- The Washington Times - Monday, May 17, 2004

‘Shrek’ sneak

“Shrek” fans who can’t wait until tomorrow to see their favorite ogre can get a sneak peek at his new adventures courtesy of Nickelodeon.

The network will broadcast the first five minutes of “Shrek 2,” which opens nationwide tomorrow, at 7 tonight.

The cable network also will offer up interviews with stars Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz as part of the promotional push.

“Giving kids the opportunity to see something top secret reinforces Nickelodeon’s relevance to kids,” says network president Cyma Zarghami.

It’s also a savvy marketing move being employed more and more these days.

Viewers watched the opening scene of “Dawn of the Dead” a few weeks ago on USA Network, days before its theatrical release, and Internet users downloaded a key scene from “Taking Lives” online before that film opened.

Nielsen woes

Congressional investigators likely will be asked to look into the new Nielsen Media Research tracking system amid concerns it may undercount minorities, Reuters News Agency reports.

Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet, plans to ask the General Accounting Office to look into the matter, according to Reuters.

Under pressure, Nielsen last month suspended the start of its new electronic system to monitor local television viewing preferences until June 3. Concerns exist that the new system may not properly count minority audiences.

The company has been trying to update the way it measures television viewership in U.S. local markets and end the old method of viewers keeping a paper diary of what they watch.

A spokesman for Nielsen was not available for comment, but in the past the company has insisted the new system is more accurate.

Some minorities, as well as congressmen, are up in arms about changes, however.

Mr. Upton, a Republican from Michigan, echoes the same concerns of an undercount voiced by minority activists. Those views also are shared by some New York City and state lawmakers as well as media conglomerate News Corp. Ltd., owner of the Fox television network — whose strength has been fueled by a lineup of programs that attract black and urban audiences.

Early test results from February, taken from a smaller sample of homes, showed big declines for some shows popular with those viewers. “The Parkers,” for instance, a UPN sitcom carried by Fox-owned stations, fell by a whopping 62 percent.

In a top media market such as New York City, that kind of plummet could mean millions of dollars of lost advertising.

Frasier’ draws a crowd

“Frasier’s” final house call proved another boost to NBC’s ratings. Too bad the numbers are a parting gift, because the show, like “Friends,” is heading into syndication retirement.

Thursday’s final show (which ended with psychiatrist Frasier Crane flying to Chicago to chase after love) brought a mixed blessing for the beloved sitcom. The “Frasier” finale drew an estimated 25.2 million people, rallying the show to its best ratings performance in more than three years — even beating television’s No. 1 program, CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” in head-to-head competition, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Yet despite winning a record 31 Emmys during its 11-year run, the show’s last episode drew less than half the ratings of the recent “Friends” finale, which was seen by 52.5 million viewers.

Farina’s new ‘Order’

Character actor Dennis Farina is stepping into Jerry Orbach’s shoes in the original “Law & Order” series.

The actor joined the cast of the NBC legal drama, the network announced yesterday.

“I’ve known Dennis for 20 years, and he’s a terrific actor, a consummate professional and a truly nice guy,” Dick Wolf, executive producer of the “Law & Order” franchise, said about his new star.

Mr. Farina’s credits include the recent comedy “In-Laws” and the earlier feature films “Out of Sight” (1998) and “Get Shorty” (1995).

The original “Law & Order” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m.

In other NBC news, the network announced it has renewed “Scrubs” for not one, but two seasons, which will be the sitcom’s fourth and fifth years on the Peacock network.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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