who knows?

Go here for a description of ABC's pilots and who is involved.

Go here for CBS.

Go here for NBC.

Go here for FOX.

Go here for CW.

And by the way, ABC seems convinced that Jason O'Mara will be a star. He's had recurring role on "Men In Tree," starred in flops like "In Justice" and "The Agency," done stage work with Ian Holm and is set to be the next Philip Marlowe in a new ABC drama that will be set in the present.

The show I'm most looking forward to? A remake of the clever British series "Life On Mars," in which a cop accidentally travels back in time to the Seventies.

The Eagles To Release A New Album

Don Henley reportedly told a concert audience the new CD is almost done. It would be their first new studio album since 1979's "The Long Run."

Nintendo's Wii Says Weeeeeee!

Nintendo's Wii -- the video game system with a controller you manipulate by jumping around -- had a great holiday season and is outselling Sony's PlayStation 3. But this NYTimes article misses the real news: the best-selling game console over the holidays wasn't Wii or PlayStation 3 or GameBox. It was PlayStation 2! Yep, price matters and the super-expensive PS3 with very few new games is for hardcore gamers. The average consumer will upgrade once the price drops in the next few years and have a grand old time with PS2 while they wait. Wii expands the audience and is a great second console for families that might have one game system in the living room and want another one for the kid's room. There are no losers here and PS3 is far from a flop or being trounced by Wii. But yes, Wii is a definite success story.

Novelist Sidney Sheldon Dies At 89

Sidney Sheldon -- the male Jackie Collins -- has died. What a fun life. I had no idea he'd won a Tony (for the show "Redhead" with Gwen Verdon), an Emmy (for "I Dream Of Jeannie") AND an Oscar (for the Cary Grant fluff "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer"). I'm always jealous of people who succeed in multiple areas, especially with different projects or talents. (In other words, Streisand getting an Oscar for acting impresses me more than her getting an Oscar for writing a theme song.) Sheldon always had a lot of fun and knew exactly what he was delivering.

"Idol" Recap -- Birmingham Boring

A particularly unexciting episode of "Idol," which frankly spent too much time with oddballs like that middle-aged woman in yellow and the girl at the end who made fun of Randy's weight. I don't understand the people who are way over age and get on air. Don't they ask to see a driver's license or some other proof of age? It's just wasting our time. And why no explanation of Paula's absence on day two? My thoughts on ones that got through:

Kewpie doll voice -- she seemed like a gimmick that won't last

Tatiana -- who sang Aretha's "I Never Loved A Man (The Way That I Loved You)." Too much head-shaking but okay.

Bernard Williams -- sang "Rock With You." I've no idea what Paula was talking about when she said he was off-key. I agree with Simon he was very good. Promising. By the way, have you noticed that when someone likes someone, that pick is almost always unanimous? If you're gonna get in on a split vote, it's usually Randy and Paula, which must have made the absence of Paula on Day Two all the more disheartening for singers.

Jamie Lynn-- sang Reflections w "Blue Eyed Bombshell" t-shirt. Pretty weak; just got in with her horrific backstory (did her dad KILL her mom or just shoot her before paralyzing himself? And how icky is it of her to bring this up first thing at an audition?) Simon must have liked her chest.

Chris Sligh -- afro guy who sang "Kiss From A Rose." I'm with Paula on this one; I thought he was great, the best that we heard.

All in all, a dull two days. I blame the small size of Birmingham, even though people trucked in from Atlanta and elsewhere, the pool just wasn't big enough.

Billboard's Top CDs -- The Shins Shine

The Shins debut at #2, John Mellencamp has his first Top 10 album in a decade and Regina Spektor reaches #20 with her delightful album, thanks to the power of TV. Daughtry dropped in ranking but increased in album sales thanks to all the attention for hitting #1. The top 10, per Billboard:

1. Pretty Ricky -- "Late Night Special"
2. The Shins -- "Wincing The Night Away"
3. Daughtry -- "Daughtry"
4. Various Artists -- "2007 Grammy Nominees"
5. John Mellencamp -- "Freedom's Road"
6. "Dreamgirls" soundtrack
7. Akon -- "Konvicted"
8. Robin Thicke -- "The Evolution Of Robin Thicke"
9. "Jump In!" soundtrack
10. Justin Timberlake -- "FutureSex/LoveSounds"

Brack Obama Gives FOX News Cold Shoulder

Obviously a tad miffed about being portrayed as a radical Muslim instead of the mdoerate Christian that he is, Barack Obama has reportedly been freezing out FOX News in the last few days. Roger Ailes has reached out to Obama and since FOX News Channel is by far the biggest news channel, this probably won't last. But it's nice to know Obama can push back against lazy smear campaigns with some effect. This is a perfectly reasonable move and perhaps Obama has rightly decided that no one at FOX will give him a fair shake.

But in general, I'd counsel freezing out the specific writers and editors behind a story rather than the publication or news outlet as a whole. "Fox and Friends" and specifically host Steve Doocy is the one who deserves to be frozen out, along with anyone who repeated it on FOX and didn't rush to run a correction when the truth came out. (The truth is that the source of this scurillious rumor was a far right website, Insight, that depends on anonymous sources for stories written by anonymous reporters. It's the political equivalent of the National Enquirer, or more accurately Weekly World News.) Similarly, if a top reporter at the New York Times does you wrong, freeze them out, not the entire publication which has hundreds if not thousands of reporters and freelance writers, all with their own standards of excellence or lack thereof. I've been frozen out myself by celebrities because of something written by someone else I'd never met in another department at a newspaper who may not even be working there anymore. Hold people responsible for what they write and report, not what others write and report, even if it's on the same media outlet and you find that outlet -- FOX -- generally shaky in its journalism.

Overnight TV Ratings -- "Idol" Rocks The "House"

"American Idol" and "House" were massive last night, with "House" proving it deserves the audience Idol delivers by holding on to so much of them. Both shows drew more viewers than all the other major networks combined. Meanwhile, the creatively floundering "Gilmore Girls" is down by at least 20% from last year, but CW is still looking to keep it going for another year because nothing is working for them. Go to MediaWeek's Marc Berman for a complete ratings breakdown.

8 p.m
1. American Idol -- 33.29 million viewers
2. NCIS (rerun) -- 12.19 million
3. America's Funniest Home Videos (r)-- 5.74 million
4. Dateline -- 5.61 million
5. Gilmore Girls -- 4.26 million

9 p.m.
1. House -- 27.75 million
2. The Unit (r) -- 8.97 million
3. Law & Order: Criminal Intent (r) -- 6.58 million
4. Big Day -- 4.29 million/The Knights Of Prosperity (r) -- 3.51 million
5. Veronica Mars -- 2.74 million

10 p.m.
1. Boston Legal -- 9.41 million
2. 48 Hours Mystery -- 8.76 million
3. Law & Order: SVU (r) -- 8.27 million

Billy Joel Releases A New Pop Song

For whatever reason, Billy Joel has decided to release a new pop song. He famously walked away from his recording career, devoting himself to classical music and pop tours that revived old hits and made him tons of money. Few artists walk away when they're on top like Billy Joel, whose last pop album was 1993's "River Of Dreams," which sold a substantial five million copies in the US alone. We've heard about "All My Life," the song he wrote for his current flame for years. We'll finally be able to hear it February 7 on as a streaming audio. From Feb 20 to March 6 it will be available for sale at iTunes and a CD single will follow sometime later. The darn thing is even produced by Phil Ramone. I'll eat my shirt if it doesn't go Top 40 and become a massive hit on adult contemporary stations. Joel will also perform the national anthem at the Super Bowl -- and wouldn't he make a great half-time act in the future? My one unfinished bit of business for Joel? I'd love to see him do a real concert in Central Park. Not one of those exclusive, half-assed things, but a come-one, come-all event. It would be tremendous fun.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sequel To "The Departed" In The Works

Marty's first sequel! With $260 million worldwide and counting, Martin Scorsese is in the unique position -- for him -- of having made a film that calls for a sequel. Never mind that most everyone was gunned down. That didn't stop the original Hong Kong film it's based on -- "Infernal Affairs" (a very fun film) spawned TWO sequels. Next time, Marty, ask for a piece of the merchandising: those Frank Costello talking dolls are selling like hotcakes.

I'm Coming Out

USA Today has a nice, meaty story on hwo the closet still looms large in Hollywood, thanks to basically forced outings for TR Knight and Neil Patrick Harris, and the ugly slurs of Knight's "Grey's Anatomy" costar Isaiah Washington. Most interesting revelation: the actor from "The Sopranos" who played the gay mafioso says his costars were freaked out by the storyline and used words like "faggot" and worse off camera. He says that includes James Gandolfini, who played gay in The Mexican. Ray Richmond of the Hollywood Reporter asks a good question: why does GLAAD offer cover to people like Washington who clearly come to them only when their jobs are in jeopardy and they need to take certain steps. GLAAD could offer suggestions or comments or advice without appearing with them in public until they've shown genuine remorse or that they've learned a lesson.

Finally, for a somewhat unrelated spin on this, watch actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt's amusing short about turning the tables on two tabloid photographers. Very funny and if you stick with it, you'll know why it's here.

More "Dreamgirls" Fallout

Everyone loves to second-guess Oscar campaigns. And sometimes they're right -- the Weinstein's insistence that Oscar OWED Martin Scorsese a gold statue for "The Aviator" or "Gangs Of New York" was obnoxious. And yes, sometimes campaigns can seem to overbearing and confident. But that wasn't the case with "Dreamgirls." It was smart to preview 20 minutes at Cannes (it worked for "The Lord Of The Rings" and that trilogy went on to Oscar success), it was a nice nod to movie history to have a roadshow premiere where the film was screened for $25 and moviegoers got a program and other stuff, and most important of all the movie delivered and got great reviews. The only misstep was in not sending out screeners earlier for this Dec 25 wide release. But since the movie clearly plays better on a big screen than at home -- and since people are STILL applauding after musical numbers (my friends just saw it Sunday at the Ziegfeld) -- that was pretty smart too. The movie wasn't OWED a Best Picture Oscar and it got eight nominations and will gross $100 million in the US. All in all, a smart campaign.

