Because attorney Michael Shutterly of Richmond did not know that Jethro Tull won the first Grammy for best hard rock/metal performance, he did not become a millionaire.
Because he did know the real name of Pope John Paul I, who was pontiff for about a month before he died, he became the first person ever to win $500,000 on ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" In fact, his win, which aired last night, makes him the very first person to win a half-million bucks in any of the five incarnations of the British quiz show that are airing around the world.
It's been a runaway hit for the past week and a half with Americans starved for original programming in the dog days of summer. Tuesday night--the last night for which numbers were available at press time--the half-hour show snared 16.3 million viewers. ABC executives are so pleased they've already ordered more installments; right now they're trying to decide how to play them--as a weekly series or another run of two weeks on consecutive nights during the November sweeps.
Shutterly, 46, who grew up in Silver Spring, knew the answer to the half-million-dollar question, but when faced with the million-dollar brain teaser, he decided not to answer, instead walking away with a check for the lesser amount.
Shutterly, who says he "reads a lot," does know that Jethro Tull, the man, was a pioneer of mechanized planting and cultivation who lived in 18th-century England. He is also of the opinion, he said in a phone interview, that Jethro Tull, the band, was not a hard rock/metal group. So, of course, he would not have picked Jethro Tull from the four possible answers that host Regis Philbin provided him in the multiple-choice game. Jethro Tull, however, was the right answer, though at the time that Grammy was awarded in 1989, some people of the same opinion as Shutterly protested.
Just as well. Shutterly will probably make up the money in the next few game shows on which he appears. You see, he has made something of a hobby out of appearing and winning lots of cash on TV game shows.
You may have caught him on "Jeopardy!" 11 years ago--he won on four consecutive days and got beat on the fifth, after winning $49,200.
Or, you may remember him from the short-lived show "Trump Card" in 1990, when he won $14,500 in one day--$10,000 of which was "the big prize," he says. "Trump Card" was taped in Atlantic City, so he just had to drive up there.
Shutterly hasn't always won big in the game show circuit. He missed his first game show audition, for the high school challenge show "It's Academic," in 1969.
"On the day of the audition, I couldn't find the studio and, being male, I couldn't ask anyone for directions."
More recently, his wife, Margaret, drew his attention to a magazine ad for "Want to Be a Millionaire?" Contestants are screened by calling a 900 phone number and answering a question. He doesn't remember the first phone question. But his first on-air question asked what vegetable gives Popeye the Sailor his extra strength--child's play for someone who knows that Pope John Paul I's real name was Albino Luciani.
To concerned "NYPD Blue" fans who did not see the series on the fall prime-time TV lineup that ran with the TV Column on Monday: Never fear, ABC is bringing back the series, and in its regular Tuesday 10 p.m. time slot. It's just not going to air in September, or in October for that matter.
Series creator Steven Bochco won't have new episodes ready until November--he never has new episodes ready for a September launch. So the cop drama is debuting on Nov. 9. In the past ABC has run filler stuff in the time slot until the show was ready to go. This season network suits thought they'd launch a new Sela Ward drama series, "Once and Again," in the Tuesday slot. The suits had contemplated giving "Once"--created by those angst-ridden boys of "thirtysomething," Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick--the Sunday 9 p.m. berth, leading in to David Kelley's "The Practice." But Kelley had that slot in mind for his new ABC drama, "Snoops"--and guess who's got more clout around ABC these days?
So "Once" will get a Tuesday run for seven weeks, then it will be yanked off the air for several weeks, then it will be re-launched in the Monday 10 p.m. hour once football wraps.
And, speaking of suits at ABC, Newsweek was sticking by its report that said the network will seek the resignation of its entertainment division president, Jamie Tarses, while ABC was sticking by a top executive's statement that "it is simply untrue."
The article, posted on Newsweek's Web site late Monday, set off a flurry of press phone calls to ABC and parent Disney. It took the network hours to release that four-word statement issued by ABC Group chairman Robert Iger late Monday.
According to one well-placed source, ABC reps didn't realize for a couple of hours that the barrage of phone calls they were getting from reporters had been prompted by a publicist from Newsweek, who was calling around to notify the press of the online report. ABC representatives assumed that the company's usual terse "we do not comment on rumors and speculation" statement would put the kibosh on any Tarses-heading-out stories. After learning of the Newsweek article, they produced the stronger statement.
In the initial report, Newsweek's Johnnie Roberts said that Iger would meet with Tarses this week and that the company would seek her resignation. Iger was in Los Angeles on business, conducting meetings--one of them with Tarses--when that story broke. An ABC rep says Iger's meetings were "routine."
But things are anything but "routine" at ABC's West Coast digs these days. The network is laying off staff as part of a recently announced merger with parent company Disney's TV production division. The Hollywood trade papers put the goal at 50 staffers, though network insiders say that figure is high. To date, the most high-profile cuts have included the network's head of casting, a 15-year network veteran, and ABC's head of drama series development, an 11-year Disney employee.
Newsweek has since posted on its Web site a story saying that the turmoil at ABC has intensified, that the fate of Tarses is unresolved and that she has won a last-minute "and perhaps only temporary reprieve from her top boss." ABC, meanwhile "stands by [Iger's] statement," says an ABC rep.
Johnnie Roberts, who wrote the two Web reports, told the TV Column to speak to Newsweek's publicist, who would only say that the "situation" at ABC "continues to unfold" and that "it's an ongoing story that we are continuing to pursue."
CAPTION: Michael Shutterly, left, correctly answered Regis Philbin's question about Pope John Paul I to the tune of $500,000.