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TV Bulletin Board (Feb. 28)

Beast and the beauties: Vincent Pastore, the Beckhams

***Former Sopranos co-star Vincent Pastore has whacked himself from the fourth edition of ABC's Dancing with the Stars.

The 60-year-old actor trained for a week before deciding he couldn't cut it.

"I didn't realize just how physically demanding it would be for me," Pastore said in a statement. "Unable to put forth my best effort, I felt it appropriate to step aside and give someone else the opportunity."

ABC hasn't said yet whether it will hire another celebrity to step in for Pastore. Dancing with the Stars returns to ABC on March 19.

***NBC has signed Victoria Beckham, the former "Posh Spice," to star in her own six-episode reality series this summer. NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly says there's a demand for it.

"The series will give viewers a glimpse into what makes Victoria so popular and admired as one of the most glamorous women in the world," Reilly said in an NBC press release. "She makes news wherever she goes and our audience can now become insiders in this fascinating personal view of what being 'Posh' truly represents."

That's why Reilly gets paid the big bucks -- to swallow hard and put his name to something like that.

Beckham, ex-member of The Spice Girls, is married to soccer superstar David Beckham. She also has her own lines of jeans, sunglasses, perfume and B.S.

***NBC has renewed the underrated Las Vegas for a fifth season. ABC will bring back the fall series Six Degrees on March 23. It will replace various Friday repeats at 8 p.m. central.

The network also will premiere the new drama series October Road on March 15. It's the saga of a bestselling author who tries to combat writer's block by returning to his small Massachusetts hometown. The cast mostly is made up of newcomers, save for Tom Berenger as the writer's widowed father, a k a "The Commander."

October Road will replace Men In Trees at 9 p.m. central on Thursdays, following ABC juggernaut Grey's Anatomy.

TV Bulletin Board (Feb. 27)

Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker celebrate their big Oscar wins.

Final national Nielsen numbers are in for Sunday night's 79th annual Oscars, and they're a bit higher than preliminary estimates.

The three hour, 51 minute telecast on ABC averaged 40.2 million viewers, an increase of 1.3 million over last year's. But eight of the last 10 ceremonies have drawn larger crowds, with Oscar's all-time low of 33 million set in 2003 during the outset of the war in Iraq. The record is 55.2 million viewers in 1998, when all-time box office champ Titanic won as Best Picture.

Sunday's Oscars, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, also topped the weekly ratings with advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds, drawing 18.4 million of them. The runnerup in that demo was Wednesday's American Idol with 16.1 million.

As previously noted, Dallas-Fort Worth Nielsens showed Thursday's Grey's Anatomy episode luring more 18-to-49-year-olds than the Oscars. But in the national ratings, Grey's finished fourth with 15.2 million, just behind Tuesday's Idol.

TV Bulletin Board (Feb. 22)

***Al Gore's Oscar-nominated documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, will have its world TV premiere March 11 on Showtime.

Show time is 7 p.m. central, 8 eastern. The cable network will follow the film with an updated commentary from Gore on how, in his view, global warming has worsened since Inconvenient Truth's release. It's up for two Academy Awards Sunday night, including Best Documentary Feature.

***American Idol executive producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick have been hired to helm the 59th annual Primetime Emmy Awards, scheduled for Sept. 16 on Fox.

Lythgoe says the Emmys both celebrate excellence in television and are "excellent television" in themselves. "Star power, production values, drama, suspense, tears and euphoria, just like an American Idol finale."

Well, they're not quite that exciting.

***A new 10-episode Spike TV reality series, Murder, will be hosted by veteran Arlington, TX detective Tommy Le Noir. Each one-hour installment deploys amateur sleuths trying to correctly solve an already solved "real homicide pulled directly from police files," Spike says.

The apprentice dicks are given 48 hours to make their deductions after being presented with the same evidence detectives originally had. The series is scheduled to premiere this summer.

***Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will be Jay Leno's featured guest on the Friday, Feb. 23 Tonight Show. Soap star Alison Sweeney ("Sami" on Days of Our Lives) is replacing Caroline Rhea as host of NBC's next edition of The Biggest Loser. And veteran journalist Lee Cullum will be returning to Dallas-based KERA-TV as host of the monthly CEO, which launches on Friday, February 23 at 7:30 p.m. central.

TV Bulletin Board (Feb. 15)

San Antonio's Haley Scarnato and Sundance Head of Porter

***Two Texans remain among American Idol's two-dozen finalists.

Intriguingly named Sundance Head of Porter is the 28-year-old son of singer Roy Head, whose 1965 single "Treat Her Right" topped the charts. San Antonio's Haley Scarnato, 24, is recently engaged and has been performing since age 15. Urp, she says Celine Dion is her hero. For videos and more info on these and others, go here.

***Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher is joining CBS' pro football pre-game show, The NFL Today. No one's leaving, so it'll be extra-crowded with new teammates Dan Marino, Shannon Sharpe, Boomer Esiason and James Brown.

In a conference call Thursday, Cowher said he expects to be constantly asked about returning to the playing field.

"I'm pretty much committed at this point to try to do the best I can for CBS," he said.

***Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions will be teaming with mega-bestselling author Mitch Albom for another TV movie. His For One More Day
novel, still near the top of the charts, will air on ABC in December 2007, the network says.

Winfrey and Albom previously collaborated on 1999's Tuesdays With Morrie, which won four Emmys. The film starred the late Jack Lemmon as the title character, with Hank Azaria as Albom.

TV Bulletin Board (Feb. 13)

Bill Engall, longtime comic, and Tiki Barber, instant journalist

***A day after officially retiring from the New York Giants, former running back Tiki Barber has joined NBC's Today as a featured correspondent.

Barber also will be an analyst on next season's Football Night in America, which precedes NBC's Sunday night package of NFL games.

NBC News president Steve Capus said Barber has "that natural curiosity that makes a journalist tick. He personifies the fresh perspective and creative sensibility that the audience at Today expects."

Telegenic Tiki, a sought-after hot property, worked periodically for Fox News Channel's Fox & Friends during his NFL career. He's scheduled to join Today in April.

***Funnyman Bill Engvall, who cut his comedy teeth in North Texas clubs, is getting his own sitcom on TBS cable. He'll play suburban Denver family counselor Will Pearson, who of course could use a little counseling himself. Engvall, also a member of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, has signed to do eight episodes, with the premiere of The Bill Engvall Show set for this summer.

***The Sci Fi Channel will bring Battlestar Galactica back for a fourth season tentatively scheduled to start in January of next year. And Comedy Central already has renewed The Sarah Silverman Program for a second season after strong ratings for last month's premiere.

***ABC's World News with Charles Gibson inched into first place last week ahead of the longtime frontrunning NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. For the week of Feb. 5-9, World News averaged 9.7 million viewers nationally compared to 9.52 million viewers for Nightly. The ABC program also narrowly won among 25-to-54-year-olds, the key advertiser target audience for news programming.

The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric placed third in both measurements, drawing 7.99 million homes.

TV Bulletin Board (Feb. 9)

They've got games. Magician Penn Jillette and comic Jeff Foxworthy

***NBC's Identity, returning sometime this spring, is holding a five-city tryout that ends in Dallas on Feb. 23-24.

Hosted by illusionist Penn Jillette, the big-money game, with a grand prize of $500 grand, garnered decent ratings during a five-night run in December. The Dallas casting call will be at the Westin DFW Airport Hotel, 4545 W. John Carpenter Fwy. in Irving. Times are from 4 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 23 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 24.

***Fox has signed country comedian Jeff Foxworthy to host its new Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?, set to premiere on Feb. 27 following a little show called American Idol.

Reality maestro Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice) says Foxworthy's humor is "an ideal component to this family-friendly format," in which adults get to see how dumb they are by testing their knowledge of material being taught in fifth grade. Foxworthy's tagline, "You might be a redneck," could be reworked slightly for the occasion. All together now: "You might be a dumb-ass!"

