- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Jennings draws viewers

ABC’s “World News Tonight” topped the evening news ratings for the first time in more than a year — the increased viewership amounting to yet another tribute to Peter Jennings.

The longtime ABC News anchorman died of lung cancer Aug. 7. The next day’s “World News Tonight,” largely devoted to Mr. Jennings’ legacy, was seen by 10.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. The broadcast hasn’t had that many viewers in August since 1998.

“World News Tonight” won each night last week except Wednesday, Nielsen said yesterday.

Meanwhile, ABC’s two-hour prime-time tribute to Mr. Jennings last Wednesday was seen by 9.4 million people. That would have put the program in Nielsen’s top 10 for the week, but the company doesn’t rank shows that air without commercials.

Prime-time ratings, however, are down, a clear indication that viewers are looking elsewhere for entertainment. Summer replacement series generated little excitement, and some were downright disasters. ABC’s “Hooking Up” limped to a conclusion with 3.9 million viewers, and CBS’ fashion reality series “The Cut” had just 2.7 million viewers.

For the week, CBS again was the most popular network in prime time, averaging 7.3 million viewers. ABC averaged 6 million viewers, while NBC had 5.9 million. Fox had 4.6 million, UPN 2.5 million, the WB 1.9 million and Pax TV 670,000.

For the week of Aug. 8 through 14, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 13.9 million; “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” ABC, 11.7 million; “Without a Trace,” CBS, 11.5 million; “CSI: Miami,” CBS, 11.4 million; and “60 Minutes,” CBS, 10.9 million.

Fez heads to MTV

Wilmer Valderrama, who plays the barely English-speaking Fez on “That ‘70s Show,” will host “Yo Momma,” a trash-talking competition series slated to air next year on MTV.

In his new role on the cable music channel, known for edgy and slightly controversial programming, Mr. Valderrama follows in the footsteps of fellow “‘70s Show” star Ashton Kutcher, now host and creator of “Punk’d,” a consistent ratings winner that also has helped boost his star status.

Mr. Valderrama, who came up with the idea of “Yo,” a comedy reality series, hopes to follow suit. Within a four-week daily afternoon format, the host will visit cities nationwide to track down astute trash-talkers known for verbal smack-downs that generate laughs, Newsday.com reports. The top two competitors selected each day will compete for a cash prize and bragging rights for being the best clowner in their hometown — as well as the opportunity to move forward to the ultimate trash-talking tournament.

“Wilmer is wired into our audience,” says Brian Graden, MTV’s president of entertainment. “His humor, style and approachable personality make this a great fit.”

She’s b-a-a-a-ck

Kathie Lee Gifford will join anchor Pat O’Brien on “The Insider” next month as a special correspondent for the syndicated entertainment magazine show, Associated Press reports.

Beginning Sept. 12, Mrs. Gifford will appear at least two days a week to cover “big name celebrity interviews and the Broadway beat,” Paramount Domestic Television announced Monday.

Mrs. Gifford, who turned 52 yesterday, was co-host of the syndicated “Live With Regis & Kathie Lee” with Regis Philbin for 15 years. She left the show five years ago.

“Being a member of ‘The Insider’ family gives me an opportunity to do what I know, television, with what I love, theater,” Mrs. Gifford said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to finally casting a well-deserved spotlight on the world of theater. And it’s no secret that I love to talk, but the real secret is I love to listen, too.”

Compiled by Thomas Walter from Web and wire reports.

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