Fallon: Time Is Short In Iraq

That's the the headline on the front page of USA Today's website. My first thought? Why is Jimmy Fallon talking about Iraq and why are people listening to him? I think I'm blogging too much.

Sony Gets Slap On Wrist For Damaging People's Computers, Secretly Putting Spyware In Their Homes and Blocking Them From Legally Using Music

Sony got a slap on the wrist for the insane secret software they included on CDs that loaded onto people's computers, blocked them from their legal right to rip the songs and putting them on their legal iPods, damaged computers and even -- this was news to me -- planned to keep track of people's listening habits and send reports back to Sony. For all of that, they were told to basically go forth and sin no more. Big deal. NO ONE should be able to sell you a CD that can't be used on a legally purchased listening device like an iPod. That's restraint of trade and an attempt to attack a competitor and block consumers from legally listening to music any way they see fit.

Not Everything Apple Touches Turns To Gold

Is anyone interested in buying Apple TV, the $300 gizmo that lets you stream any downloaded shows or movies or podcasts to your TV screen? Me neither.

Aardman Flushes Away DreamWorks Deal

Aardman is one of the most critically acclaimed animation studios around -- second only to Pixar. DreamWorks was smart to lure them into a long-term deal but complete idiots to ask Aardman to stop making the 3-D stop-motion flicks they'd specialized in and make 2-D animated movies that -- in a final bit of absurdity -- mimicked the look of their earlier works. The result? The $90 million "Flushed Away," which grossed $167 million worldwide and was considered a flop. Now Aardman is walking away -- with DreamWorks locking the door behind them, just to make sure they don't come back.

Why would DreamWorks ever spend $90 million on an Aardman film? They make odd, eccentric, decidedly British films with a solid but not massive fanbase. Aardman made "Chicken Run" for $42 million (worldwide gross $227 million) and "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of The Were-Rabbit" for $30 million (worldwide gross $185 million). If they'd just let Aardman make the films they wanted to for under $50 million, the movies would have grossed $150 million worldwide -- at least -- and everyone would be happy.

Nielsen Begins Tracking College Students

It's unclear to me if college students -- notoriously difficult to track since they usually watched in grouops -- are reflected in the overnight ratings for "Heroes" and "24." I doubt it, since the shows should have jumped up more in viewership if they were. But this article says Nielsen will begin with a sample of 130 college students. Okay, I understand how sampling and polling works. But with cable boxes in everyone's home, why can't Nielsen use a MUCH bigger measurement of who is watching what? Just as SoundScan measures exactly how many CDs are sold at the major retailers (covering some 90% of the market), I would have thought by now that we'd be tracking literally what everyone is watching, rather than still using tiny samples, diaries and the like.

Daytime TV -- "The View" Is Growing

Rosie O'Donnell is giving life to "The View." Per MediaWeek's Marc Berman, here are the top-rated daytime TV shows from Sept. to the end of January. With "The Price Is Right" on top, you KNOW CBS is thinking long and hard about who is going to replace Bob Barker in one of their cheapest and most profitable franchises. These are network shows and do not include syndicated fare like Oprah and Judge Judy in the afternoon.

Top Daytime TV Shows For 2006-2007 Season (So Far)

1. The Price Is Right (second half) -- 5.87 million viewers
2. The Young And The Restless -- 5.67 million
3. The Price Is Right (first half) -- 4.81 million
4. The Bold and the Beautiful -- 4.16 million
5. The View -- 3.46 million
6. General Hospital -- 3.42 million
7. Days Of Our Lives -- 3.33 million
8. As The World Turns -- 3.25 million
9. One Life To Live -- 3.1 million
10. All My Children -- 3.09 million

Overnight TV Ratings -- "Heroes" and "24" Neck And Neck

Both "Heroes" and "24" are winners again last night, proving there's plenty of room for two hit shows in the same timeslot. (Heck, I watch both of them.) And "Studio 60" continues to look very weak. it can't even beat a rerun of "CSI: Miami" coming out of a night of reruns on CBS. When is NBC going to move it to another night and see how it fares? Probably when it has a show to replace it with, maybe "The Black Donnellys?" Get the complete ratings breakdown from Marc Berman at MediaWeek.

8 p.m.
1. Deal Or No Deal -- 16.86 million
2. Prison Break -- 9.91 million
3. Wife Swap (rerun) -- 7.99 million
4. How I Met Your Mother (r) -- 7.72 million/The Class (r) -- 6.57 million
5. Everybody Hates Chris -- 2.76 million/All Of Us -- 2.36 million

9 p.m.
1. 24 -- 14.05 million
2. Heroes -- 13.57 million
3. Two And A Half Men (r) -- 12.68 million/Old Christine (r) -- 10.1 million
4. Wife Swap (r) -- 7.99 million
5. Girlfriends -- 2.35 million/ The Game -- 2.26 million

10 p.m.
1. CSI: Miami (r) -- 13.43 million
2. Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip -- 6.95 million
3. What About Brian -- 5.71 million

Harry Potter Is Nude!

Here are some publicity stills from Daniel Radcliffe's upcoming appearance in the West End revival of "Equus." Good heavens. Between this show and his hilarious turn on "Extras" (where Radcliffe tried to sully up his squeaky clean image), Radcliffe begins to indicate he might just have a life beyond Harry Potter after all. (MY pick for the kid with the best future has always been Hermione's Emma Watson. I am a bit bemused by the comments of parents who object to Radcliffe doing this play, which contains frontal nudity. It is of course an acclaimed classic, hardly a teen sex comedy where the nudity is gratuitious and just meant to tittilate. Do they think Radcliffe must forever appear in shows that are only appropriate for little children? And frankly, any high school student who goes to "Equus" for the naughty bits will be like those kids who went to French films thinking they'd see a lot of nudity. They went for the smut and came out blown away by "La Dolce Vita" or "Jules & Jim." It'll be the best thing that ever happened to them.

NOTE: More pics to peruse.

Gareth Conquers Chekhov

Yes, Mackenzie Crook -- who played the geeky Gareth on the British "Office" and also appears in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies -- has scored a critical triumph opposite Kristin Scott Thomas in Chekhov's "The Seagull." He has very little theater experience, so no one is more shocked than Crook, apparently.

Timbaland On The Block

Red-hot producer Timbaland is producing his new album with a slew of guest stars, a la the Quincy Jones Grammy-winning hit "Back On The Block." These affairs are virtually unlistenable, so good luck to Timbaland. He's certainly got an all-star lineup: Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, The Hives, Elton John, M.I.A. and Fall Out Boy are among the people who appear. I'm already not enjoying it.

UK Theater Sets Record

The UK box office sold more than 400 million pounds worth of tickets in 2006, thanks to reality show tie-ins like "The Sound Of Music" (whose star was chosen by TV viewers) and "Dirty Dancing." Expect more of the same in 2007. "Bombay Dreams" -- a relative flop -- is being revived and producer Andrew Lloyd Webber hopes to snare the lovely Big Brother winner Shilpa to star. At least Shilpa has performed in Bollywood musicals, so her performance won't be a stretch. "Big Brother" created a furor when other contestants attacked Shilpa in what many considered a racist manner. Shilpa politely said her attackers probably weren't racist, just stupid.

The World's Biggest Comic Book

It's a three feet tall monster and it comes from the heavy metal band KISS, who've gone from scary to lovable and never looked back. It's the first of many comic book projects from the band, which hopes those will lead to t-shirts and movies and the like. No, this is far from the first time KISS has been immortalized in comics, but it is the first time they've actually paid attention to the project.

Say Hello To The Glass Family -- I Mean The Shawns

Perhaps only the family of William Shawn captures the idiosyncratic charm of the Glass family from the JD Salinger stories. Whether editing or contributing to the New Yorker, writing or performing plays, composing music or simply existing as a New York intellectual family, the Shawns are the Royal Tannenbaums come to life. (Or more accurately, the Tannenbaums are the Shawns turned into fiction.) Wallace Shawn is performing his moologue "The Fever" and the reviews range from respectable to friendly. (ie, they don't range that much). I saw the show on Saturday and what few people point out is what a terrific actor Wallace has always been. He's a great character actor in the movies a la the Warner Bros. stable of the 30s and 40s. And with his own work, Wallace is magnetic. He commands the stage and uses his distinctive voice beautifully. And I haven't enjoyed a pre-show monologue about cell phones so much since Mike Nichols delivered an hilarious comic bit at Shakespeare in the Park.

His brother Allen has just published a memoir that tackles Allen's many phobias. The NYTimes doesn't just compare it to Joan Didion's "Year Of Magical Thinking" because in this age of hype that isn't enough. They write that it's "a brave, eccentric and utterly compelling book that’s as revelatory and candid as anything ever written by Joan Didion, and as humane and scientifically fascinating as any one of Oliver Sacks’s case studies."

Well. I certainly was entertained by his list of phobias:
“I don’t like heights,” he writes. “I don’t like being on the water. I am upset by walking across parking lots or open parks or fields where there are no buildings. I tend to avoid bridges, unless they are on a small scale. I respond poorly to stretches of vastness but do equally badly when I am closed in, as I am severely claustrophobic. When I go to a theater, I sit on the aisle. I am petrified of tunnels, making most train travel as well as many drives difficult. I don’t take subways. I avoid elevators as much as possible. I experience glassed-in spaces as toxic, and I find it very difficult to adjust to being in buildings in which the windows don’t open.”

