- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Curb,’ ‘Sex’ back

HBO subscribers have two reasons for post-seasonal joy this weekend, Sunday’s return of both “Sex and the City” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

For “Sex” fans, the celebration is bittersweet. This batch of eight new episodes will be its last, as the Emmy-winning show bows out before its single heroines cross over into sitcom cliches.

“Curb Your Enthusiasm,” by comparison, appears to be going strong as it enters its fourth season. The Emmy-winning program promises more guest stars, including an appearance by Mel Brooks in Sunday’s debut episode.

Those who missed any or all of last season can watch HBO’s “Curb” marathon tomorrow. The cable network will air the each of the third season’s 10 episodes in a row starting at 8 p.m.

“Sex and the City” airs Sunday evenings at 9, followed by “Curb Your Enthusiasm” at 9:30.

Revealing ‘Minutes’

The King of Ick, fading superstar Michael Jackson, helped CBS’ “60 Minutes” return to the top of the ratings heap last week.

The newsmagazine’s interview with Mr. Jackson Sunday helped the show reclaim first place, a slot it once earned routinely, according to Associated Press.

Some 18.8 million people watched Mr. Jackson put up a bizarre defense against molestation charges, Nielsen Media Research reports.

That wasn’t a blockbuster; Mr. Jackson’s interview with British journalist Martin Bashir drew 27 million on ABC in February. TV viewership overall was down during the holiday week, and viewers may well be suffering from Jackson fatigue.

Still, it was enough to make it the most-watched show of the week. Only Brett Favre’s touchdown-throwing spree against the Oakland Raiders on ABC’s season finale of “Monday Night Football” came close.

In years past, “60 Minutes” has spent entire seasons as TV’s most popular show. But it hadn’t been the most-watched show during any week since November 1998.

The show has been undergoing a renaissance in founding executive producer Don Hewitt’s final year at the helm. Its viewership is up 14 percent over last year, and the show has spent five of the past six weeks in Nielsen’s top 10. It enabled CBS to continue its dominance of the TV season, averaging 9.7 million viewers (6.2 rating, 11 share). Helped by football and its “Dreamkeeper” miniseries, ABC finished second with 8.1 million viewers (5.1, 9) and won for the first time this season among the 18-to-49 demographic that advertisers crave.

NBC averaged 7.3 million viewers (4.7, 9), Fox had 6 million (3.7, 7), the WB 2.7 million (1.8, 3), UPN 2.6 million (1.0, 3) and Pax TV 930,000 (0.6, 1).

A ratings point represents 1.084 million households, or 1 percent of the nation’s estimated 108.4 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of Dec. 22 through 28, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “60 Minutes,” CBS, 18.8 million; “NFL Post Game Show,” CBS, 18.5 million; “NFL Monday Night Football: Green Bay at Oakland,” ABC, 17.2 million; “CSI: Miami,” CBS, 13.6 million; “NFL Monday Showcase,” ABC, 13.6 million.

Kramer goes digital

Kramer plans to yada yada yada for the upcoming “Seinfeld” DVDs after all.

Michael Richards, who played the indelibly deranged Kramer on the hit NBC sitcom, has decided to participate in the show’s planned DVD release, E! Online reports.

“Seinfeld” co-stars Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, however, still refuse to lend commentary tracks to the material.

Until now, all three stars have passed on participating in the project for financial reasons — their representatives said their clients were unhappy with their payoffs from the continually successful show and didn’t want to work for free.

Mr. Richards finally caved to pressure after talking things over with series star Jerry Seinfeld last weekend, according to E! Online. Mr. Richards says he would like to receive some cash for participating, particularly because Mr. Seinfeld, co-creator Larry David and several others involved in the production are still making money on the show.

“I think everyone wants to get paid,” Mr. Richards told the New York Times recently. “Is it honorable for those on the inside to make compensation? That’s an ethical question they have to deal with. But I never heard back from anybody.”

It seems unlikely that the erstwhile Kramer will cash in for his participation because actors don’t generally get paid on residual deals such as DVDs.

“I innocently asked a question, ‘Is there some compensation?’ I don’t believe there is,” Mr. Richards told the newspaper. “There isn’t anything.”

Still, Mr. Richards says he’s going to do his part to make the DVD a success.

“I’m not boycotting,” he told The Times. “I’m involved. I was never called to do an interview. I am so for the DVD coming out that I’ll go on ‘The Tonight Show.’”

Elizabeth Clark, a representative for “Seinfeld,” says the actor still has hope that Mr. Alexander and Miss Louis-Dreyfus will come around, and he plans to get in touch with them in the new year.

Whether they sign on or not, the DVD is likely to be a smash. “Seinfeld” was consistently a No. 1 show and a mainstay of NBC’s “Must-See Thursdays” throughout its run from 1990 to 1998. Even today, it still runs relentlessly in syndication and generates millions for Mr. Seinfeld and Mr. David, who masterminded the show.

Mr. Seinfeld, meanwhile, is having no trouble keeping his pockets lined even without the help of his hit sitcom.

The star has landed a deal to write, produce and star in “Bee Movie,” a computer-animated feature-length flick for DreamWorks.

His co-stars’ post “Seinfeld” careers have been anything but successful — though Mr. Alexander is set to star in a new sitcom for CBS based on the life of Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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