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An Emmy category is reality

Reality programming is finally getting a seat at the big kids' table at the annual Primetime Emmy Awards. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' board of governors has voted to establish a competitive reality/competition program category for unscripted shows such as CBS's "Survivor," Fox's "American Idol," and NBC's "The Apprentice."

Three years ago, the academy responded to the spread of reality programming in primetime by creating a reality/competition program award, but it fell under the "special class" distinction, meaning that the winners were determined by a special panel of members, and there was the possibility of more than one winner each year.

Now, ATAS has voted to make the category a competitive one, open to the same nomination and final judging procedures as other major program and performer categories. The new award category specifically covers the post-"Survivor" wave of unscripted shows involving a competitive element.

After the announcement of last year's Primetime Emmy nominations, the academy took a fair amount of chiding from critics when the "special class" category turned out to be a motley assortment of series and specials. CBS's "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race" (the ultimate winner) and Fox's "American Idol" competed alongside NBC's "100 Years of Hope and Humor" and CBS's "AFI's 100 Years . . . 100 Passions: America's Greatest Love Stories."

"Our desire at the academy is to take a close look at the way things have been done in the past and make improvements when necessary," ATAS chairman Dick Askin said in a statement. "The new guidelines we have put into place will make for a better process and be more representative of television as it is today." Toward that end, the ATAS board also voted to increase (from three to six) the minimum number of episodes that a program must have to qualify for eligibility in the top comedy and drama series categories.

This change reflects the impact of pay and basic cable original series, where episodic orders tend to be shorter than the traditional 13- or 22-episode orders for broadcast TV series.

CBS, N.Y. Times cosponsor debate

CBS News announced yesterday it plans to cosponsor with The New York Times a live debate among the four Democratic presidential candidates Sunday at 11 a.m. Senators John Edwards and John Kerry, Representative Dennis Kucinich, and the Rev. Al Sharpton will participate.

The debate will be moderated by Dan Rather, and questioners will include Times reporters as well as those from from WCBS-TV, the CBS-owned station in New York. WBZ-TV (Channel 4) will broadcast the event live.


Regis looks like a million again

NEW YORK -- Television viewers welcomed Regis Philbin and "Super Millionaire" back with open arms.

The new version of the game show that used to be known as "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" was Sunday night's most popular broadcast show, with 17.5 million viewers, Nielsen Media Research said on Monday.

The show competed directly with the final episode of the Emmy-winning comedy "Sex and the City" on HBO. Ratings were not immediately available for the pay cable program.

Sunday was the first of five "Super Millionaire" episodes running this week as part of a sweeps-month stunt. ABC executives promised to resist repeating its mistake of overusing Philbin. But the ratings offer temptation: It was the slumping network's most-watched Sunday night without sports programming this season.


Globe on NECN

Here's what's happening on "Around the Globe" today on NECN:

* 12:30 p.m.: "Globe at Home" -- Life at Home Editor Wendy Fox and chef Ron Boucher show chicken-cutting techniques.

* 4 p.m.: "Around the Globe"

* 6:30 p.m.: "New England Business Day"

* 8 p.m.: "NewsNight" Schedule is subject to change.

Talk of the dial

8:35 a.m. WBIX-AM (1060) -- "Early Exchange" with Dave Anthony and Bonnie Bleidt. Guest: Kate Wendleton, president of the Five O'clock Club.

Other radio highlights

4 p.m. WCRB-FM (102.5) -- Branford Marsalis plays Satie, Faure & Debussy; Handel's Water Music Suite in G; Holst's "Jupiter."

8 p.m. WHRB-FM (95.3) -- Detroit Symphony Orchestra in concert.

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