Will Dull Speeches Hurt The Chances Of Whitaker and Murphy?

About the only suspense around the Oscars this year is who will win Best Picture and will ANY of the front-runners in the acting categories get the boot? The NYTimes has a piece on how dull it is to hear the same acceptance speech over and over again. I think Forest Whitaker and Eddie Murphy may actually do damage to their Oscar bids. No one likes to see the same people win EVERY award and their speeches have been so dull, voters might just decide to give Peter O'Toole or someone else the nod. Helen Mirren and Jennifer Hudson remain rock solid. As for who will win Best Picture, the NY Daily News points out that "Little Miss Sunshine" has won both SAG and the Producer Guild top award. Sure, they didn't get a director nomination. The last time a movie won Best Picture without being nominated for Best Director, it was another little flick with "Miss" in the title -- "Driving Miss Daisy." Is that telling? No, but it's fun. Remember: every year is different.

"House" Calls

Oh, newspapers love a TV show like "House" that makes headline writing oh so easy. The NYTimes has a nice feature on the show's shaky start and current success. Yes, FOX panicked and asked for a villain and cut back the number of episodes it wanted that first season. But to its credit, FOX never asked them to make House more "likable." Maybe they realized a hilariously rude doctor WAS likable.

Monday, January 29, 2007

YouTube: Bride Wigs Out And Cuts Off Her Hair

OK, I avoid YouTube and all those personal ad websites where people post streaming video of themselves about how they post streaming video of themselves and people look at them. It's all too too addictive and work-interfering. YouTube is pretty darn useful for finding any recent TV clip you've heard about but missed.

And then there's this. I was doing a search for an attack piece on John Edwards and happened to see this video listed on YouTube's main page. "Bride Has Massive Hair Wig Out." It was more than 6 minutes long and I hesitated but then I thought, 'What the heck?' It had been played more than 1.5 million times already, far more than any of the other highlighted clips. There must be something to it.

The video begins. We watch women preparing for a wedding in a hotel room, talking to each other, opening champagne and looking pretty reasonable. Which one of them was going to freak out? But then the bride walks in and collapses on the floor in hysterics. She's just had a dreadful hair cut, all perm-y and ridiculous and she is distraught, to say the least. The bride is crying and screaming and freaking out and she rushes into the bathroom and soon, before anyone can stop her, she starts chopping away at her hair. The other women laugh or stand around in stunned disbelief or try to stop her but to no avail. The bride contines to chop away, only to stop and wail that it looks worse and screaming at the top of her voice and lashing out at her friends, wondering why they didn't stop her. Finally, she lunges for the camera and demands -- for the umpteenth time -- that they turn it off.

It is utterly and completely compelling. Is it staged? You always have to wonder with this sort of thing. The simplest explanation is that it's not staged, though if it is I would hire the filmmakers immediately -- the dramatic changes in mood, the subtle layering of emotions, the abrupt ending makes this short thoroughly convincing.

Assuming it isn't staged, the piece becomes even more compelling. The bride repeatedly demands the camera be turned off (and at one point it might have been but was soon turned back on) yet her request isn't respected until she finally physically lunges at the camera herself. Then there are the varied reactions of the bridesmaids. We hear giggles interspersed throughout the repeated pleas for the bride to calm down and let them deal with the hair and the claims that it "isn't that bad." At least twice, the camera pans away from the hysterical bride to show one bridesmaid with a wicked, sly smile on her face. Of course, the scene is funny in a horrifying way. But the bridesmaid doesn't seem to be smiling in spite of her best efforts. She seems to be truly enjoying herself. Is this the older sister who still isn't married while our bride has found her true love -- a quick bit of info we glean during the dramatics? Is she the one who suggests the haircut is sort of in, like Shirley Temple -- an example born out of desperation or possibly a desire to bring even more pain to the bride?

And that cunning bridesmaid isn't the only one taking glee in the bride's meltdown. There's also the bridesmaid holding the camera. Presumably, they had the camera to document the happy day. But when the bride comes in weeping and wailing, when she repeatedly asks for the camera to be turned off, the operator blithely ignores her. Does she think history demand she record this painful moment? Is she so inured to the need for privacy by MTV and reality TV that it simply doesn't occur to her that the bride has the RIGHT to privacy during a terrible moment on her wedding day?

And finally, there is the perplexing fact that we are watching all of this. Okay, the bride melted down. Her friends kept the camera rolling. Some of them -- out of nervousness or schaudenfreude or devious envy -- took pleasure in the nightmarish scenario of a bride getting a godawful haircut on her wedding day. Okay. But who put the video up on YouTube for all the world to see? The evil bridesmaid? The camera operator? Does the bride know this is online for all the world to see? Or is the posting the final, cruel act of one of the women taking perverse pleasure in their friend's disaster? Or perhaps someone else -- a brother or relative or boyfriend -- found the footage and posted it without their knowledge? Will the bride appear on Jay Leno in a week or two if the clip keeps viraling away? Will someone write a college thesis, breaking down the film's narrative and implications? Will it be optioned for a feature film? The mind boggles.

Warner Bros.'s Essential Classics DVD Collection

Just got a press release about "The Essential Classics Collection," which comes in foil packaging and is apparently perfect for Mother's Day. In other words, nothing new about these titles but you should buy 'em. So here's the complete list, in the order they gave it:

Gone With The Wind
Doctor Zhivago
Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
The Goonies
The Wizard Of Oz
The Maltese Falcon
Citizen Kane
Ben Hur
My Fair Lady
Singin' In The Rain
The Music Man
Meet Me In St. Louis
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

Now which one of those does not belong? Do I even have to say it?

SAG and Sundance

The SAG Awards were last night and Sundance announced winners as well. It seems inconceivable to me that the pleasant "Little Miss Sunshine" could win Best Picture, but it's certainly more likely. But frankly, if it ain't the Oscars or the Tonys or the Emmys or the Grammys, I just don't care.

The French Cinephile Is Disappearing

Guess what? French people like big dumb comedies and action flicks just like everyone else around the world. The audience for home-grown art house fare is disappearing and the French film community is panicking. It's easy to see why people would rather see "Days of Glory" than the oblique, slow, depressing "Flandres." Ah well, one more reason for Godard to despise Spielberg.

Do You Fast-Forward Through Commercials?

Networks and major advertisers are facing a battle royal over ratings: the networks want credit for all the people who watch TV shows on their DVR after it's aired. Advertisers refuse to pay for any extra viewers until they can determine how many of them are watching the ads and how many fast forward through them. MediaWeek has the story. I gotta admit: I almost NEVER watch ads anymore. Even shows like "Idol" I can't bear to watch live. It feels like I'm wasting time and ads are just...unnecessary.

Air America Finds A Buyer; Franken Leaves

Air America has signed a letter of intent to sell itself to SLG Radio. Since that company is controlled by Stephen Green, it's safe to assume his brother Mark Green (a frequent contributor and host) will get a show. Also, Al Franken is leaving -- his last day on air will be Valentine's Day, February 14, presumably so he can prepare to run for the Senate.

Police Will Perform On Grammy Awards

Look for them on Feb 11 on CBS, per Roger Friedman of It's been reported in a few places and everyone agrees the Police are rehearsing in Vancouver for a world tour. Of courrse, the hype is already crazy -- Friedman says their tour could be the biggest grossing tour of all time. That's a pretty ridiculous claim. To do that, the Police would have to perform a TON of dates for 18 months or more. Are they really willing to slog through all those shows? Or do they just want to hit say 50 cities, make a ton of money and have fun. Gunning for a record like the one held by the Rolling Stones or U2 or Paqul McCartney is a major commitment. I doubt Sting and the others would want to spend two years of their lives to do it. But COULD they do it? Surprisingly, I think they could. The Police had five albums and went out on top at the absolute peak of their popularity. Their catalog remains strong and of course Sting has been a major solo artist. I'd love to see them and it's hard to think of any other band away for so long that could still create such hysteria. Only Led Zeppelin and a reunited Pink Floyd come to mind. Friedman of also says he's heard Courtney Love's new album and that it's brilliant.

Overnight TV Ratings -- "Grease" Is NOT The Word

The "Grease" reality show remains a mild, third place also-ran in the ratings. And The Donald's feud with Rosie isn't helping the ratings of "The Apprentice." It' was also in third place for the 9 p.m. hour, but from 9 to 9:30 it was beaten by a mild CBS TV movie, a rerun of "Desperate Housewives" and even "Family Guy" on FOX. Check out MediaWeek's Marc Berman for a complete ratings breakdown.

New York Times Keeps Freelancer With Massive Conflict Of Interest

I was frankly astonished by a Sunday New York Times article about freelancers and conflicts of interest. A frelance journalist named John Biggs contributes to the electronics section of the Times. He also writes for an electronics blog. Biggs took a lavish free trip to South Korea in October to go to Samsung headquarters and check out their products. In November, he wrote two brief upbeat articles about new Samsung cellphones. When he was assigned the articles, Biggs claims a vague memory of telling his editor about the trip. (His editor doesn't remember that.) So what does the Times do when this conflict becomes known? They decide Biggs shouldn't cover Samsung any more! They don't refuse to use him anymore. They don't get angry that their reputation is tarnished by a freelancer who takes lavish gifts from companies and then writes falttering articles about their products a few weeks later in the NYTimes. They don't pass the word around to anyone who asks that Biggs is unethical and can't be trusted. They keep using him. And somehow readers are expected to take the word of someone in the pocket of Samsung when he tells us that the latest Sony product has some problems and is overpriced. Amazing. It's not even a close call. The Public Editor decided the problem was the ethics form freelancers have to fill out and update every two years. No, the problem lies solely with freelancers. They are obligated to tell their editor about any conflict of interest that arises with any article. And the biggest problem lies with the NYTimes since freelancers now know they can behave unethically and not pay any price.

