Fantasia’s debut album “Free Yourself” was never going to beat new releases by U2 or Gwen Stefani and it probably never could have topped strong-selling recordings by the likes of Eminem or Shania Twain. Expectations weren’t that high. Still, the third “American Idol” winner became the first victor from the Fox talent show not to take the top spot on the Billboard sales list, moving fewer units than any of the show’s previous champs.

“Free Yourself” sold around 240,000 copies for the week ending Nov. 28, taking the No. 8 position on the Billboard chart. “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” the latest from U2, sold 840,000 copies to take the top position, followed by the 471,000 units moved for Eminem’s “Encore,” which had paced the chart the two weeks before.

In a crowded marketplace in which 19 albums sold at least 100,000 copies, Fantasia’s sales figures are relatively competitive, even if they mark a substantial decline for the commercial vitality of the “Idol” products.

‘Real Gilligan’ scores for TBS

The reality-show update of “Gilligan’s Island” brought some big ratings to the shores of TBS Tuesday night.

“The Real Gilligan’s Island” premiered to an audience of just over 4 million viewers at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday. A second episode, aired immediately after the debut, drew an additional 3.7 million people.

Equally important, if not more so, to the comedy-oriented network is the fact that a majority of those viewers – 2.68 million for the premiere and 2.45 million for the second episode – were adults 18-49, the demographic advertisers chase most fervently. Both episodes also drew more than a million viewers in the adults 18-34 subset.

The premiere’s 18-49 performance outdid that of broadcast networks Fox and UPN for the hour. Among men in that age range, “The Real Gilligan’s Island” beat four broadcast networks, all but CBS and ABC.

The series, from “The Bachelor” creator Mike Fleiss and Sherwood Schwartz, creator of the original “Gilligan’s Island,” fared far better than recent TBS unscripted shows “Outback Jack” and “He’s a Lady.” The premiere and an encore on sibling network TNT at 10 p.m. drew a combined 5.9 million viewers. “Outback Jack’s” debut and an encore drew 3.6 million people, while the combine number for “He’s a Lady” was only 2.9 million.

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“JEOPARDY!’ LEGEND-KILLER LASTS ONLY ONE DAY

The reign of the woman who dethroned “Jeopardy!” king Ken Jennings was considerably shorter than that of her predecessor.

Nancy Zerg, the Ventura, Calif., Realtor who ended Jennings’s 74-game, $2.5 million winning streak, failed to defend her position even once. Zerg ended up in third place – with a total of just $2 – on Wednesday’s edition of the syndicated game show.

A wealth management analyst named Katie Fitzgerald beat Zerg and fellow challenger Nathan Brownback to win the game, earning $13,400.

Zerg was trailing Fitzgerald by several thousand dollars in the Double Jeopardy round when she hit a Daily Double clue in the category “Military Training Bases.” She guessed wrong and lost $2,200, giving Fitzgerald an insurmountable lead.

All three players guessed wrong on the Final Jeopardy clue, in the category “The 18th Century”: “In 1790, the HMS Pandora sailed thousands of miles specifically to bring back this man.” Zerg’s question was “Who was Captain Bligh?,” while Fitzgerald and Brownback went with “Who was Captain Cook?” The correct response is “Who was Fletcher Christian?”

Despite her short reign as champ, Zerg’s place in pop-culture lore, as the person who beat the biggest money winner in game-show history, is intact. She joins noted streak breakers Babe Dahlgren (replaced Lou Gehrig after 2,130 consecutive games for the New York Yankees), Ryan Minor (replaced Cal Ripken after 2,632 straight games for the Baltimore Orioles) and Vivienne Nearing (beat Charles Van Doren on the 1950s game show “Twenty-One”).



“L&O’ STAR ORBACH FIGHTING CANCER

Long-time “Law & Order” star Jerry Orbach, currently shooting the latest spinoff of the NBC franchise, is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.

Orbach, 69, was diagnosed in the spring and has since been receiving treatment for the disease, the most common form of cancer among men in the United States. He hasn’t had surgery, says his manager, Robert Malcolm.

“We expect he’ll be fine,” Malcolm tells New York’s Daily News. “He’s been playing golf, shooting his episodes and doing real well.”

A Tony Award winner and three-time Emmy nominee, Orbach played Detective Lennie Briscoe on “Law & Order” for 12 seasons – the longest run of any actor on the series, now in its 15th year. He’ll reprise the character, now an investigator for the Manhattan DA’s office, when “Law & Order: Trial by Jury” debuts on NBC in the spring.

“Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf calls Orbach “one of the great actors of his generation.”

“He has been both a colleague and a friend for almost 15 years,” Wolf tells the paper. “He is dealing with an unfortunate medical situation right now. We expect him to make a full and swift recovery, and while he is receiving treatment, we will work around his schedule.”



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AP-NY-12-02-04 1650EST



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