***Victorious Super Bowl XLI quarterback Peyton Manning will make his first post-game guest appearance on the Tuesday (Feb. 13) edition of Late Show with David Letterman. The host is a native of Indiana and purportedly a "longtime" Indianapolis Colts fan.

TV Bulletin Board (Feb. 8)

Singer Norah Jones puts Katie Couric in her side pocket.

***North Texas-raised singing star Norah Jones, whose third CD, Not Too Late, is soaring up the charts, will join Katie Couric for an interview on 60 Minutes Sunday (Feb. 11).

Jones tells Couric that she still feels guilt about winning eight Grammy awards in 2003. CBS just so happens to be televising the 49th annual Grammys immediately following 60 Minutes.

"I felt like I went to somebody else's birthday party and I ate all the cake without anybody else getting a piece," Jones says. "I feel like I've had my cake and I've eaten it and it tasted great and I don't need another piece." Sweet.

***Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is set to guest on ESPN's NBA Live: Bring It Home, a six episode "reality competition" premiering Sunday (Feb. 11) at 6 p.m. central (7 eastern).

The show will pit the eight best players of the video game in a series of elimination rounds. Winner gets $100 grand. Besides Cuban, NBA players Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison and Baron Davis are scheduled to appear.

***The CW's One Tree Hill is filming a special episode this week in Honey Grove, Texas (pop. 1,746). It's the community's grand prize in a contest sponsored by the coming-of-age drama. The eight Honey Grovers who submitted the winning video also will get cameo roles in the episode, scheduled to air later this season.

***ABC's Lost and CBS' CSI: NY both claimed victory in their first Wednesday night matchup.

CSI had a narrow national edge in total viewers, 15 million to 14.5 million. Lost easily won among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.

CBS' Criminal Minds, in its first telecast after a big post-Super Bowl splash, managed a very respectable 16.3 million viewers opposite Fox's American Idol, which had 27.9 million. Idol drew almost triple the number of 18-to-49-year-olds, though.

TV Bulletin Board (Feb. 5)

Peyton Manning and the Dungys celebrate their Super Bowl triumph over the Bears; Mandy Patinkin of Criminal Minds ruminates.

The official national stats are in on Super bowl XVI, which ranks as the second most-watched ever with an average of 93.15 million viewers. That's just a hair behind Super Bowl XXX between the victorious Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. That Jan. 28, 1996 game drew 94.08 million viewers.

Super Bowl XLI's 42.6 Nielsen rating ranks just 21st on the all-time list. Still on top is Super Bowl XVI (Jan. 24, 1982), which had a 49.1 rating for the San Francisco 49ers win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Rating points now are worth far more homes and viewers, though. And ad rates have ballooned from $324,300 for a 30-second spot back then to the $2.6 million price tag for Sunday's game.

CBS' followup act, a special telecast of Criminal Minds, lured 26.2 million viewers, finishing far behind last year's haul of 38.1 million viewers for ABC's post-Super Bowl episode of Grey's Anatomy. The record-holder is still Super Bowl XXX's followup Friends special, which had 52.9 million viewers.

Craig Ferguson mopped up with a post-local newscast edition of Late Late Show, which kept 5.2 million viewers either up or dozing while the TV set remained on. It was the show's largest crowd ever, no matter whom the host, says CBS.

TV Bulletin Board (Feb. 1)

***It'll be no more Reba on The CW after a one-hour series finale on Sunday, Feb. 18.

The network announced Thursday that it's dropping the countrified sitcom, which stars Reba McEntire as divorced Texas soccer mom Reba Hart. Reba had a six-year lifespan, which made it the now defunct WB's longest-running comedy series. The show premiered on Oct. 5, 2001 and survived to see a partial sixth season when it made its way to CW last November.

***Sportscaster Bob Costas has been named to host the prestigious George Foster Peabody Awards, which will have a 66th annual luncheon ceremony on June 4 at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Manhattan. This year's winners will be announced on April 5 from the University of Georgia.