Mika Remains On Top In UK

Two big new acts have broken in January in the UK, a nice reminder that it is possible for new musical acts to become popular. Mika is at #1 on the singles chart, followed right behind by rapper Just Jack. On the album charts, new band View debut at #1, keeping Damon Albarn's latest critically acclaimed supergroup The Good, The Bad and the Queen at #2. Has any other act been in THREE different major groups like Albarn? He's been in Blur, Gorillaz and now this band, and that doesn't even include his acclaimed solo album built around African music. Eric Clapton was in Cream and solo, but Derek and the Dominoes wasn't really a band, just a front for him. Besides, the accomplishment here is three different BANDS, with real collaborators, not just going solo after being in a big group a la Sting. George Harrison was obviously in the Beatles and the Traveling Wilburys, as well as solo. But three different BANDS, that's really amazing.

Bollywood Legend OP Nayyar Is Dead

The composer behind the hit film "Naya Daur" and about a million other hits, OP Nayyar died. Sadly, he was estranged from his wife and four children. And there won't be a Bollywood-like happy ending to this story.
"Around the afternoon, he went to the bathroom where he suddenly became unwell and collapsed," Mr Sadekar [Nayyar's lawyer] said.

He said Nayyar had often told them that on his demise, his family should not be called and they have respected his wish.

"Spring Awakening" Becomes A Broadway Hit

Here's my NY Daily News article on "Spring Awakening." Grat fun, if you haven't seen it yet with a very talented and sexy young cast. (Is that redundant? I'd say so -- talent is always sexy, though attractive and sexy people aren't always talented.)

Noir Gets A "Raw Deal" In San Francisco

You could travel the world going to film festival after film festival and never have to go home. The noir film festival in San Francisco would be one of the few that would make you glad you did it. I don't quite understand why everyone is so puzzled why noir is popular: cynicism always ages well, much better than cock-eyed optimism or deadly seriousness. A bleak outlook on life? That never goes out of style.

Why Didn't "Dreamgirls" Get A Best Picture Nod?

The NYTimes goes on and on. It just didn't. As Bill Condon the director says, "You are not entitled. It's a gift. That sense that you deserve it is whacky." So is the implication that the studio got cocky or botched the campaign. They got eight nominations, so clearly the movie had a fair shot. It just didn't happen.

Gay Autistic Savant Hits #3 On Bestseller List

UK writer Daniel Tammet must score a record of sorts for his multiple identities. He's autistic, a savant, gay, Christian and a best-selling author. (Pity he isn't black.) His memoir "Born On A Blue Day" debuts at #3 on the NYTimes bestseller list. I'm not sure what TV appearances he did to make such a high debut. Did Oprah have him on? Tammet has a blog, of course, which might be a good way for someone who is autistic to interact with others on an easy basis. On the fiction list, the charts remain crowded with genre fiction, with nary an acclaimed work in sight. Thomas Harris is watching his latest "Hannibal" book sliding down and almost off the chart after only a few weeks.

P.S. By the way, this is one more example of the power of the Internet. I look up next week's bestseller list online, see a name I'm unfamiliar with, find his bio on Wikipedia, find his blog and search around for other info on him and in no time I'm pretty well-informed about who Daniel Tammet is and even have a website where I can leave him a comment. Amazing.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Weekend Box Office -- "Dreamgirls" Slows

After three days at #1, it was inevitable that "Dreamgirls" would fall behind the new movies out this weekend. But I had hoped it might remain pretty steady at the box office. Instead, "Dreamgirls" is estimated to fall by about 18% from last weekend. $100 million will be reached, but not much more. It's a hit and -- for a musical and an all black cast -- a very solid one at that. Someone -- not me -- went to see "Epic Movie" and "Smokin' Aces. Here are the final numbers per Box Office Prophets:

1. Epic Movie -- $19.2 million total
2. Smokin' Aces -- $14.3 million
3. Night At The Museum -- $9.5 million ($216.7 million total)
4. Catch And Release -- $8.0 million
5. Stomp The Yard -- $7.8 million ($50.7 million total)
6. Dreamgirls -- $6.6 million ($86.7 million total)
7. The Pursuit Of Happyness -- $5 million ($152.9 million total)
8. Pan's Labyrinth -- $4.5 million ($16.3 million total)
9. The Queen -- $4.0 million ($41.2 million total)
10. The Hitcher -- $3.6 million ($13.4 million total)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

"Dreamgirls" #1 For Third Day In A Row

Ever since "Dreamgirls" failed to get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, it has been the #1 movie in the country. It was number one on Tuesday, Wednesday and now it is #1 on Thursday as well. Except for one day in mid-January, this is the ONLY time "Dreamgirls" has been #1, which makes the $80 million gross it has amassed pretty impressive. That streak will end when Friday numbers are out, but it sure has to feel nice for them while it lasts.

Friday, January 26, 2007

I Am Off

I'm off to run errands, eat lunch, pick up some CDs from my friends at NYCD, read the papers, check out M Ward at Town Hall (wouldn't it be funny if his name was Montgomery ward and he was super-rich?) and try and find a garbage can fire and push aside some hobos will I try to stay warm.

"Grey's Anatomy" Vs. "CSI"

Earlier this week, I did a detailed breakdown of "Grey's Anatomy" vs "CSI" this season, in response to a silly item by Perez Hilton that suggested viewers were turning away from the top-rated show because of the bigoted comments from Washington. The claim didn't make sense for a lot of reasons -- mostly because it was simply wrong. "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI" have been neck and neck all season, with "Grey's" usually beating "CSI" with original episodes and their margin of difference often very small. Last night, most shows were reruns, except for a new "Smallville" (still high from that recent Justice League of America stunt) and "Grey" and "CSI." Going head to head, their ratings were typical for the entire season:

Grey's Anatomy -- 21.4 million viewers
CSI -- 20.94 million

The effect of the Washington outburst: nada. Go to MediaWeek's Marc Berman for a complete ratings breakdown.

Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In New York

The musical "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living In Paris" is one of those classic shows whose name pops up constantly but which I've never seen and really don't even know what it's about. (Other long-running hits I've always seen mentioned but are similarly mysterious to me include "Abbie's Irish Rose," "Tobacco Road," "Butterflies Are Free" and "Mumenchanz.") But "Jacques Brel" is currently revived Off Broadway, where it first debuted in 1968 and ran for 1,800+ performances. Turns out it's a jukebox musical -- that currently maligned musical genre that celebrates a particular songwriter or artist. "Jacques Brel" is clearly a precursor to "Ain't Misbehavin'," another great jukebox musical. But this one was clearly shadowed by Vietnam since so many of the songs they chose are about war and death. Beyond curiosity, I was drawn by "American Idol's" Constantine Mouralis, who just joined the cast. If I didn't know his history, I'm sure I wouldn't have blinked twice about his being in this four person cast. He may be the weakest of the four, but he's not too rock n roll. Actually, if anything he's too theater-ish. Constantine would be great in the current revival of "Les Miz." He's also best in the comic moments and I think he could be very good in the right role. Jane Paterson (who played Fantine on Broadway when the original "Les Miz" closed) is lovely and good as the other young presence. Everyone indeed has their moments, including Robert Cuccioli (of "Jeckyl & Hyde"). But the revelation for me was Gay Marshall, a tiny but extremely French presence who delivered her songs effortlessly. With everyone else, I was often aware of their performances -- often happily so. With Gay, all I ever noticed was the song. It's no surprise she got the strongest applause of the night. The other star is of course Brel. All in all, a very enjoyable little show.

Why Do Airlines Hate God?

All references to God bleeped out of airline versions of "The Queen." Hilarious. I guess He'll be supporting "The Departed" now.

Why Al Gore Should Run For President

Rolling Stone makes the case. It would be more convincing if the Democratic field wasn't bursting with serious talent. But at least Gore's a proven winner-- he won the popular vote in 2000, after all and his movie may soon win an Oscar.

Will "Dreamgirls" Return To Broadway?

It's only a matter of time, says the NY Post. Jennifer Hudson may reprise her role, but singing that damn song eight times a week is an endurance test she may not want to face, especially if her solo album and other acting jobs pop up. I think Hudson should get at least one more movie under her belt so she doesn't get pigeon-hoiled as just doing Effie. But it would be great to see her -- and the show -- onstage.

FOX To Air Outtakes From ABC's "Path To 9-11" Movie

You can thank Sean Hannity for the resurfacing of deleted scenes from ABC's error-filled miniseries "Path To 9-11" that sparked outrage when -- unlike "United 93" and countless mainstream documentaries and even Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" -- it played fast and loose with the facts to further a right-wing political agenda. The cut scenes and a discussion of them will air on Hannity's new Sunday news program at 6 p.m. called "Hannity's America." Even the phrase "Hannity's America" give sme the creeps.

Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick To Return To "The Producers?"

They've always had a standing offer and with the show set to close in June -- to make way for "Young Frankenstein" -- Lane and Broderick might very well suit up one more time in the goofy, Tony-winning musical. Tickets will be priced at ten zillion dollars for orchestra seats and only ten bajillion dollars for upper balcony. I wouldn't read anything into their NOT deciding to do it one more time. But if they do team up again, it would demonstrate that Broderick and Lane are still friends after the touchy "Odd Couple" revival and their understandable feelings of annoyance that people want to team them up. (They've both had terrific careers on their own, of course.) And it would show Broderick isn't hurt (or not TOO hurt) that he won't be playing the Gene Wilder role in "Young Frankenstein," something he seems well-suited for.

