Monday, April 6, 2009

No Leno, station says

In a troubling sign for NBC’s game-changing prime-time makeover plans, a Boston affiliate is refusing to air Jay Leno’s new 10 p.m. talk show in the fall.

WHDH Channel 7 in Boston, Mr. Leno’s hometown, announced it will air its own hourlong local newscast instead, the Hollywood Reporter says.

Explaining the move to the Boston Globe, station owner Ed Ansin said he thinks a newscast will draw higher ratings than Mr. Leno.

Mr. Ansin’s rebellion of dumping NBC’s fall scheduling plans could turn into a nightmare scenario for the network if other affiliates attempt to join the cause.

Even Boston defecting by itself is an issue: It’s the nation’s seventh-largest media market.

The decision quickly drew fighting words from NBC’s TV Network President John Eck.

“WHDH’s move is a flagrant violation of the terms of their contract with NBC,” Mr. Eck said. “If they persist, we will strip WHDH of its NBC affiliation. We have a number of other strong options in the Boston market, including using our existing broadcast license to launch an NBC-owned-and-operated station.”

Mr. Ansin countered to the Globe that his affiliate contract is unlike those of other stations and allows him the option of not airing “Leno.”

Meanwhile, NBC owns a Telemundo affiliate in the area that it could in theory relaunch as an NBC station. Sources also told THR that at least one station is up for sale in the Boston market.

The last time NBC got into a war with a local station was 2000, when Young Broadcasting outbid the Peacock network for San Francisco-based KRON. The network retaliated by buying a nearby station and yanking KRON’s NBC affiliation. Young recently filed for bankruptcy, THR notes.

16M for final ‘ER’

Thursday night’s series finale of “ER” on NBC drew more than 16 million viewers, reports.

The two-hour swan song averaged 16.4 million viewers, according to final Nielsen Media Research figures released Friday. The show dominated the 9-to-11 p.m. hours across the broadcast networks.

The episode drew its biggest ratings within the prized 18-to-49 demographic for a drama finale on the broadcast networks since Fox’s “The X-Files” wrapped in May 2002. “ER” also had the largest audience for a drama finale since CBS’ “Murder, She Wrote” ended with 16.5 million viewers in May 1996.

The medical drama scored its best rating in the demographic since October 2006 and the largest audience since May 2006.

Before the finale, NBC also attracted 10.6 million viewers to its hourlong “ER” retrospective, TVWeek notes.

“ER” ended its run after 15 seasons and 123 Emmy Award nominations.

‘Slumdog’ star on ‘24’

Indian film star Anil Kapoor, who made waves here as the game-show host in “Slumdog Millionaire,” has just signed a deal to star as a regular next year on the eighth season of Fox’s “24.”

Mr. Kapoor will play a leader from the Middle East who comes to the U.S. for a peacekeeping mission. The role represents the American TV debut for the actor, who has appeared in nearly 100 Hindi films over 25 years.

Mr. Kapoor played Prem Kumar, the host of India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” in the 2009 Oscar-winning film.

New show for Sykes

Comedian Wanda Sykes is getting a late-night show at Fox, filling the void that will be left when “MadTV” ends, reports.

Miss Sykes, who currently co-stars on CBS’ “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” will launch her show in the fall. It will air Saturdays at 11 p.m., taking over the spot currently occupied by “MadTV,” which is in its final season.

Miss Sykes also starred in the Fox sitcom “Wanda at Large,” which had a brief run in 2003. Her credits include a recurring part on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and roles in the feature films “Evan Almighty” and “Monster-in-Law.”

On tap tonight

American Experience: Annie Oakley ( 9, WETA-Channel 26) — An on-target profile of the sharpshooter (1860-1926) who, according to narrator Laura Linney, was “the first American woman ever to become a superstar.”

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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