- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Les says more news

No matter who eventually takes over for departing news anchor Dan Rather, “CBS Evening News” isn’t going anywhere, says CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves.

Mr. Rather’s spring departure “is giving us a chance to assess what we’re doing right and wrong,” Mr. Moonves said yesterday during a telephone press conference.

It’s not a chance to kill the network’s nightly showcase, despite its steady ratings erosion.

Mr. Moonves, also co-president and co-COO of Viacom (CBS’ parent company), added that he has faith the forthcoming probe of a segment broadcast on “60 Minutes II” — which reportedly used forged documents to hammer George W. Bush’s National Guard service — won’t taint Mr. Rather. The departing anchor will continue contributing to the network, as planned, on its two “60 Minutes” programs regardless of the report’s findings .

Mr. Moonves also said that his own contributions to the internal investigation, so far, have been limited.

“My contact with the committee was one three-minute meeting,” Mr. Moonves said.

In what was set up to be a congratulatory chat touting the network’s winning ways, the executive’s responses to inquiries about Mr. Rather’s imbroglio were limited and clearly reluctant. CBS — as reflected in the glee in Mr. Moonves’ voice and the numbers he proudly trumpeted — will not only win the November sweeps period, but will do so with a large margin of victory in the coveted 18-to-49 age group.

It’s quite a feat for a network once mocked for its “Matlock”-friendly demographics in the not-so-distant past. Mr. Moonves said colleagues have posted demeaning quotes about the Tiffany network’s age problem all over its corporate offices to motivate staffers over the past few years.

Among CBS’ ratings highlights for the November sweeps: the 100th episode of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” which, Mr. Moonves said, drew bigger numbers than Fox’s broadcast of the Yankees-vs.-Red Sox Game Seven.

Just don’t expect another “CSI: Fill-in-the-Blank City” any time soon.

“We’re not there yet,” Mr. Moonves said of the network’s prize franchise.

Nor is he concerned that three “CSIs” are a tad too many.

“We go by what our audience is telling us,” he said. “We’re not burning out the franchise.”

Good night, Tom

“NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw signs off tonight after a 21-year run. The era was highlighted last week in a three-hour look at his career with the network’s special, “Tom Brokaw: Eyewitness to History.”

His departure is the first of two high-profile exits on network newscasts. CBS’ Dan Rather exits this spring after nearly a quarter-century on the job.

NBC’s own Brian Williams slips into Mr. Brokaw’s anchor chair tomorrow, but the choice of Mr. Rather’s successor is still up in the air.

Rudolph’ returns

“Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” makes its 40th television appearance tonight on CBS.

The yuletide classic about an outsider who saves Christmas with his famous snout features a bevy of sweet holiday songs and the vocal stylings of the late Burl Ives as an avuncular snowman.

The animated special airs at 8 p.m.

Socialite skewering

Be afraid, Paris Hilton. Be very afraid.

Those mischievous boys from Comedy Central’s “South Park” quite possibly have you in mind as the “world’s most well-known socialite” with a new episode airing at 10 tonight on the cable channel.

Expect laughs galore — and a somewhat risque title for the segment that can’t be repeated here.

‘Baywatch’ hit by Brits

The British have spoken, and what they’re saying about American television shouldn’t come as a shock.

The beach drama “Baywatch,” known stateside for its parade of sun-kissed flesh, was voted the worst-ever U.S. television import in a British survey of TV professionals, Associated Press reports.

“Baywatch,” which starred Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff, ran from 1989 to 2001. It was once the world’s most popular program, with viewers in 140 countries.

Must have been all those scintillating storylines.

Broadcast magazine’s poll of about 20 program buyers from British over-the-air, cable and satellite channels acknowledged the appeal of a “series about a muscular lifeguard and his crew of pneumatic young helpers with raging hormones.” But poll participants also condemned it for scripts “of mind-numbing predictability: Beachgoer is saved from drowning.”

The poll’s second-place ranking went to “The Anna Nicole Show,” E! Entertainment Television’s reality program featuring Playboy Playmate, model and millionaire widow Anna Nicole Smith.

“The Dukes of Hazzard,” CBS’ Southern-fried 1970s hit, ranked third, followed by the futuristic James Belushi vehicle “Wild Palms” and the anthropomorphic action series “Manimal.”

Hey… what about “My Mother the Car”?

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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