To Sir, With Love

Oprah selects Sidney Poitier's autobiography as her latest book club selection. It took her a year to recover from the james frey absurdity. (Oprah had already selected Elie Wiesel's "Night" to follow that, but nothing since then.) Surely she felt safe with Poitier. He's certainly accomplished more than I ever will, but unfortunately Poitier knows it. He's got a massive ego. I remember being in a grooup interview for his awful comeback film "Shoot To Kill." Poitier went on and on about how terrible it was that violence dominated movies and gunplay was so prevalent. I pointed out he was playing an FBI agent who carried a gun and used it, which made these comments rather odd since this was his first movie in 11 years and he was basically criticizing himself. He blithley continued intoning in that beautiful voice on the state of the world and how he would fix it.

J-Lo Getting Busy

She's got her first Spanish language album due out in April. (J-Lo's breakthrough was playing Selena, so this is long overdue.) Then she's got an English language album due out at the end of the year. Finally, J-Lo is working with Univision on a five part miniseries based around the songs on her Spanish album and a treatment she wrote. J-Lo won't be appearing in the miniseries, but her songs will end each segment. Maybe this will spark her creativity -- it's easy to forget how sexy and compelling J-Lo was in "Out Of Sight."

Weekend Box Office Preview -- "Epic Movie" and Other Junk

Another quiet week at the box office for new releases. Among the titles Box Office Prophets is looking at are "Epic Movie," the Jennifer Garner romance "Catch and Release" and "Smokin' Aces." If you're like most people, you'l use this weekend to catch up on the Oscar hopefuls you haven't seen yet like "Dreamgirls," "Babel" and "Pan's Labyrinth," the dark and wonderful film that will surely be on my best of the year list and was the happiest success story on Oscar morning. This year, the Oscar's truly do seem to be honoring the best movies from around the world.

Top Music Acts of 2006 -- Yeehaw!

The Rolling Stones made the most money in 2006, per Forbes magazine. No surprise since they had a huge world tour. Three of the top 10 acts were country artists (including #2 and #3), proving that genre's durability post-Garth Brooks and post-Dixie Chicks. On the downside, only Nickelback and Rascal Flatts are young acts with hot new albums. The rest are superstars -- and they're the lifeblood of an industry -- but you'd certainly prefer to see more new young acts on the road and building up a fan base.The top 10, as reported by the BBC:

1. The Rolling Stones -- $150.6 million
2. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill -- $132 million
3. Rascal Flatts -- $110.5 million
4. Madonna -- $96.8 million
5. Barbra Streisand -- $95.8 million
6. Kenny Chesney -- $90.1 million
7. Celine Dion -- $85.2 million
8. Bon Jovi -- $77.5 million
9. Nickelback -- $74.1 million
10. Dave Matthews Band -- $60.4 million

10 Year Old Director Sues For Creative Control Of His Short Film

Only in LA; only in LA.

"Grey's Anatomy" -- Hold Off On Accepting That Apology

Another thoughtful commentary on the "Grey's Anatomy" controversy. This one suggests a half-assed apology when your job is threatened isn't very convincing. EW's Mark harris also takes ABC and the show's creator to task for hoping the whole problem would go away. Unfortunately for them, Washington was too much of a lying bigot to let that happen.

FCC Squashes Facts To Help Big Business

The FCC is not a tool of big business. It's supposed to work for the American people. And one of the most important and far-reaching issues it deals with is media diversity: how are communities and our country (and our democracy) best served? By multinational corporations owning multiple TV, radio and newspaper outlets in the same markets and by owning huge networks of them all over then country? Or by diversity, with local newspapers and TV stations owned more often by local owners that serve the local community? The answer isn't hard to guess, but when FCC researchers found out that locally owned TV stations did more local coverage, their reports were squashed by the Bush administration because it wanted to hand over more power to big business. It's the latest example of the Bush administration hating facts. Will anyone notice they've done it again?

"Dreamgirls" #1 On Wednesday Too

That Oscar snub -- combined with eight nominations and a #1 soundtrack -- have kept "Dreamgirls" #1 at the box office for the second day in a row. This is the ONLY time the movie has been at #1 for two days in a row. (Once in midweek, it was #1 for one day and #2 the following day. Other than that, "Dreamgirls" has usually been ranked third or fourth or lower for the entire month it's been in theaters.) Despite that, the movie has had legs and looks likely to hit $100 million, something "Rent" and "The Producers" and "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Moulin Rouge" couldn't come close to doing.

The Reunion Wagon Rolls On

The BBC reports on the glut of reunions. I have to agree with Phil Collins: Sting isn't reuniting with the Police for money. If he was worried about money he wouldn't be touring with his lute, now would he? They've all got plenty of cash for the rest of their lives. Sure, the money is fun, but a solo tour makes lots of money for Sting too. By the way, the Police have found their rehearsal space in Vancouver. Oh and Crowded House aren't just touring -- they're also working on a new album.

Daniel Stern (Not That One) Is Dead

This Daniel Stern is a fine writer with quite a life: he played with Charlie Parker and symphony orchestras, worked as an ad exec and for Warner Bros. and CBS, programmed the 92nd Street Y and wrote novels and short stories. How's this for an introduction to fiction?
His only education after high school was a workshop on fiction writing that he took at what was then the New School for Social Research when he was in his 20s. He enrolled because the G.I. bill paid the $75 tuition and he could sell the books. The class broke into applause when he read his first story. He started to write every day, even as he worked at other jobs.
And like Art Buchwald, Stern has managed to have the last word.
Mr. Stern’s last piece of published work was a short story in The Kenyon Review last spring. Called “The Advancer,” it tells of a dastardly scheme by an obituary writer to secretly charge people for writing positive advance obituaries about them and bad ones about their enemies.

“I can never read an obituary again with innocent eyes,” the narrator says.


Must popsurf.... Too cold.... Keep moving keeptalkingconserveenergy.... Burn Variety for warmth.... Don't fall asleep....

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Oscar Nominations: What Show Will They Make?

You can look at the Oscar nominations two ways. One, you can of course look for your favorite movies, see what films got snubbed, enjoy Oscar trivia (like "Dreamgirls" being the first film in decades to get the most nods without Best Picture being one of them) and so on. Two, if you're a future producer of the Academy Awards show (like myself) you look at the nominations and immediately start thinking about what kind of show you're going to have. It gets "cast," really by the nominations, just like the Grammys get cast by who gets a vote.

First off, the ratings will be in trouble. Yes, a close race brings in viewers, but big hit films do it even better. None of the five nominated films are blockbusters. Martins Scorsese's "The Departed" is a solid hit and the biggest film of his career with $121 million, not a stellar number for a movie that cost $90 million to make, but that was their fault for paying that much for a Scorsese film in the first place. "Departed" also surely played much better with men, while the Oscars is a female magnet. "Babel" is a decent indie hit with $23 million and counting. "Letters From Iwo Jima" has made $2.4 million and follows the relative flop companion piece "Flags Of Our Fathers." "The Queen" is certainly an art house hit at $35 million and counting, but most of its audience is decidedly older. (How many people under 30 have seen it? 30?) Only "Little Miss Sunshine" constitutes a crowd-pleasing favorite thanks to Steve Carell of "The Office" and a seriously leggy performance at the box office, with $60 million and a DVD release just out.

In short:

The Departed -- $120 million and few women
Babel -- $23 million
Letters From Iwo Jima -- $2.4 million and few women
Little Miss Sunshine -- $60 million
The Queen -- $35 million and no fans under 65

It's pretty simple. People watch the Oscars to see how movies they liked will do. When they haven't seen most of the nominated movies, they simply don't care. This year, many viewers will have seen at most ONE of the five best Film nominees.

But moving on, there's a pretty good mix of stars. Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg are catnip on the male side and Penelope Cruz and Kate Winslet and Cate Blanchett provide glamor on the female side. Will Smith is a huge superstar and easily the biggest name around. He's also part of a wave of black, Latino and Asian actors and talent that should definitely bring in minorities that rarely bothered with the Oscars. (It could also make the show more visible worldwide.) Older folk will appreciate seeing Peter O'Toole and Judi Dench and Alan Arkin. Eddie Murphy's making a comeback. Jennifer Hudson is an "American Idol" alum and Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep. Clint Eastwood also adds some star power. Ryan Gosling as a best actor nominee brings at least a little indie cool to the show and thanks to "The Notebook" will also bring in swooning girls. It's the usual mix with some more color than is typical to make things a lot more appealing.

Finally, there are the songs, a great mix of five performers and tunes that will give the most nominated movie -- "Dreamgirls" -- the terrific spotlight it didn't get as a Best Picture nominee. Often at the Tonys, the biggest winner can be the show that delivers the best performance. "Dreamgirls" gets three chances to do that here. At the very least, it will boost CD sales.

I would start with Eddie Murphy and Anika Noni Rose dueting on "Patience." The novelty of Eddie Murphy singing should be a great tune-in factor. Then I would have Al Gore introduce Melissa Etheridge singing "I Need To Wake Up" from "An Inconvenient Truth." Those two will definitely rouse everyone. Then -- and this is a tough call and will likely depend on what Beyonce wants -- but I think I would have Jennifer Hudson belt out "Love You I Do." Oh, if only there were an excuse for her to sing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." But there isn't. Hudson will have likely won Best Supporting Actress at the top of the show, so her song will be a triumphant moment for her. It also sets up a friendly battle between her and Beyonce to see which of them can wow the audience. Next comes James Taylor with Randy Newman singing the gentle, sweet "Our Town" from "Cars." And for the musical finale, Beyonce gets to step out looking glamorous and deliver the show-stopping "Listen," easily the best new song added to the movie and a real triumph for the hottest act in the country at the moment.

