- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2005

CBS’ slam dunk

CBS used a combination of basketball and forensic science to slam its network competitors last week.

The Tiffany network’s coverage of Saturday’s NCAA men’s tournament semifinals ranked in the top 12 most-watched shows despite that day’s normally light numbers, Associated Press reports, citing data from Nielsen Media Research.

A trio of shows in CBS’ Thursday night lineup — “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Without a Trace” and “Survivor: Palau” —were among the six most-watched programs of the week, according to Nielsen.

The ABC medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” cracked the top 10 for its second episode Sunday, helped in its plum 10 p.m. time slot by a lead-in from “Desperate Housewives.”

The Nielsen news wasn’t as cheery for NBC’s “The Office.” The show ranked a disappointing 72nd among 141 prime-time shows, with fewer than 6 million viewers for its Thursday evening premiere.

For the week of March 28 through April 3, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 28.2 million; “American Idol” (Tuesday), Fox, 26.4 million; “American Idol” (Wednesday), Fox, 24.9 million; “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 24.6 million; and “Without a Trace,” CBS, 21.3 million.

Criminal intent

The chairman of one of the entertainment industry’s most important congressional committees says the threat of criminal prosecution may prompt broadcasters to clean up their acts.

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner III, Wisconsin Republican, told cable industry executives attending the National Cable & Telecommunications Association conference in San Francisco that criminal prosecution — as opposed to fines — would be a more efficient way to enforce indecency regulations, according to a story from yesterday’s Hollywood Reporter.

The current system — in which the Federal Communications Commission fines a licensee for violating the regulations — casts too wide a net, Mr. Sensenbrenner said, trapping those who are attempting to reign in smut on TV and those who are not.

Mr. Sensenbrenner did not say how he would go about criminalizing violations of the indecency statutes.

The indecency issue has remained a concern for Congress ever since Janet Jackson’s right breast was bared during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation this year that directs the FCC to fine broadcasters and individuals up to $500,000 for airing smutty programming on TV and radio.

Obscene speech is not protected by the First Amendment and cannot be broadcast at any time, but indecent speech can be aired safely between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. because the courts and the FCC have determined that children are not a large part of the audience in those hours.

Although cable and satellite TV are not covered by the indecency statutes, Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Joe Barton, Texas Republican, have said they want to bring multichannel programmers into the legal mix.

Spears speaks

Pop tart Britney Spears is so sick of the tabloids dishing dirt on her marriage that she plans to star in her own television show to tell her side of the story.

She’s signed on with UPN for a reality show meant to capture the “true” essence of her marriage to Kevin Federline, according to Variety.

UPN, in turn, is rushing the show into production. Expect to see the first episode before the end of May.

Who knows? The marriage might even last until then. Nothing is certain, though, considering Miss Spears’ 55-hour union last year to her childhood friend Jason Alexander and tabloid rumors of late that her marriage to Mr. Federline may be on the rocks.

The Spears-Federline reality show, as yet untitled, will feature footage shot by the couple documenting their courtship.

Contested ‘Wing’ finale

“The West Wing” wraps its sixth season tonight with a nail-biter to select the candidate who will face off against Republican presidential hopeful Arnold Vinick (TV heavyweight Alan Alda) in the fall.

This year’s “Wing” found fresh stories by engaging in a presidential campaign rather than featuring the Bartlet administration.We watched Rep. Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) of Texas, Vice President Robert Russell (Gary Cole) and Pennsylvania Gov. Eric Baker (Ed O’Neill) fight for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“Creatively, it’s been energized,” industry analyst Marc Berman of Mediaweek told the New York Post. “They needed to bring in new people and new candidates — they needed Bartlet to step down [eventually] and show a new side of the show.”

The newspaper reports that viewership is down this season (11.2 million this year, compared with 11.9 million viewers during the same period in 2004) but also notes that “West Wing” airs opposite Fox TV’s ratings blockbuster “American Idol” in the Wednesday time slot at 9 p.m.

MTV’s new newlyweds

Our attention-deficit nation may be growing weary of “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica,” the MTV reality saga documenting the marriage of pop stars Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, who wed in 2002.

Now the network is serving up another young married couple — albeit a pair with more tattoos than your average bride and groom — with tonight’s debut of “Meet the Barkers” at 10.

The new reality series will chronicle the ups and downs of matrimony with Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and his wife, Shanna Moakler, a former Miss USA and Playboy Playmate, Scripps Howard News Service reports.

Mr. Barker has the mohawk and the ink, while his wife has long blond tresses, ample cleavage and enough bling to bedazzle friends and strangers alike. They also have a son, and Miss Moakler has a daughter from a previous relationship, with boxer Oscar De La Hoya.

“Some people… might think [by] playing in a band you can’t have a family or you can’t be smart enough to start your own business or start your own record label,” Mr. Barker says. “You can do that. I am a good example.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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