As expected, Americans were fixated on their television sets Tuesday night as some 60 million people tuned into the major networks for news coverage surrounding the devastating terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Viewing levels peaked between 8:30 and 9 pm when President Bush addressed the nation. Of course, that 60 million figure doesn't include the millions glued to cable channels such as CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. (Reportedly, 75 percent of all TV viewers were watching one of the broadcast or cable nets a number that some have called extraordinary.)
On a whole, critics have given high marks to the wall-to-wall coverage. "Mistakes have been few and swiftly corrected under the most trying of circumstances," enthused Ed Martin of the industry newsletter The Myers Report. "Every anchor person and every reporter on every network is to be commended." USA Today columnist Peter Johnson, meanwhile, applauded the TV news industry's cooperative and non-competitive spirit. "They've put the story and viewer interest first," he said, citing their decision to share all footage on Tuesday. "That most of the networks aren't trumpeting their ratings or noting their competitors' failings is significant."
Well, there was one skirmish: On Wednesday, CNN reportedly called members of the print media touting its Tuesday ratings a move New York Post critic Adam Buckman decried as shameless. "Who on Earth would call at a time like this to talk about ratings?" he groaned. Fox News said what its rival did was "despicable."
It was unclear when the four major networks planned to end its 'round-the-clock news coverage and return to normal programming, although NBC was hoping to do so Friday evening. ABC, CBS and NBC have delayed the launch of the new fall season by one week (Sept. 25 instead of Sept. 17). The WB had planned to kick off its season tonight with the debut of a new, revamped comedy block, but late yesterday it reversed that position. Said a network rep: "In recognition of the national day of prayer and remembrance, the WB will postpone its Friday night premieres." Fox and UPN are expected to proceed as scheduled.
Other attack-related developments in the TV and film worlds:NBC is mulling what it will do about two projects: Its new reality series Lost, which includes footage of the World Trade Center, and an upcoming five-part Law & Order miniseries, Terror, that features a terrorism-related plot. Also, producers are editing out images of the WTC featured in the opening credits of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Finally, production has been halted on Third Watch, which revolves around New York City's Fire Dept. emergency units. CBS's Big Brother broke its own rules and informed remaining housemates Monica, Nicole and Will of Tuesday's tragic events. Monica's cousin, Tamitha, is among the WTC victims missing. Big Brother's finale will air either Sept. 20 or Sept. 27. America's Most Wanted host John Walsh will preside over a special two-hour Fox broadcast that will focus on Tuesday's attacks. According to Entertainment Tonight, Walsh chartered a bus early Wednesday in Bloomington, Ind., and headed for New York. The 53rd annual Primetime Emmy Awards has been rescheduled for Oct. 7. Sony Pictures has removed a movie trailer for its upcoming pic Spider-Man, which features a scene in which a helicopter carrying robbers gets trapped in a huge spider web strung between the WTC's twin towers. The sequence, however, does not appear in the finished film. Paramount has delayed the Sept. 21 release of its romantic comedy Sidewalks of New York. While the film does not contain a terrorism-related plot, the title alone led the studio to push back its opening. The in-the-works Jackie Chan comedy Nosebleed was to have the action star play a WTC window washer who battles terrorists attempting to bomb the Statue of Liberty. "It might have been written that way, but that's not the way we're going to do it," MGM's Amanda Lundberg told USA Today. Fox has yanked promos of its upcoming drama 24 (bowing Oct. 30), which shows a plane being blown up by a bomb. Most Broadway shows reopened Thursday night after going dark for two days. All theaters dimmed their lights for one minute prior to the beginning of the shows. While many films are being delayed, two pics will be released as scheduled this weekend: The Sony thriller Glass House and the Keanu Reeves baseball drama Hardball from Paramount.