Who wants to give away a million dollars in order to lure viewers back to the network? ABC does. And it worked last week, with seven nights of the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" propelling ABC to its first weekly win since it said so long to "Home Improvement" last May.
Here's a look at the week's right answers and wrong guesses:
"Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" Viewers are so desperate for non-rerun programming that for seven consecutive nights they sat through a game show that asks multiple-choice questions like "Which kind of cracker is most often used to make pie crusts?" These people are at the end of their rope--15 million people by Sunday's show, which was the largest audience for any program last week. Each night, "Millionaire" won its time slot; four of them landed in the week's Top 10 list, and Thursday's gamecast gave ABC its first 8:30 p.m. win against NBC in nearly six years. (Of course, NBC had broadcast a rerun episode of ratings repeller "Jesse" in that time slot, but hey, a win's a win.) Tots also lapped up "Millionaire"; five of last week's broadcasts were among the week's Top 20 with kids age 2 to 11. And for the little ones, that question about pie crusts may have been a real stumper.
UPN. There was just no end to the good news for UPN last week. On Tuesdays, it has beaten WB so many times it's becoming a trend. This actually has more to do with the tanking of WB's "Felicity" (see Losers) than with any ratings surge on UPN's part. Later last week, the network scored its biggest Friday audience ever with the Source Hip-Hop Awards. In addition to the show's overall audience of 4 million, UPN finished No. 1 Friday from 8 to 10 p.m. among teens, ahead of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and WB. Finally, on Sunday, there was that sold-out pay-per-view "SummerSlam" event featuring Jesse "The Governor" Ventura, just chock-full of promos for tomorrow night's debut of "WWF Smackdown!" on UPN. It just doesn't get any better than this over at UPN.
Cable movies. When viewers can't find original programming on broadcast, they flip to cable--that's the way it works. So TNT's Sam Elliott western "You Know My Name" averaged 7 million viewers between 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday--better than NBC or Fox. And Fox Family Channel scored its biggest program audience since its '98 launch--6.3 million viewers--with "Au Pair," starring Gregory Harrison as a CEO who hires a recent MBA grad as an unwitting nanny for his precocious moppets. Behind these flicks--though still among the week's 10 most watched cable programs--was HBO's initial run of "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge." It averaged 4.1 million viewers--just on par with the cable net's season average of 3.9 million in the Saturday 9 to 11 p.m. slot. And of the 48 Saturday movie premieres HBO has had this season, "Dandridge" ranks 25th. In the Washington market, however, "Dandridge" stands out as the week's second most watched cable program, behind only USA's Monday WWF wrestling.
"NYPD Blue." Last week's "NYPD Blue" was its least-watched broadcast ever. Maybe ABC should've given away some cash during this Tuesday telecast.
"Katie Joplin." This summer series burn-off scored the smallest audience WB has ever attracted for original programming in the Monday 9:30 p.m. time slot. Maybe they should've let a couple of people know they were running it.
WB's Tuesday. Down 27 percent vs. the same night a year ago, and the problem is "Felicity," which last week had just 1.8 million viewers. Word is star Keri Russell has shorn her beautiful long hair--there goes half the reason for people to tune in.
The 10 most watched programs of the week, in order, were: Sunday's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"; Friday's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"; NBC's Tuesday "Dateline" and Thursday 9:30 p.m. "Frasier"; Thursday's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"; CBS's "60 Minutes"; NBC's Thursday 9 p.m. "Frasier"; CBS's "Everybody Loves Raymond"; Wednesday's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and the CBS Sunday movie broadcast of "To Sir With Love II."
CAPTION: Regis Philbin hosts "Millionaire" hit.