On Feb. 11 and 14, musicians put on their thinking caps for a two episode Rock Star edition of ''Who Wants to Be A Millionaire'' as part of ABC's sweeps week programming. The Backstreet Boys' Kevin Richardson and Howie Dorough, Metallica's Lars Ulrich, Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath, Dixie Chick Emily Robison, Sisqó, Gladys Knight, and others flex their trivia muscles for charity and, ABC hopes, big ratings.
Though a bunch of rockers may not seem like ''Millionaire'''s ideal brain trust, senior producer Leigh Hampton says the celebs took their time with Regis seriously. ''Sisqó actually practiced for the show using the CD ROM,'' she tells EW.com. ''Though there's more joking around between breaks, when the money gets to those upper levels, the celebrities are freaking out just as much as the regular contestants.''
Also freaking out was the audience. Kiss fans in full makeup cheered on contestant Gene Simmons. And some young ladies came unglued when BSB members Richardson and Dorough showed up. ''One girl nearly passed out from crying, but she managed to control herself when we were filming,'' says Hampton. Even more excitement came when a karaoke machine meant for audience members as part of a preshow warmup was appropriated by the guest stars. ''Vince Gill sang a song to Amy Grant and gave her a kiss, and Gladys Knight sang 'Midnight Train to Georgia,''' says Hampton. But don't look for a ''Thong Song'' sing along on the show; the impromptu concert won't be aired.
Though Hampton won't say who scored the big money, she hints that at least a few stars shined brightly: ''Lars Ulrich is one smart cookie. And Mark McGrath's reputation for being a smart guy played out. He was very cool under pressure.'' But if you're still hedging your bets, read on for our view of what these rockers have going for and against them as they climb into the ''Millionaire'' hot seat.
PRO He's the only boy band cutie pie who looks substantial enough to give Regis the good, hard smack he deserves.
CON He's a sensitive guy who openly admits he ''cries at the drop of a hat sometimes.'' Expect blubbering around the $125,000 mark.
PRO If the million dollar question has anything to do with the gluteus maximus, he's golden.
CON Get real. This is a guy who spray paints his head (you didn't think L'Oreal made platinum, did you?). If Regis asks him even one nonjiggy music question, the guy is gone, ga gone, gone, gone.
PRO She has God on her side. And we hear the Almighty is one heck of a phone a friend lifeline.
CON We've always suspected that little devil Regis has connections down under, and we're not talking Australia.
PRO If Napster didn't scare the guy, all that final answer crap certainly won't.
CON Didn't ''Spinal Tap'' teach us that heavy metal drummers are really, really unlucky?
PRO The guy's a brain. Before becoming a pre- Goth freakazoid, Simmons used to teach elementary school. Yes, that scares us, too.
CON Spitting blood on Regis' matching shirt and tie combo will not win him brownie points.
PRO He walloped the competition when he played ''Rock and Roll Jeopardy.''
CON Too cute to be taken seriously