TV Article

'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' and Everything On The Air

The latest news from the TV beat

'Million' Marches On

What do you do when your feet are in cement and you see a steamroller coming? Nothing. That appears be the competition's strategy after hearing ABC's potential plans for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. At press time, word was the net plans to roll out its big-gun game show three times weekly, beginning in January (most likely Tuesdays at 8 p.m., Thursdays at 8:30 or 9 p.m., and Sundays at 9 p.m.). ''There's not much to do other than suffer,'' says a rival net's scheduling exec.

NBC could feel the lion's share of pain. Its Just Shoot Me has already played to its smallest audience, opposite the game show Nov. 23; Frasier dropped 9 percent against Millionaire during sweeps; and the Peacock's struggling Sunday movie will doubtless flounder even more opposite Regis Philbin. ''The theory on Millionaire is that it preys on the weak,'' said one net's scheduling head. ''Established audiences may take a little hit, but usually they're not fatal.'' In other words, don't expect vets like The X-Files, Chicago Hope—even Shoot—to run scared just yet. ''The question is, how long is this going to last?'' says another exec. ''You look at Wheel of Fortune and see that, historically, this genre appeals to an older viewer. Millionaire is already skewing older and older. Eventually, who's going to watch?''

Getting More Colorful

The NAACP can (and most certainly will) take credit for one development next season: The Big Three are aggressively developing shows with black actors in lead roles. Among the 2000-01 players: Duane Martin, Gloria Reuben, Mario Van Peebles, and Steve Harvey (CBS); Damon Wayans (ABC); and David Alan Grier, Tim Meadows, and Marlon Wayans (NBC). ''The NAACP definitely had a lot to do with it,'' says Martin Lesak, a TV talent agent at UTA, which secured the deals for Grier and Van Peebles. ''The real question is whether we'll see this consistently over a period of time as opposed to just a year or two. There always appears to be a quick fix. Next thing you know, [black cast members will] all go away again.''

Can Soaps Float?

One of two soap opera channels planned for early 2000 is already in a bit of a lather: Columbia TriStar TV's SoapCity—which was to air reruns of The Young and the Restless and Days of Our Lives (among others)—may be looking to either delay its launch or scrap the idea entirely, due in part to the exorbitant costs of launching a cable net. Alternatives, according to Columbia insiders, include Sony offering reruns of its soaps on pay per view, much like last year's deal with DirecTV, which airs Days eps right after they appear on NBC. Or, better yet, merging with Disney/ABC's SoapNet, which debuts in January with repeats of Disney-owned All My Children and General Hospital. ''It would be better for everyone if there were one channel,'' says ABC network prez Pat Fili-Krushel, ''but it would have to be the right deal.'' Stay tuned.

Funny Big Business

The latest stars in play for 2000-01: Sources say Janeane Garofalo may close a $2 million-plus deal with HBO to develop a half-hour show, and Carsey-Werner is talking to Wayne Knight about possibly starring in a family comedy for NBC. Hmm, the Peacock also has a project with fellow Seinfeld vet Michael Richards—what's next, Two Guys, Poppie, and a Pizza Place?

Originally posted Dec 10, 1999 Published in issue #516 Dec 10, 1999 Order article reprints