It would be tragic to do a "Dreamgirls" medley. Pace out the performances, hype Eddie Murphy singing and the Hudson/Beyonce showdown and you've got some great internal drama on the show.

But there's no getting around one central fact: none of the movies nominated for Best Picture is a blockbuster. Three of them are truly small movies. And when people haven't seen the movies, they don't care about the Oscars.

"Grey's Anatomy" -- Everything Will Be Fine

Robert Bianco of USA Today has a nice take on the issue, saying that ABC and the show's creator fumbled the ball at first but that actors often DON'T get along, and as long as Washington can stop being a putz and genuinely work on a professional level with the others (and last week's episode demonstrated he and Knight -- whose characters are unlikely friends on the show -- actually could), then all will be fine and they'll want to keep his character and not mess with the show creatively. That's assuming the other actors are willing to forgive him. Bianco puts it all into perspective with this closing thought:
Until then, let's look at this ugly incident's one bright side. Had word come out 20 years ago that a TV star had been called a homosexual, it's the gay actor whose career would have been over. Now, it's the bigot who's in danger. That, at least, is a healthy sign.

"Xanadu" To Broadway

It's gonna happen. And who will fill the rollerskates of Olivia Newton John from the deliriously bad movie? Jane Krakowski. Michael Riedel of the NY Post has the info.

"Idol" Thoughts

By the way, people suggesting Chris Daughtry's band Daughtry is doing well because the new season of "American Idol" has begun are wrong. Daughtry is not suddenly selling CDs because the show is airing auditions from New York and Birmingham and so on. Daughtry is selling CDs because he has a hot single with "It's not Over," which just leaped to #6. Pop stars who succeed simply because they appeared on TV would be flashes in the pan. The Idol alum are succeeding to a remarkable degree because the show has uncovered TALENT. Kelly Clarkson has a career because she's talented and smart and taking the opportunity the show gave her and running with it. The show can open doors, but only a savvy person with a good voice will last. And that's exactly why Daughtry and Fantasia and Clay Jennifer Hudson and the rest will or won't succeed, not because the show is still on the air.

Editor & Publisher Pats Itself On Back

And rightly so. Editor & Publisher was one of the few mainstream outlets that did skeptical, intelligent reporting on the buildup to the Iraq war. Their massive piece "Unanswered Questions" holds up so well, they're reprinting it today, four years later.

Mellencamp: Stephen King Is Not A Demon

Good to know. He assures Billboard: Steve is the sweetest guy you could ever meet; there's nothing weird about him or demonic or anything like that," Mellencamp says. Mellencamp -- flush off great reviews for his new CD -- has been working with King on a "play with music" for years now and hopes to make a final push this summer.

"Law & Order: SVU" Fans Can Relax

After an extremely protracted negotiation, Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni have reupped with what is currently the most successful of the "L&O" franchises. Both will be paid about $330,000 per episode (about $7.2 million a year), putting them at or near the top of the TV heap. That's a far cry from Dick Wolf's glory days, when he would change stars on "L&O" the way you and I change socks. But it was the right thing to do: they've been the stars of the show since the beginning and it's a different beast than "L&O" with a lot more backstory. So what is Richard Belzer gonna get?

Bond? We Don't Need No Stinking James Bond

Pierce Brosnan speaks about life post-Bond with my friend Josh Rich of Entertainment Weekly. Josh likes the ladies but nonetheless he has a special bond with Brosnan, having spoken with him a number of times before. Who else would bring up Greek drama with the guy? "Casino Royale's" success must be very bittersweet since the producers did exactly what he begged them to do: relaunch the franchise with "Casino Royale" and make a gritty, more real Bond. They just didn't do it with him. Nonetheless, Brosnan seems at peace.

A Glimpse At The New Coney Island

Here are some artist renderings of what the $250 million revamp of Coney Island will look like, complete with a roller coaster that dips under the boardwalk. To me, it just sounds like a zillion other Six Flags and other amusement parks. Nothing New York-ish about it, nothing that nods to the heyday of Coney Island, nothing enjoyable retro. Pretty disappointing.

Every Band That Has Ever Existed Is Reuniting

That headline seemed easier than going through the list of bands that are getting back together for personal, professional or artistic reasons.

Van Halen is touring with David Lee Roth because it's no fun feuding with Sammy Hagar anymore.

The Jesus and Mary Chain are performing at Coachella in April because they believed they never really fully explored the usage of feedback.

As I mentioned before, Crowded House are going on a world tour.

And Wu-Tang Clan is FINALLY working on a new album. Atypically, they're NOT doing it for the money, as RZA explained to Billboard: "Let's just say a Wu-Tang Clan album is worth a couple million dollars. Once 10 guys get on it, it's still worth a couple hundred grand. Some guys' lifestyles require them to make five or six hundred thousand dollars a year regardless. Maybe doing Wu-Tang will make you that much money, but doing it by yourself could you make you a million, because there aren't so many hands involved. But for the legacy, I think we should be willing to make that sacrifice and get it cracking."

In the future, I will only report on bands that are NOT reuniting. First up: the Beatles.

"Dreamgirls" Snub Leads To Box Office Increase

So "Dreamgirls" gets snubbed by the Oscars -- it garners eight Oscar noms but fails to get the expected Best Picture or Best Director nod. So what do audiences do on Tuesday? Go to see "Dreamgirls," as the film jumps from its perennial #3 (or #4) slot on Monday to top "Night At The Museum" and "Stomp The Yard" at the box office. Go figure.

Billboard's Top 10 Singles -- Fall Out Boy Debut At #2

Fall Out Boy debut at #2 with their new single "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race." And "Idol" continues to steamroll. Chris Daughtry's band Daughtry jumps from #21 to #6 with their hit "It's Not Over." And just out of the Top 10, Disney Channel star Corbin Bleu debuts at #14 with "Push It To The Limit," thanks mostly to digital sales. Beyonce can take some comfort after "Dreamgirls" failed to get a Best Picture nod: her song "Irreplaceable" remains at #1 for the eighth week. The Top 10 per Billboard:

1. "Irreplaceable" -- Beyonce
2. "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race" -- Fall Out Boy
3. "Say It Right" -- Nelly Furtado
4. "I Wanna Love You" -- Akon featuring Snoop Dogg
5. "We Fly High" -- Jim Jones
6. "It's Not Over" -- Daughtry
7. "Fergalicious" -- Fergie
8. "Smack That" -- Akon featuring Eminem
9. "How To Save A Life" -- The Fray
10. "Welcome To The Black Parade" -- My Chemical Romance

"American Idol" -- New York, New York

You would think the talent pool in NYC would be tremendous and in fact some 35 people got tickets to Hollywood. I'm not sure how that compares to other cities, but it seems like a lot. Now I hate to be dramatic, but "Idol" encourges that sort of thing. One of the things I respect most about the show is its production -- the editing and crafting of stories. And surely last night's opener was the stupidest, most misguided one in the entire history of the series. They began the night with a talentless, unfunny waste of time who already gate-crashed "Dancing With The Stars" and did the same thing here. Simon once said they always tried to weed out the people who only showed up to get airtime. So why bother us with this guy? In contrast, the tone-deaf girl who ranged from oddly sincere to manic meltdown (Sarah Goldberg) was genuinely odd and intriguing. The whole night felt a little story-heavy to me.

Sarah Burgess -- the girl who just wanted acceptance from her daddy, felt more like a therapy session than an audition and continued the trend of seeming to get a golden ticket because of her sob story rather than her talent. (She did an okay version of "Call Me."

The same thing with the two Paris Hilton wannabes from Jersey -- the first BFF sang "Crazy" and was pretty awful. The second girl was much, much better but of course both of them got put through because it will make for a better storyline when the second girl goes farther and the first girl is cut.

But as always, what mattered most to me were the contestants who showed actual promise. Rachel, the opera singer, is an interesting wild card with interesting potential. Chris Richardson, who sang Leon Russell's A Song For You in the style of Donny Hathaway, was very solid. Porcelana, the "soldier" who got in shape but danced like a stripper wasn't bad -- but I couldn't believe the judges didn't bother offering the advice that she was supposed to look like the next "Idol," and not a whore. Nicholas, the guy who quit in Hollywood after melting down, seemed improved though still not stellar. (It's interesting how many people have auditioned numerous times or been to Hollywood more than once.)

The only truly mean section was when Simon said the guy with a girl's voice should be performing in a dress. Otherwise, as usual, they often tried to bluntly convince people that singing wasn't for them. But sincerity should be this show's watchword. And it was lacking in two places: Ryan continues to be more of a smart-aleck in the waiting room. His new habit of letting people dangle on-camera is especially mean-spirited and unfair. And when Ashanti went into a thoughtful, heartfelt plea, playing piano music over it was unnecessary and mocking. Plenty of people make fool sof themselves -- "Idol" doesn't need to scukerpunch anyone.

By far the best singer was Celine Dion-lookalike Jory Steinberg, who nailed a Tina Arena song "Chains" with refreshing restraint. And then there was Jenry Bejarano, the strappingly handsome kid who was adopted, has a great bond with his mom, sang a pretty good "I'd Give Anything To Fall In Love" and has the looks to work a runway starting tomorrow. This guy is 16? If nothing else, he's clearly got the poise for a career as an actor or mannequin and his looks alone should keep him in Hollywood for a few days. Of all the contestants, surely he'll be swarmed by the most agents...and the most fans.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sirius, XM Merger Still Possible

I missed this, but apparently one day after the FCC head so there was no way in hell they would ever approve a merger between the Sirius and XM satellite radio companies (even though they have tons of competition from terrestrial and cable radio and the internet), he turned around and said, "Well, the rules could always be changed to allow it." He was wrong before (there is no antitrust issue, unless you foolishly consider one form of sending radio to people inherently different and noncompetitive with terrestrial and cable radio). He's probably wrong now to think rules need to be changed. But in any case it's only a matter of time.

