- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2005

CBS’ clean sweep

CBS shows no sign of abdicating its ratings crown this fall.

Last week, the network became the first to win the initial seven weeks of a TV season since 1988, Associated Press reports.

Its most recent ratings victory should prove the sweetest because November marks the start of the latest “sweeps” period, which helps set the prices advertisers pay for commercial placement.

Both CBS’ third-year drama “NCIS” and its rookie supernatural series “Ghost Whisperer” had their largest audiences ever, AP reports, citing data obtained from Nielsen Media Research. CBS’ rookie potboiler “Criminal Minds” also cracked Nielsen’s top 10.

Thirteen of TV’s most popular prime-time shows last week were on the Tiffany network, including its top-rated “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

ABC remains the network’s toughest competition. Still, CBS attracted more viewers last week among the 18-to-49-year-old audience that advertisers crave. In that category, the two networks are virtually tied for first place this season.

However, CBS’ two-part miniseries “Category 7: The End of the World” failed to crack Nielsen’s top 10 and proved no match for ABC’s formidable Sunday night lineup of “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

For the week, CBS averaged 13.4 million viewers, ABC 10.6 million and NBC 9.5 million. Fox averaged 7.2 million, the WB 3.3 million, UPN 3.2 million and Pax TV 560,000.

The top five shows for the week of Oct. 31 through Nov. 6, their networks and viewerships, were: “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 28.7 million; “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 23.9 million; “Without a Trace,” CBS, 20.4 million; “Survivor: Guatemala,” CBS, 18.3 million; and “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC, 18.1 million.

Sparring spouses

Ever mindful of the November sweeps and apparently taking a cue from the Jerry Springer method of trash-talk TV, Oprah Winfrey temporarily abandons decorum for her celebrated chat fest by featuring battling spouses — best-selling author Terry McMillan and her estranged husband, Jonathan Plummer — on today’s show (4 p.m., WJLA Channel 7).

The couple, who separated last summer after six years of marriage when Mr. Plummer told Miss McMillan he was homosexual, are headed to court for what appears to be one of the nastiest celebrity divorces in recent memory.

Miss McMillan, 54, the author of three books that became hit films — “Disappearing Acts” (on HBO), “Waiting to Exhale” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” (based on her whirlwind Jamaican romance with Mr. Plummer, who is more than 20 years her junior) — offered her account of the breakup in a no-holds-barred interview last month in Essence magazine.

“I’m past hurt, past pissed off,” she told Essence. “I’m outraged. Incensed by the lack of recourse.”

Note to “Oprah” viewers: Does this give you an inkling of what lies ahead?

Live ‘Laguna’

MTV will present the second-season finale of “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County” without commercials and will offer live segments featuring the reality show’s attractive cast, Zap2it.com reports.

The climactic episode, set for Monday at 10 p.m., will feature Stephen and Kristin meeting up for the last time and the rest of the gang realizing that things will never be the same again.

“Laguna,” billed as television’s first “reality drama,” has developed into an unexpected ratings powerhouse for MTV. After starting with relatively modest returns in the fall of 2004, the show has become the network’s most buzzed about reality series, overtaking “The Real World” and “Road Rules” as water-cooler fodder in certain circles.

Koppel’s farewell

Ted Koppel’s reign at ABC’s “Nightline” won’t end with any searing exposes. Instead, it will feature an interview with author Mitch Albom about his mentor, Morrie Schwartz, the inspiration for “Tuesdays With Morrie,” the Hollywood Reporter notes.

Mr. Koppel’s last night on the venerable late-night news program will be Nov. 22.

“Nightline” executive producer Tom Bettag also told the Hollywood Reporter not to expect any “greatest hits” packages when Mr. Koppel bids adieu. Instead of a finale packed with memorable moments, Mr. Koppel’s send-off will feature an interview with Mr. Albom interspersed with clips from interviews Mr. Koppel conducted with the college professor in 1995, when Mr. Schwartz was dying of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Mr. Albom, a sportswriter at the Detroit Free Press when he isn’t penning inspirational books, studied under Mr. Schwartz at Brandeis University and reconnected with his professor, thanks in part to Mr. Koppel’s interviews.

“This is a retrospective,” Mr. Bettag says of Mr. Koppel’s upcoming swan song. “It’s not talking about Ted. It’s talking about someone who Ted admires.”

Compiled by Christian Toto and Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff and wire reports.

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