TUBE TALK Patriotism and altruism kept many Americans glued to their sets this weekend. Friday’s all-star telethon ”America: A Tribute to Heroes,” drew an average of 59 million viewers, with as many as 89 million tuning in over the course of the telecast, which aired on some 30 networks. Final figures of how much money the show raised for disaster relief will be released later today, but early estimates are as high as $110 million. (Read EW.com’s review of the show here.)
President Bush’s 40-minute speech Thursday night was the most-watched presidential speech ever, averaging 82 million viewers on the four networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) and five cable news channels (CNBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, Headline News, and MSNBC) that aired it live. The only program this year seen by more viewers than these two shows was the Super Bowl, which averaged 84 million viewers. Even the Miss America Pageant on Saturday saw a patriotic upsurge of 7 percent from last year, for an average of 13.5 million viewers….
The season premiere of ”The West Wing,” already delayed, will be pushed back one more week to October 10, with a newly penned episode Aaron Sorkin has written in response to the terror attacks set to run October 3. This episode, called ”Isaac and Ishmael,” will take viewers out of the show’s ongoing storyline; not only will it push back the resolution of last season’s cliffhanger finale, but it will also open with the actors addressing the viewers before stepping into character. It will deal with a terrorist attack similar to the ones on September 11 without referring to them specifically. ”We didn’t feel comfortable going back to our fictional White House without taking a moment,” producer John Wells told Variety. ”Hopefully, we can say something that’s useful and not at any way appear like we’re trying to exploit the tragic events that occurred.” He added, ”Hopefully, it will make people talk and think. You can’t pretend this didn’t happen.”
However, TV networks are still scrambling to postpone and revise programs with now-questionable plot and dialogue elements. ”The Agency,” CBS’ new CIA drama, has pulled two early episodes, scrapping one with a London bomb threat attributed to Osama bin Laden and delaying one dealing with a threatened anthrax attack on Washington. It will debut instead with an episode about a plot to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, with some scenes recycled from the bin Laden episode.
NBC is holding back a terrorist-themed episode of its new ”UC Undercover,” with writer Shane Salerno rushing to craft a replacement episode. And Fox has confirmed earlier reports that it will edit out a key scene in the premiere of its intelligence drama ”24,” in which a terrorist blows up a plane.
Even comedies are affected. ”Friends” has altered an episode that makes light of Monica’s obsessiveness in getting herself and Chandler to the airport three hours before their honeymoon flight, a margin that no longer seems ridiculous. And ”The Ellen Show” has cut a punchline out of its debut episode, in which Ellen DeGeneres’ character talks of losing her job in the dotcom collapse, to which another character responds, ”I hope you didn’t get caught in the building.” And the old episode of ”The Simpsons” in which the family visits New York and the World Trade Center
, has been pulled from syndication.