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TV Notes: 11/11/03

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Newhart stays humble despite 'ER,' 'Elf' roles

Bob Newhart says Virginia, his wife of almost 40 years, has kept him humble.

"I married the right woman; she doesn't let me get too full of myself, as much as I've tried," Newhart said in a teleconference.

"On Wednesdays in Los Angeles, we have to separate the recyclables from the nonrecyclables, so last Tuesday, she's saying it's time to take out the recyclables. I say to her, 'Do you think Joanne Woodward says to Paul Newman to take out the recyclables?'

"Her response was, 'If you were Paul Newman, I wouldn't ask you to take out the recyclables either,' " Newhart said. He laughed. It's the kind of moderately hearty laugh that goes well with his easygoing demeanor.

"Laughter has a lot to do with longevity," the 74-year-old Oak Park, Ill., native said. "I'm still doing standup. It keeps me young; it keeps me thinking young."

Newhart's everyman appeal continues to work for him as he plays Ben Hollander, an architectural model maker who's losing his eyesight on "ER." Newhart's three-episode arc ends in Thursday's episode, airing at 10 p.m. on NBC.

It's a rare dramatic role for him, but, as usual, he makes it believable.

"I feel most comfortable in comedy. I thought it was somewhat courageous of [executive producer] John Wells and 'ER' producers to approach me with this," Newhart said. "I found it very intriguing. When I read the script, I knew who this guy was."

The TV sitcom icon continues to act in big-screen comedies. He is portraying Papa Elf, who raises Will Ferrell's all-too-human character, in the new movie "Elf."

Still, Newhart doesn't expect to ever star in a TV sitcom again.

"I don't feel badly about that," he said. "It's somebody else's time; it's another generation's time. I have no complaints."

(By Dave Mason, Scripps Howard News Service)

CBS coming on strong

Finally, some good news for a television network -- at least one of them.

Just under 30 million people saw "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" on CBS Thursday night, making it the most-watched TV program so far in what has been a lackluster fall season, Nielsen Media Research said.

The "CSI" episode, a particularly suspenseful one, spearheaded a memorable evening for CBS on television's most competitive night.

By a narrow margin, CBS' "Survivor: Pearl Islands" also beat NBC's "Friends" in the ratings.

Until a couple of years ago, NBC owned Thursday nights. But the emergence of "CSI" and "Survivor" has made CBS much more competitive, and the network frequently has more viewers now on Thursdays.

More importantly, CBS beat NBC this Thursday -- and for the second time in three weeks -- among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic most sought by advertisers. This is the first time in memory that this has happened.

"Thursday has been the premium dollar night in the advertising market and, up until a few years ago, it was totally controlled by NBC," said David Poltrack, chief researcher for CBS.

NBC has once again had trouble establishing a new program on Thursday. The highly touted comedy "Coupling" has already been canceled.

More puzzling has been a ratings decline for "Friends" in its final season. Executives expect the series to rebound as it approaches its farewell episode in May, but "Friends" will be competing next spring with a "Survivor" edition that features favorite players from past games.

(By David Bauder, The Associated Press)

Come on get happy

VH1 is reviving "The Partridge Family" and will begin searching for a group of actors who can sing and play instruments.

And, this being the 21st century, viewers will get to see that process in a reality show. Whether the chosen "Family" actually moves on into a scripted series updating the early-1970s "Partridge Family" is up in the air; VH1 has thus far ordered only a pilot.


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