SWEEPS Bolstered by the success of Regis Philbin’s ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” ABC ended its first No. 1 season in five years. The network, which finished last year in third place, averaged 14.27 million prime time watchers, taking the top spot for fall, winter, and spring sweeps for first time since 1978-1979 when the net had ”Happy Days,” ”Charlie’s Angels,” and ”Barney Miller.” Last year’s winner, CBS, finished at No. 2 (12.42 million viewers), while NBC slid to No. 3 (12.34 million). Three ”Millionaire” episodes took the top spots for most season’s most popular shows, knocking ”ER” – which had placed first three out of the last four seasons – down to No.4.
CATFIGHT Divine Brown, the hooker whose on-the-job activities got Hugh Grant in hot water back in 1995, offers her words of wisdom about Grant and Liz Hurley’s recent split in today’s edition of the British tab the Sun. Divine says Hurley was to blame for the breakup, because she was ”too much of a snob to be open with her man,” and that she could have given Hurley ”some tips” if only the actress had asked. The Sun ran the interview under the headline ”You Blew It, Liz.” Or, maybe she didn’t.
CABLEFIGHT Walt Disney seems to have come out the victor in the squabble with Time Warner (EW.com’s parent company) that deprived ABC viewers of Regis Philbin for one night at the beginning of this month’s sweeps. Though financial terms were not officially disclosed, Variety reports that the new agreement could have TW funneling upwards of $2 billion to Disney in a long-term pact the companies signed yesterday. TW will not only convert the Disney Channel from premium to basic cable, but will also extend contracts for Disney’s ESPN channels and launch the Toon Disney network and the SoapNet channel on TW systems. ”No broadcaster has ever got so many cable networks included in a carriage deal for its owned stations,” show-biz analyst Tom Wolzien told Variety.
HANDSLAP The Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GLAAD) issued an alert about Eminem’s latest release, ”The Marshall Mathers LP,” saying the new disc’s ”explicit lyrics” tag was not enough to warn consumers that the bad boy’s songs are ”soaked with violence and full of negative comments about many groups, including lesbians and gay men.” Maybe he should call Dr. Laura.
COURTS Sean ”Puffy” Combs and Heavy D settled out of court with a woman who developed Graves’ disease after a 1991 stampede at a charity basketball game promoted by the two rappers. Though the amount of the settlement was not disclosed, both sides expressed satisfaction with the agreement…. James Brown’s attorney responded to the previously reported sexual harassment and wrongful termination suit filed by his ex employee Lisa Agbalaya, labeling it ”extortion.” Brown’s lawyer says that Agbalaya’s West Coast office was shut down out of necessity…. TVT Records, whose artists include XTC and Nashville Pussy, became the first indie label to file a lawsuit for copyright violations against MP3.com.
MUSIC NEWS The Wu-Tang Clan reportedly fired manager Nick Caruso as a result of an expose in the Village Voice that claimed Caruso is a government informant. The story says that Caruso, who once confessed to crimes such as drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion, now works for The Man in exchange for leniency. The Voice also reported that the Clan are currently under investigation for gunrunning. The band is expected to comment on the article today.
BOX OFFICE Paramount’s ”M:I-2” scored $12.5 million on 3,653 screens in its opening Wednesday night, the fourth biggest debut ever, and the largest theater count of all time.
CRIMES A woman accused of stalking and making terrorist threats against musician Jackson Browne pled innocent yesterday to a California superior court, and was held in lieu of $150,000 bail…. Rapper 50 cent was wounded in a shooting Wednesday in Queens, N.Y. The ”How to Rob” singer was shot in the jaw and legs while sitting in a parked car. He is in stable condition.
PROTECTOR Rosie O’Donnell plans to send her four-year-old son to kindergarten with an armed bodyguard this fall, because of threats she has received for her statements in favor of gun control. Maybe she should could get Charlton Heston to do it.
REEL DEALS New Line has delayed the release of its much-anticipated horror-flick ”Freddy vs. Jason,” which pits ”Nightmare on Elmstreet” badass ”Freddy Krueger” against ”Friday the 13th”’s Jason. Instead, ”Jason X,” a movie in which the hockey-masked menace to underdressed teens ends up on a spaceship, will be released first. The company say it wants to wait at least a year between the two films.
TV NEWS ”Saturday Night Live” earned its highest sweeps ratings in four years. The finale, hosted by ”Shanghai Noon”’s Jackie Chan, drew 9.4 million viewers, a 13 percent increase over last year’s season ender…. Three time Oscar-winning director Arthur Penn has agreed to exec-produce NBC’s ”Law and Order.”