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In the news

Presidential hopeful Dean hits the Leno show

By ERIC DEGGANS and ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published October 1, 2003

LOS ANGELES - Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean poked fun at his fundraising success Tuesday in his first appearance on the the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

In a film clip, Dean was shown playing a guitar on a street next to signs reading, "Your change for real change" and "We'll strum for presidency." People were shown placing money in an open guitar case.

Posted updates on his Web site showed Dean had raised more than $14.2-million in a three-month period, breaking the Democratic presidential record for a single quarter set by then-President Clinton, who raised $10.3-million over three months in 1995.

No more DVDs, videos for Oscar voters

LOS ANGELES - Hollywood implemented an antipiracy plan Tuesday banning special DVDs and videotapes for Oscar voters, angering champions of smaller movies that have taken home an increasing share of the film industry's highest honors.

Academy Awards voters will have to catch most of their movies in theaters after the major studios and their trade group, the Motion Picture Association of America, agreed to stop sending "screener" copies to the 5,600 Oscar voters.

Mindful of the piracy that has sucked profits from the music industry, studios feared that screener copies could be used by bootleggers to mass-produce pirated DVDs and tapes.

Ventura steps into talk-show ring

After months of speculation that it would never happen, ex-wrestler and former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura is debuting his weekly MSNBC talk show at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Jesse Ventura's America will be taped Fridays at the studios of Twin Cities Public Television in St. Paul, Minn. The show will feature Ventura before a live audience, delivering his take on the news with some guests.

Today show host Katie Couric mentioned the show's debut Tuesday while introducing Ventura, who had been appearing on NBC's morning show and on MSNBC as a pundit. A spokeswoman for MSNBC said Ventura was not available for comment.

Ventura's show was supposed to debut as a weekday program in March. But MSNBC announced in August the show would instead appear weekly on Saturdays - feeding rumors the onetime XFL sideline commentator wasn't working out as a host.

MSNBC denies that the Saturday timeslot is a comedown for Ventura.

"We actually have a higher viewership on the weekends compared with weekdays," wrote Jeremy Gaines, MSNBC's vice president of corporate communications, in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times. "Saturdays has long been a time period for political talk shows (i.e., The Capital Gang on CNN)."

Ventura was elected Minnesota governor in 1998 as a third-party candidate, and quickly became known for his conflicts with reporters. He decided not to run for re-election last year. The last high-profile show to air on MSNBC Saturdays, hosted by firebrand radio talk show host Michael Savage, was canceled in July after Savage leveled a slur at a gay caller.

- ERIC DEGGANS, Times TV/Media Critic

The thrill is gone

Television viewers didn't exactly rush to their sets to catch up on old favorites during the first week of the new season.

The audience for NBC's Friends season premiere was down by 28 percent from last year's season opener. For CBS's CSI: Miami, it was down 25 percent. Frasier down 31 percent. NYPD Blue: down 22 percent. ER: down 13 percent.

Even the nearly 27-million people who tuned into television's most popular show, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, represented a drop of 12 percent from last year's premiere, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Overall, viewership for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox was down 3 percent from opening week last year, down 7 percent among the prized 18-to-49-year-old demographic. Much of the decline can be tied to Fox, which has held off most of its premieres until after baseball season.

"These shows are aging," said Marc Berman, an analyst for Media Week Online. "People are getting tired of them. And they're not finding new shows that are intriguing them."

ABC's viewership was up 8 percent over last year, according to preliminary Nielsen figures.

Partly that was due to the curiosity factor following John Ritter's death that brought a big audience to8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter last week. And partly it was because ABC did so poorly last year it was hard to get much worse, analysts say.

Hope & Faith, the new sitcom starring Kelly Ripa and Faith Ford, had a strong start, as viewers seemed to welcome the return of ABC's family-oriented Friday night lineup.

CBS has a potential hit with the Friday spiritual drama, Joan of Arcadia, and also did well with another forensics drama on Sunday, Cold Case.

NBC's Whoopi has faded after a strong preseason start. NBC's Coupling, CBS'sThe Brotherhood of Poland, N.H. and ABC's Threat Matrix are new series that could be in trouble.

- Associated Press

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