"Grey's Anatomy" Bigot May Be Fired

E Online is reporting that ABC is considering firing Isaiah Washington from "Grey's Anatomy" immediately. Under the terms of his contract and corporate policy, they would be able to do so without any recourse on Washington's path -- apparently, ABC doesn't think it's good business to have actors on their hit shows insulting and berating their co-stars with bigoted comments. Surely if anyone on "Grey's Anatomy" had called Washington a derogatory term that person would have ALREADY been fired. They could apologize and make amends publicly, but would they keep their job? Nope. If ABC does fire Washington, it won't be because of any public outcry but because the people working on the show demanded it and the producers believed his continued presence would be too disruptive. Why should Knight and Dempsey and the other stars (who are far more important to the show's success than Washington) have to work with a jerk. It's a shame in one sense since Washington was portraying a positive imager for blacks on one of the biggest hits in the country. In a further attempt to make amends, Washington has entered a "treatment facility." They have rehab for dicks? Seriously, what sort of treatment facility do you enter when you're a bigot?

Billboard's Top 10 CDs -- Corrine Bailey Rae Jumps High

Never underestimate the power of Oprah. Corinne Bailey Rae made an appearance on Oprah's show and her debut CD (one of my favorites of the year) immediately jumped back into the Top 5. I couldn't be happier. Meanwhile, you should never underestimate the power of "American Idol." the new season has begun and the rock band Daughtry hits #1 for the first time. Sure, sales are slow, but it's still #1. And he has a genuine hit single with "It's Not Over," which I already pointed out should have a long shelf life as a favorite tune for sports shows. Daughtry beat out the "Dreamgirls" soundtrack total by only 130 CDs, the smallest margin since SoundScan came online in 1991. And never count out adult CD buyers either: Diana Ross debuted at #32, Frank Sinatra has a compilation at #36, Al Grren has a greatest hits CD at #46 and America returns at #52. The Top 10 per Billboard.

1. Daughtry -- "Daughtry"
2. "Dreamgirls" soundtrack
3. "Jump In! soundtrack
4. Corinne Bailey Rae -- "Corinne Bailey Rae"
5. Akon -- "Konvicted"
6. Justin Timberlake -- "FutureSex/LoveSound"
7. Various -- "Now 23"
8. Nickelback -- "All The Right Reasons"
9. Carrie Underwood -- "Some Hearts"
10. Beyonce -- "B'Day"

La Binoche, Etc.

How about a little me time? Here's my profile of the smart, interesting Juliette Binoche for the NY Daily News. I wished we could have talked much longer, since she's an interesting, thoughtful woman. And here's where I blather on about some current musical acts with new CDs or shows scheduled for the city. I discuss Norah Jones, M Ward, Jamie Foxx, the Shins and Harry Connick Jr.

Reality TV: Racism Exists

Reality TV is knee-deep in racism in the UK. Like the US furor over off-screen comments by Isaiah Washington calling fellow actor TR Knight a faggot, the British media is agog over comments on reality TV. On "Big Brother" (a MUCH bigger show in the UK than here), an absolutely gorgeous Indian woman has been slagged by several fellow female contestants. Now on "Shipwrecked," 18 year old idiot Lucy Buchanan says slavery was just fine, black people are bad, and lesbians are sinister. Frankly, I don't understand the audience complaints. Showing a racist idiot is hardly endorsing their views, any more thanshowing Tony Soprano means you think it's fine to be a gangtster and kill people to get money. In both cases, other contestants call the racists on their comments and excoriate them. So what exactly are audiences objecting to? The fact that these shows are demonstrating that racism exists at all? Similarly, Opus Dei is upset that a British crime show "Waking The Dead" showed Opus Dei members embroiled in a gruesome murder. It's a CRIME show. Everyone they depict is involved in horrible murders. Yes, it's difficult if your particular group or minority is always depicted in a negative light. But exposing racists is not an example of that. Neither is it realistic to expect a positive portrayal of anyone on shows like CSI.

Mellencamp -- Happy Old Fart

A nice profile of John Mellencamp by Jim Farber at the NY Daily News, in which he talks about his new album, defends putting his song in an ad and generally comes across as enjoyably ornery. My favorite quotes:
Last summer, when he saw that Tom Petty put out a good single and CD that radio snubbed, Mellencamp realized, "If they're not going to play [Petty's] song, they're not going to play mine."

The star isn't fazed by the subsequent cries of "sellout." "The minute you sign with a record company, you've sold out," he asserts. Moreover, he says that "Chevy has been a much better record company for me than [my last label] Columbia Records ever was."
And this on how he sees America:
"The Americans" appears to tout the open-minded character of U.S. citizens. But Mellencamp - who was born in Indiana and still lives near Bloomington - says it's actually about "how we see ourselves, not how we are. I think that's an image that should be strived toward. If I had written about how we really are, it would have been negative. If [I was writing about] the Midwest, it would be, 'I'm narrow-minded and don't give a f- about other cultures.'"

Overnight TV Ratings: "Idol" Huge, Bush Not So Much

Another huge night for "American Idol," of course. "Gilmore Girls" is weakened (I still haven't watched the episode; I'm trying to catch up with "24" and "Heroes" and "GG" after my trip but felt I had to start with the State of the Union and of course Idol. "Veronica Mars" had no competition from the other major networks and did okay but still couldn't really get a strong sampling from anyone.

I agree with richboy that the Democratic response from Senator Jim Webb was very good -- forceful, strong and direct. As for Bush's speech, I thought he started out pretty good but then once he began stumbling over words it just got worse and worse. He seemed less desperate without the White House library as a backdrop and his opening remarks about Pelosi were obvious and appropriate of course but still gracious -- especially when he repeated it and emphasized it again and then at the end (where it looked like he unintentionally copped a feel as well). I can't ever remember a State of the Union speech getting such tepid response on applause lines -- even from the President's own party. And I'm really tired of those inspirationalk guests they trot out -- Reagan started it and back in the 80s it was a clever, interesting move. Now it just feels pro forma and like an Oprah episode. Enough, already. I watched ABC's coverage, which like all the networks focused on style rather than substance. They suggested it was a bold move to feature Bush's line that the state of the union is strong at the end of the speech rather than at the beginning. Frankly, it's hard to think of anything more cosmetic and less important than that, don't you think? But kudos to ABC for rightly sticking with analysis of the speech and interviews with Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, John McCain and the like. (Why did all of them get to nodding their heads and almost bowing?) Their coverage beat the sitcom reruns the other networks threw onto the air and more power to them. What, NBC and CBS couldn't think of anything to say about a President's speech in a time of war? Shameful. Go to MediaWeek's Mark Berman for the complete ratings rundown.

8 p.m.
1. American Idol -- 31.17 million viewers
2. NCIS -- 14.33 million
3. Dateline -- 6.17 million
4. America's Funniest Home Videos -- 5.15 million
5. Gilmore Girls -- 3.65 million

9 p.m.
State of the Union on all channels except CW
1. Veronica Mars -- 3.29 million

10:30 p.m.
1. State Of The Union analysis on ABC -- 5.51 million
2. Two and a Half Men (rerun) -- 5.12 million
3. The Office (rerun) -- 5.05 million

"American Idol" Gets Nicer

The judges were notably nicer last night on "Idol" -- or, more to the point, the edited excerpts we saw were nicer. Not a single shot of someone leaving the room and haplessly tugging on the wrong door. Very little to no comments about the contestants' appearances.

Two things happened: one, they built up Seattle as so godawful (and it probably was) that the show emphasized the bad ones more than ever. Two, the producers jumped on tonight's episode and tweaked it a little to avoid almost any meanness. They also told us the judges come out and speak to each room of contestants, telling everyone that some of them will get judged harshly and if they don't want to deal with that, they should leave. No one ever leaves. Some contestants complained one or more of the judges didn't even look at them. In fact, the judges often look down or away when someone is singing, either to hear the voice without being distracted by someone's appearance or to be polite and avoid snickering. And why does no one ever complain about the contestants -- who mouth off, curse, and shoot birds at the camera on national TV? How come their behavior is never criticized?

As Simon told one contestant, they get a lot of people who show up with tons of confidence and attitude who can't sing a lick. Further, it's a nice reality check for a culture that assumes everyone has a right to be famous. (Though of course the irony is that some people are so bad they become famous for that. The guy with bug eyes has an agent? Whatever for?) Finally, the judges are infinitely nicer than people at a real audition. Time and again we hear the judges patiently telling people, sorry, singing's not for you. In real life, the hopefuls would have sung for about five seconds before hearing "Next!" and being pushed off the stage.

But none of this matters. In two weeks, we'll be at the Hollywood section and everyone will have forgotten about the auditions (like the girl last night who could barely open her mouth to get words out but was astonished she wasn't going to win it all). What 90% of the show is about are the singers, the undiscovered talent who blossom in front of us, get cheered on and do well or stumble. Last night featured two people I assume will be in the final 12. Hearing them sing for the first time is exactly why I watch the show.

