“Survivor” finale: the real must-see

“Survivor” finale: the real must-see

The ratings weren’t so big as those for the finale of the original Survivor, but CBS’ Survivor II: The Australian Outback still drew the third-highest numbers of the year, behind only the Super Bowl and the Oscars. (CBS noted that the second Survivor finale aired in a more competitive time slot than its predecessor’s.) The two-hour episode pulled a 20.1 rating and a 31 share (a 15.9/39 among adults 18-49), peaking in the final half-hour with a 23.6/33. A reunion show, hosted by Bryant Gumbel, at 10:00 p.m. also edged out a new episode of E.R. on rival NBC. CBS said that was the first time a first-run episode of the hospital drama had been beaten by any network since E.R.‘s premiere season in 1994. The Late Show with David Letterman also benefited from the Survivor finale, notching up a rare win over NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.


CNN co-founder Reese Schonfeld claimed on Friday that Robert Pittman, the cable news channel’s COO, is personally wooing Bill Clinton to join the company as the host of a live, nightly interview program. In an interview with CBS MarketWatch, Schonfeld also indicated that CNN is looking to have CBS anchor Dan Rather host an expanded primetime program of hard news. Schonfeld roundly endorsed the CNN strategy, saying that Clinton “could triple ratings” for the network. Asked about Schonfeld’s comments, Clinton attorney Robert Barnett told CBS MarketWatch that the former president “has received many, many offers for media projects, to host his own show or be a commentator, and is not pursuing any of those things at this time.”


UPN has sent what its CEO, Dean Valentine, has called “welcome-to-the-neighborhood” gifts to Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar that include a diamond necklace and a Gucci leather jacket, the New York Times reported Monday. The gifts presumably were intended to win over Gellar‘s affinity after she had publicly stated earlier this year that she would continue to appear on the show only if it remained on The WB. The Times said that other cast members had received gift baskets that include beluga caviar, Cristal Champagne and $4,000 Cartier watches. “They [the gifts] may be a little pricier than a chocolate cake, but the idea’s the same,” Valentine said.


X-Files creator Chris Carter has indicated that the final two episodes of the current season could serve one of three purposes: as a cliffhanger for a season finale; as the closing episode of the entire series; or as a teaser for a forthcoming feature film. In an interview appearing on the TV Guide Web site, Carter also said that he is in “constructive” negotiations with Fox about returning for a ninth year with the sci-fi drama, but, he suggested, it was unlikely that David Duchovny would be back. “We had a really good, and I felt sweet, send-off for him his final night a little over a week ago. And whatever decision he makes, we have done eight terrific seasons together, and if there are more, great. And if there are no more, I will figure out a way to hopefully make the show as good as it can be,” Carter said. He also noted that the final two episodes will center around the character Scully’s pregnancy.


Negotiations to renew the contracts of The View cohosts Meredith Vieira, Joy Behar and Star Jones have bogged down, according to TV Guide columnist J. Max Robins. Writing in the May 12 issue, Robins quoted an unnamed network insider as saying that following Disney’s recent round of layoffs, ABC is “trying to lowball everybody.” Although The View has become a hit in the 11a.m. hour, Jones and Behar reportedly earn only $300,000 a year according to Robins, while Vieira is paid about $500,000. Lisa Ling, the newest member, makes only $200,000, the columnist said.


A spokesman for the Screen Actors Guild has taken issue with numerous analysts who have suggested that Friday’s agreement between the Writers Guild of America and the Association of Motion Picture and TV Producers is likely to serve as a model for a similar settlement between SAG and the AMPTP. SAG spokesman Greg Krizman told Monday’s New York Times: “Everybody is telling us that the writers’ agreement is a template for us, but we’re trying to back away from that somewhat.” Nevertheless, an article in today’s Wall Street Journal quotes an unnamed labor lawyer who formerly negotiated labor contracts for the studios as saying: “Everyone expects SAG’s proposals to fairly closely mirror the WGA’s financial proposals.” In a statement on Friday, SAG and AFTRA said, “If the AMPTP and the networks are prepared — as they have assured us they are — to address the unique needs of actors, we are confident we can emulate this significant accomplishment of reaching an agreement without a work stoppage.” Among other things, the new industry contract with the WGA calls for a 3.5-percent pay increase for writers, higher residual fees, greater earnings from foreign and DVD sales, the right to visit sets, attend premiers and sit in on the cast’s readings of their scripts.


John Babcock Jr., the CEO of media publishing giant BPI, the parent company of the Hollywood Reporter, has given a ringing endorsement to the trade paper’s publisher, Robert Dowling, in the wake of the controversy surrounding the resignation of the Reporter‘s labor reporter, David Robb. Robb had quit after Dowling spiked an article that he had written suggesting that the paper’s gossip columnist had accepted favors from two Hollywood producers in exchange for favorable mentions in his column. Dowling assigned the article to other Reporter journalists. In a memo to the trade paper’s staff, Babcock accused other journalists of painting an “incomplete and obviously one-sided” version of what had occurred. He also underscored Dowling’s criticism of Robb’s article, saying that “Robb had become so emotionally invested in this story that any pretense of objectivity had long since been abandoned.” Without citing specific incidents, Babcock alleged that the issue “also involved claims of harassment (both internally and externally) along with overly aggressive and questionable reporting techniques which put the company at legal risk.” Dowling said in a letter appearing in the Reporter that the allegations of harassment had been made by executives of the Directors Guild of America after Robb allegedly threatened DGA Executive Director Jay Roth with an investigation of his personal affairs after Roth complained to Dowling about an article that Robb had written.


Brill Media, the publishing company formed by Court-TV founder Steven Brill, said Friday that it plans to launch a fee-based version of its online media newsmagazine Inside.com on July 1. The new site, it said, will reportedly combine content from Inside.com with material from other Brill-owned publications, including Folio, Cable World and the Kagan World Media newsletters. Inside, a magazine print version of the online site, which had been expected to be combined with Brill’s Content magazine as a new publication, Inside Content, has apparently been cast off. The statement said that “launching any new magazine in this economic environment doesn’t make sense.”


Rising Bollywood film star Fardeen Khan has been arrested in India for alleged possession of cocaine in the latest scandal to rock the Indian film industry. According to Monday’s India Express, the actor has confessed that he uses cocaine. “We are immune to shocks now,” an industry veteran told the newspaper, referring to numerous sensational arrests involving Bollywood figures during recent months.