- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 1, 2006

Orbach honored

Jerry Orbach would have been 71 on Oct. 20. TNT will honor the late actor all month long.

Starting today, every October episode of “Law & Order” on the cable channel will feature Detective Lennie Briscoe, the character Mr. Orbach played for 12 years on the show.

Back-to-back episodes air Mondays 8 to 11 p.m., and Tuesdays 8 p.m. to midnight. Daytime episodes running this week at 2 and 3 p.m. will focus on crucial moments in Briscoe’s life, including his first and last appearances on the series, his battle with alcoholism and his defense after being falsely accused of corruption.

Mr. Orbach died suddenly in 2004. He was a veteran of stage and screen who was inducted into the Broadway Hall of Fame in 1999.

Ugly Betty’ tops

“Ugly Betty” is the most-watched new series of the fall television season so far, Associated Press reports.

The ABC comedy, which stars America Ferrera at the center of a “The Devil Wears Prada”-type plot, had more than 16 million viewers for its premiere Thursday night.

All but about a half-dozen of the 24 new series the broadcast networks are introducing this fall have made it onto the air already.

“Ugly Betty” nabbed the top spot without the advantage of a strong program ahead of it. Shows like “Shark” and “Brothers & Sisters” that have had strong debuts were helped because they followed hits “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Desperate Housewives.” “Ugly Betty” opened the night at 8 p.m.

It was ABC’s largest audience in the time period with a scripted show since “Matlock” in 1995.

With “Grey’s Anatomy” seen by 23.3 million at 9 p.m., ABC is suddenly a player on a night it has been off the ratings radar for years.

CBS, which has dominated Thursday the past few years, had 23.5 million viewers for “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and 16.6 million viewers for “Survivor: Cook Island.”

The “Survivor” episode, the third this season, was notable for breaking up the segregated tribes that caused such controversy when the season started.

The show began with separate “tribes” of black, white, Asian and Hispanics. On Thursday, producers merged those four tribes into two multi-race gangs. It wasn’t in response to the criticism; “Survivor” episodes were filmed before CBS had even announced the cast members.

The show began the season missing a few advertisers that it had in past seasons, including General Motors, although advertisers denied they left because of the segregation experiment.

The average viewership of the first two episodes was essentially the same as “Survivor” last year, even up slightly.

New life for ‘SFU’

Bravo kicks off its broadcasts of HBO’s award-winning series “Six Feet Under” tonight at 9 with “SFU’s” pilot episode from 2001. The hourlong pilot, which introduced the dysfunctional Fisher family — owners of a California mortuary — centers on clan patriarch Nathaniel Fisher (Richard Jenkins) who’s killed when a city bus broadsides his new hearse on Christmas Eve. The show’s second episode, titled “The Will,” airs immediately afterward.

After five seasons “SFU” left the airwaves in August 2005, and two of its core cast members have since moved on to new series. Michael C. Hall, who starred as homosexual undertaker David Fisher, is now a medical examiner/avenging serial killer on Showtime’s new “Dexter” (which premiered last night). And Oscar nominee Rachel Griffiths, “SFU’s” brilliant but troubled Brenda Chenowith Fisher, is now a cast regular on ABC’s new Brothers & Sisters, seen Sunday evenings at 10.

cCompiled by Kelly Jane Torrance and Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff and wire reports.

Fox fight

Fox News Channel and the cable and satellite providers who carry the network may be gearing up for a financial fight, AP reports.

If things go badly, the ratings leader in cable news could disappear from some television screens.

As Fox celebrates its 10th anniversary this week, some 10-year contracts with providers will expire. Fox says the systems pay around 25 cents per subscriber each month to carry its programming. The network, pointing to its ratings, wants to increase these fees to $1.

Fox claims rival CNN frequently gets about 50 cents per subscriber, and that Fox’s fee is a bargain since its ratings have eclipsed CNN’s for five years.

“It seems like we’re probably worth at least twice as much as they are,” Fox News chief Roger Ailes told AP.

The suburban ring around New York, the nation’s largest and most influential media market, will see one of the first fights.

The deal between Fox News Channel, which is owned by News Corp., and Cablevision Systems Corp. expires Saturday, or 10 years to the day Fox began airing. Cablevision has more than 3 million subscribers in the New York City metro area.

Fox ran legal notices in several suburban New York newspapers on Sept. 16 warning that the network’s programming “may be interrupted or terminated” soon due to the contract expiration.

Cablevision claims that because Fox gave it money for marketing considerations at the beginning of its contract, its effective monthly payment has been 16 cents, making Fox’s proposed increase even larger.

Cablevision is known for playing tough in negotiations. Its customers went a full season without New York Yankees games because of a dispute with the YES network.

The negotiations come during the midst of Fox News Channel’s first ratings slump. Through the end of August, the 1.46 million viewers Fox averages during prime time (including weekends) is down 13 percent from 2005, according to Nielsen Media Research. Second-place CNN averages 745,000 viewers.

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