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David Letterman gets another ratings bump from his sex and blackmail scandal

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By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, March 11, 2010

David Letterman's job security continues to be buoyed by developing news about his shagging of interns/staffers on his show -- a lesson to all those TV industry navel-lint pickers who predicted the story would hobble Letterman's TV career because the American public, and advertisers, would not stand for such brazen behavior on the part of its on-air talent.

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About 4 million people tuned in to see what Letterman would have to say about the guilty plea entered Tuesday by a former TV news producer who admitted he'd tried to shake down the late-night host to the tune of $2 million by exposing Letterman's taste in interns/staffers. That's up noticeably, by late-night standards, from the 3.7 million he averaged the previous Tuesday.

Robert "Joe" Halderman pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny, admitting he tried to blackmail Letterman by threatening to make public the comic's sexual activities with people working for his Worldwide Pants production company.

Halderman's guilty plea robs Letterman of a potential ratings bonanza during a trial that was, according to The Ladies of River City Who Cover Television, sure to get ugly.

Some small consolation: Halderman's sentencing is set for May 4, during the May sweeps. Letterman is sure to have something to say about the sentencing, which may goose his ratings one last time and during that important ratings period.

In fairness, the 4 million-ish who appear to have tuned in Tuesday are nowhere near the nearly 6 million who watched on Thursday, Oct. 1, when Letterman first revealed what most Reporters Who Cover Television had been hearing for ages: He had shagged interns/staffers on his show over the years. That night, Letterman told his national audience he was revealing this information because a guy was trying to shake him down with information about his dalliances. Halderman was arrested that same day.

The following Monday, when Letterman apologized on air to his wife-and-mother-of-his-child, Regina Lasko, he clocked nearly as big a crowd: 5.7 million viewers.

No D.C. 'Housewives'?

"Real Housewives of D.C."-obsessed reporters who were expecting Bravo to unveil the cast during the network's so-called "upfront" (a.k.a. "new schedule") announcement Wednesday were taken aback when the NBC Universal cable network instead announced it had greenlighted a new "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" and made absolutely no mention of "RHoDC."

Some assumed the worst and took their grief to Twitter:

"Coming soon to Bravo: The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. But no word on the DC installment," tweeted one.

"Hmm, [the first reporter] raises a good point: it's March, and we haven't heard anything about The Real Housewives of DC yet. What's going on?" tweeted another.

At last year's upfront, Bravo had unveiled the cast of "Real Housewives of New Jersey." But, a Bravo insider points out to the TV Column, that year the "upfront" orgy of advertiser schmoozing happened about six weeks before "Real Housewives of New Jersey" was going to debut -- and the network traditionally unveils its "Real Housewives" casts about six to eight weeks before the show's launch. So, last year was just kismet? We're dubious.

But, anyway, we think we can safely write off a "Real Housewives of D.C." debut in the next six to eight weeks, right? But will we ever see a "Real Housewives of D.C." on Bravo's lineup? And whither goeth the Salahis?

A Bravo rep began to tap-dance when we called to find out what was up with "Real Housewives of D.C." not being mentioned in the network's upfront announcement, then finally settled on saying: "No announcement was made regarding 'Real Housewives of D.C.' "

Okey dokey.

Ticking clock for '24'

Trade paper Variety is reporting that this season will be "24's" last on Fox. The network is not commenting. The silence is deafening.

Through last week, the serialized improbable romp was averaging 11.7 million viewers -- down more than a million compared with last season at the same time. More damning, it's finishing third in its time slot behind CBS's comedies and ABC's "The Bachelor," both among viewers of all ages and also among the 18-to-49-year-old viewers who are Fox's target audience. The most recent four episodes suffered the smallest ratings in that age bracket in the series's history.

On a happier note, Fox's film division has hired a screenwriter to pen that "24" movie they've been threatening to make for years -- so Jack Bauer will live on and Kiefer Sutherland's movie career may be raised from the dead. Ironic, huh?


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