- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

CBS Bowled over

It took a classic college matchup between Texas and Southern California to break CBS’ stranglehold on the Nielsen charts.

Last week’s Rose Bowl telecast on ABC let the network swipe the top slot from perennial winner CBS, Associated Press reports.

Texas’ last-minute 41-38 win in college football’s national championship was seen by 35.6 million people last week, according to Nielsen Media Research. No college football game has drawn that much interest since at least 1991, as far back as Nielsen has electronic records.

Until last week, CBS had won every week of the television season in the ratings.

In a different kind of competition, ABC was buoyed by the return of “Dancing With the Stars,” which proved that it’s more than just a summer sensation by drawing 17.5 million people for its second-season debut.

NBC’s “The Book of Daniel,” which drew brickbats from religious groups for its hedonistic plotlines, only attracted 9 million viewers in its Friday debut.

ABC averaged 19.1 million viewers in prime time last week, CBS had 13.1 million viewers, NBC had 9.2 million, Fox had 6.1 million, Univision averaged 3.7 million, UPN had 2.9 million, the WB had 2.4 million and Pax TV had 490,000.

For the week of Jan. 2 through 8, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “Rose Bowl: Southern California vs. Texas,” ABC, 35.6 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 27.2 million; “Rose Bowl Pre Game,” ABC, 24.5 million; “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 23.7 million; and “NFL Football: Jacksonville at New England,” ABC, 22.55 million.

Crystal clear rejection

Billy Crystal won’t be hosting the Oscars this March, but it isn’t because the producers didn’t ask him.

Turns out the comic actor’s current stage work is taking too much of his time for him to moonlight as the Oscar emcee, AP reports.

“I’m so tired at the end of ‘700 Sundays,’ ” Mr. Crystal tells the Los Angeles Daily News of his Tony Award-winning show. “I didn’t want to go from that into a meeting where I’m saying, ‘Give me “Brokeback Mountain” jokes.’ It seemed so not what I wanted to do.”

“700 Sundays” concludes its limited engagement in Los Angeles on Feb. 18. It previously played in New York and Chicago.

“The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart will host the Oscars, scheduled to air on ABC March 5.

Mr. Crystal has been more than just a reliable performer for the Oscars. Many consider him the modern-day gold standard for a very difficult role. Last year’s ceremony was hosted by comedian Chris Rock, who drew younger viewers but managed to annoy some academy members with his jokes about several stars, including Jude Law and Tobey Maguire.

Mr. Stewart will be making his first appearance as Oscar host. He has twice hosted the Grammy Awards.

When Mr. Stewart was announced as host last week, Academy Awards producer Gil Cates said he didn’t anticipate any problems from a comic known for his political humor.

“Jon knows the difference of being irreverent without being impolite,” Mr. Cates says. “This is not a political show. I think he understands that.”

New connection

Sonny Grosso’s connections are still paying dividends.

The detective, whose crime fighting inspired the Oscar-winning “French Connection,” has signed a development deal with cable channel AMC to develop a limited series based on his experiences, Reuters news agency reports.

The former New York City cop’s 1961 drug bust, made with his late partner Eddie Egan, is chronicled in William Friedkin’s “The French Connection,” which is among the 25 films recently named to the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress.

Mr. Grosso tells Reuters the as-yet-untitled AMC project will be similar to the 1971 film in that “all those stories in there came from me, so it’s similar in that we’ll stay in the arena that we were in at that time.”

But he also wants to add elements of humor.

“After working for 15 years in Harlem, if we didn’t have fun, how could we put up with it every day?” he asks.

Mr. Grosso, a 22-year police veteran, says it’s been important for him to retell the story of the French Connection.

“What I’d love to do is to have all things we couldn’t stuff into a movie that’s an hour and 50 minutes — to have all aspects of the French Connection case as a ‘B’ or ‘C’ story while going through this miniseries,” he said.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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