First was Sundance Head, the son of several hit wonder Roy Head. (The family history is a tad glorified. Head never had a #1 song and it wasn't knocked out of the top spot by the Beatles' "Yesterday." His big song "Treat Her Right" stayed at #2 for two weeks and was kept OUT of the #1 slot by "Yesterday." Hey, don't feel bad Roy -- "Yesterday" is only the most covered song of all time. Head had one other Top 40 hit and six other tunes that nudged onto the Hot 100.) Sundance is fat (have you noticed Simon hasn't been shown saying much of anything about people's weight this season?) and has a crazy beard I'd love to see him shave. Most importantly, he has a terrific blues-y voice. The blues is definitely the new genre to get spotlighted this season. We've seen people shine in pop, country, gospel, soul and rock. Now this season a number of people look like they're drawing on the blues.

Then came Melinda Doolittle, the backup singer who performed the Stevie Wonder song "For Once In My Life" and gave a polished, marvelous performance that was one of the best auditions ever. As richboy said, it's hard to believe she hasn't been discovered before. A real sweetheart, Melinda was genuinely shy and reserved without ever seeming tentative or weak. She was quietly happy when they said they liked the song she'd chosen and then seemed delightfully surprised when they praised her to high heaven. If I could sing like her, you'd never hear me shut up and I'd be wondering where the limo was and get me my record deal NOW. Her face lit up with pleasure but it didn't look like she suddenly thought SHE was wonderful, but rather that she was happy they liked the performance or the voice, almost as if it were a gift and separate from her. Clearly, she's gonna shine and grow as the competition goes on and only some bizarre action would keep her out of the Top 12 (and the Top 6...and the finals! Nothing like premature hype....) I can't wait to see her and Sunshine sing again. And that's what "Idol" is all about.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Overnight TV Ratings -- "Heroes" Tops "24"

First, I just got a press release about the Sunday ratings for "Battlestar: Galactica" and new SciFi series "The Dresden Files." It looks okay. On the most watched night of the week, "The Dresden Files" drew 1.7 million viewers and at 10 p.m. "BG" drew 1.8 million viewers. Of course, this is a big improvement in the night for SciFi because all they ever aired previously were reruns and old movies. Both shows had a 1.4 rating, well done for "BG" from its 2.0 rating of Season Two. But for a beachhead on a new night, this could be fine if the audience stays around. "BG" definitely needs good news or a fourth season and that straight to DVD movie (which seems like a waste to me) might be in danger. I'd say make a "cheap" feature film with a stand-alone story a la "Firefly" if you call it a day on the series.

Now on to Mondays. Yep, "Heroes" BEAT "24" head to head and they were both BEAT by the sitcom "Two and a Half Men" and all three of them were well within 400,000 viewers of each other on the hour. But no one lost. "24" got the same ratings it got last season at this time. So "Heroes" didn't hurt "24;" it brought new viewers to the table. And I'm sure both would jump mightily once you factored in the DVR+ 7 day ratings, since so many people like me tape both of them and watch one or the other later. The bad news is for "Studio 6" -- it dropped exactly 50%, which just isn't acceptable. Go to MediaWeek's Marc Berman for the complete ratings.

8 p.m.
1. Deal Or No Deal -- 17.56 million viewers
2. Prison Break -- 9.90 million
3. How I Met Your Mother -- 9.55 million/The Class -- 8.99 million
4. Wife Swap -- 8.84 million
5. Everybody Hates Chris -- 2.85 million/All Of Us -- 2.45 million

9 p.m.
1. Heroes -- 14.84 million
2. Two and a Half Men -- 16.06 million /Old Christine -- 13.01 million
3. 24 -- 14.44 million
4. Supernanny -- 9.08 million
5. Girlfriends -- 2.23 million/The Game -- 2.24 million

10 p.m.
1. CSI: Miami -- 18.67 million
2. Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip -- 7.41 million
3. What About Brian -- 5.4 million

Crowded House Tour In The Works

No surprise, since the Finn brothers joined the Split Enz tour in 2005. And it's a bit sad since their drummer committed suicide that same year. Nonetheless, Crowded House is on of those bands with a much bigger reputation in the UK and Australia than here and it'll be great to hear those plaintive, minor key pop gems again.

"Idol" Winners Continue To Shine

Both "American Idol" and "Pop Idol" got very lucky with their first winners. Grammy winner Kelly Clarkson gave Idol tremendous legitimacy. And the very first Idol winner of all -- the UK's Will Young -- proved Idols could have genuine careers, with at least three best-selling albums under his belt. Young has also appeared in film and now gets a very strong review from the Evening Standard for his performance on stage in Noel Coward's "The Vortex." If I'm lucky, it'll come to London and I can check it out.

Record Labels ReThinking Digital Music Restrictions

The major record labels are reportedly planning to put their music online in digital MP3 files without bothering with all the ridiculous restrictions that make it difficult if not impossible for people to buy songs and then use them on different players, move them from their computer to their phone or their music player or their stereo and so on. This is LONG overdue. Record companies (and movie studios and book sellers) need to realize that all these stupid technical roadblocks just make life miserable for the average consumer and don't stop the real thieves and bootleggers for a minute. Besides, I strongly believe these restrictions -- which often don't allow people to perfectly legal things with their music (like make a copy for their car or boat) -- are illegal anyway. Make it all easy to use. Didn't iTunes prove that if you make music or movies or TV shows or audio books or whatever available easily at a reasonable price that people won't WANT to deal with bootlegs. Who needs viruses and all that junk when you can buy the song you want for 99 cents?

"Grey's Anatomy" Honored By GLAAD

The irony builds as "Grey's Anatomy" -- a show currently famous for the anti-gay slur of one of its stars directed at another of the show's stars both behind the scenes and at the Golden Globes -- yes, that very same show is nominated for GLAAD awards. Americablog pointed me on Friday to a silly item by Perez Hilton that claimed the Isaiah Washington controversy (he called costar TR Knight a faggot, prompting Knight to come out; then Washington denied saying it at the Globes and now he's apologized and is meeting with GLSEN to make amends and the network has officially chastized him). Hilton claimed the show is being hurt in the ratings and that before this the show "dominated" its timeslot. Hardly. "Grey's Anatomy" was going head-to-head with "CSI" and the fact that it's been beating "CSI" this season has astonished everyone -- ABC was hoping for a solid second and to chip away at "CSI's lead. But by no means has "Grey's Anatomy" dominated the timeslot.

Here are the ratings this fall:

9/29 (season premiere)
Grey's Anatomy -- 23.31 million
CSI -- 23.49 million

Grey's Anatomy -- 22.46 million
CSI -- 21.22 million

Grey's Anatomy -- 22.82 million
CSI -- 21.58 million

Grey's Anatomy -- 21.93 million
CSI -- 20.2 million

Grey's Anatomy (rerun)-- 12.21 million
CSI (rerun) -- 16.63 million

Grey's Anatomy -- 20.96 million
CSI -- 20.53 million

Grey's Anatomy -- 20.57 million
CSI -- 20.47 million

Grey's Anatomy -- 20.96 million
CSI -- 23.83 million

Grey's Anatomy -- 18.46 million
CSI -- 17.13 million

Grey's Anatomy -- 24.27 million
CSI (rerun) -- 15.88 million

Grey's Anatomy (rerun) -- 10.5 million
CSI -- 23.72 million

Grey's Anatomy (rerun) -- 10.04 million
CSI (rerun) -- 15.08 million

Grey's Anatomy (rerun) -- 9.97 million
CSI (rerun) -- 13.16 million

Grey's Anatomy (rerun) -- 5.8 rating (viewer totals not available)
CSI (rerun) -- 8.9 rating

Grey's Anatomy (rerun) -- 10.24 million
CSI -- 25.91 million

Grey's Anatomy -- 22.94 million
CSI (rerun) -- 11.87

Grey's Anatomy -- 21.89 million
CSI -- 21.28 million

In short, it's clearly a tightly fought race between two massive hits. "Grey's Anatomy" is a much younger show that is still growing, "CSI" is a mainstay that repeats much better because it features self-contained mysteries rather than being a serialized drama. In head to head with new episodes, "Grey's Anatomy" won 7 times and CSI won twice. But CSI has fewer repeats and if you count every week of the season (even when one or both of the shows is a rerun), "Grey's has won 9 weeks and CSI has won eight; that's what I call a horse race. The margin of victory for the winner has often been razor-thin. On January 4, CSI had the single highest rated episode, 25.91 million viewers opposite a "GA" rerun. "Grey's" highest rated episode was 11/30 opposite a rerun when it hit 24.27 million. You cna slice and dice these numbers any way you want, but the truth is that "Grey's Anatomy" has done remarkably well and has been beating "CSI" head to head most of the season. (It used to air on Sunday nights.) But its margin of victory has often been very thin indeed, and the ratings on 1/18 were not telling in the least of any trend or fallout.

Besides, why would there be a fallout? Isaiah Washington is way down the list in importance in the ensemble cast. Patrick Dempsey (McDreamy) and Ellen Pompeo (the title character Dr. Meredith Grey) and central. TR Knight (the actor who came out) was the heart of the show a la Noah Wylie on "ER." Sandra Oh (who dates Washington's character) is right up there with the no-nonsense Chandra Wilson. Both of them have been nominated for Emmys and Oh won. And then in order of importance you have Washington and Justin Chambers and Kate Walsh and James Pickens Jr. all bunched together. The idea that a stupid, offensive comment by a secondary character would turn people off to a show that has been demonstrably gay friendly in its storylines is just silly. If anyone DID turn the show off because of it, they would surely be balanced by the people who tuned IN to check out TR Knight. Personally, I loved the suggestion online that Washington's character should come out and he be forced to play a gay man for the rest of the series. It makes no sense given his character but it would be deliciously appropriate punishment.

But again, Hilton's claim that CSI is suddenly closing in on Grey because of all this? That just isn't true. CSI is basically where it's been all season long.