Wednesday night's special episode of "The West Wing," which addressed issues of terrorism and racial profiling, attracted the second-largest audience ever for NBC's White House drama.
The network said Thursday that the episode, written by series creator Aaron Sorkin and produced in less than three weeks, drew 24.55 million viewers. The 2001-2002 season premiere, a two-hour special, drew 25.05 million viewers.
"This is one of those mornings when it feels great to be a broadcaster," said NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker in a statement issued by the network Thursday. "We are thrilled by the fact that millions of families gathered around their televisions to watch such an intelligent and thought-provoking program."
Airing immediately after "The West Wing," the Emmy-winning drama, "Law & Order," attracted the largest audience in its 12-year history. NBC said 22.7 million viewers tuned in to the show.
JOAN RIVERS WILL SIT THIS ONE OUT
E! Entertainment has announced that Joan Rivers and her daughter, Melissa, will not be at their familiar post on red carpet during pre-show coverage of the Emmy Awards on Sunday.
E!, which will carry seven hours of live pre- and post-show coverage of the Emmys, issued a statement saying: "We eagerly await having Joan and Melissa back on the red carpet for the Golden Globes in January."
The statement quoted Rivers as saying: "Melissa and I felt it would be inappropriate to take our traditional places on the red carpet this year."
The New York Post reports that there is some disagreement about whether Rivers is OK with that.
According to the paper, Rivers told an E! colleague on Tuesday that she resigned from the cable channel because of the manner in which E! handled the decision not to feature her red carpet schmooze this year.
The Post said that Rivers, reached by phone, had no comment.
Rivers told USA Today it was her decision not to do the red carpet this year.
"I thought it was too soon," she said, "to be standing there, saying, 'Hey, what are you wearing! Turn around, girlfriend!'"
She said her decision was largely informed by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' decision to make the event a subdued affair, out of respect for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
"I don't want to stand there like a fool," she said. "If it's going to be a somber evening, I want to treat it appropriately."
'BUFFY' OPENS BIG ON UPN
UPN is looking pretty smart so far, for its decision to pay big money to get "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" away from the WB.
The show's two-hour season premiere on Tuesday scored its second-largest audience ever, attracting more than 7.5 million viewers. It also enjoyed its largest-ever 18-49 and 18-34 audience.
UPN is paying $2.3 million per episode for "Buffy."
Ratings news was not so happy for ABC and "Seinfeld" alumnus Jason Alexander. His new comedy, "Bob Patterson," finished third in its 9 p.m. time slot, despite a blue chip promotional effort by the network.
NBC's new offbeat entry, "Scrubs," is off to a promising start. It finished first in 10 p.m. hour in total viewers and all key demographic segments.
CBS won Tuesday night in total viewers. NBC was second.
TAX LAW CHANGE MAY CUT CANADIAN PRODUCTION
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Canadian government is preparing to eliminate a provision in that country's tax code that has provided a major financial incentive for movie and TV producers to take production out of the United States and into Canada.
The Canadian finance minister announced plans recently to abolish the tax shelter that producers have said enables them to shoot projects for up to 6 percent less than it would cost to make the same shows in Los Angeles.
While the prospect of losing the tax advantage might discourage producers from using facilities and locations in Canada, it might not necessarily encourage them to keep more production in Hollywood.
One studio executive told the Times that there are other alternatives besides Canada -- including Prague, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Mexico -- that are "still significantly cheaper than shooting in the U.S."
Some Canadian film officials said U.S. producers would still bring their work north of the border to take advantage of relatively cheap, skilled labor and a rate of exchange that favors the Canadian dollar.
'GANGS' PREMIERE DELAYED?
According to a report in Daily Variety, Miramax will hold off on releasing Martin Scorsese's new movie, "Gangs of New York," until early 2002, abandoning earlier plans to release the movie during the upcoming holiday season.
Variety said there is a chance the studio will give the period epic a limited release in December in order to qualify it for this year's Academy Awards.
"Gangs of New York" -- starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day-Lewis in the story of rival Irish and Italian gangs in 19th century New York City -- is still officially scheduled for a Dec. 21 release. Speculation grew that the premiere would be put off after Miramax moved another high profile movie -- "Kate & Leopold," starring Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman -- into the same release slot.
COLUMBUS DAY PARADE BANS 'SOPRANOS' CAST AGAIN
According to a report in the New York Daily News, organizers of the city's annual Columbus Day Parade have decided again this year to ban the cast of "The Sopranos" from taking part in the march.
The Columbus Citizens Foundation, which organizes the parade, has condemned the HBO drama as offensive to Italian-Americans.
The paper quoted Columbus Weekend chairman Max Di Fabio as saying that the actors from "The Sopranos" are "not welcome" to take part in the parade.
"It would be like an atheist preaching in a church," said Di Fabio.
Paul Borghese, president of the Guild of Italian American Actors, told the paper that the Columbus Citizens Foundation had agreed to allow James Gandolfini, Edie Falco and the rest of the actors on "The Sopranos" to ride on the guild's float.
'LATER' MOVING AHEAD
NBC has named a team of three executive producers for the retooled version of "Later," starring MTV personality Carson Daly, which is scheduled to premiere on the network in January 2002.
The producing team includes former "Today" show producer David Friedman, veteran NBC programming executive Lisa Leingang and Maverick Recording Company boss Guy Oseary, who also happens to be Daly's manager.
Oseary's involvement in the show is likely to help with booking top-name music talent. Madonna is one of his partners at Maverick Records, and Oseary has helped launch the careers of such recording artists as Alanis Morissette, the Deftones and Prodigy.