ABC won its second consecutive week, will win the November sweeps and--if this keeps up--might even win the TV season, thanks to one show and one show only: "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
Here's a look at the week's ups and downs:
"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." When the Mousketeers who run ABC put out their weekly ratings tome yesterday to spin The Reporters Who Cover Television, not one of the four snappy headlines or the six pithy talking points plastered over the front page of that missive so much as mentioned "Millionaire." Instead, there's a big headline about the ratings for Barbara Walters's "exclusive" interview with Dudley Moore--you know, the one that ranked No. 30 for the week. And another brags that the No. 39-ranked broadcast of the George Clooney- Michelle Pfeiffer flick "One Fine Day" drew ABC's biggest Saturday movie audience in nearly three years, which ain't saying much. Even CBS paid tribute to "Millionaire" in the very first sentence of its weekly ratings tome, for goodness' sake! In fairness, one of ABC's six talking points did say the net landed seven of the week's 10 most watched shows. It just failed to mention what those shows were. ABC's seven top-10 shows last week were actually one show: "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." Note to ABC: "Millionaire" is saving your Mickey Mouse tails. Give it its due.
"The Wizard of Oz." Dorothy of Kansas whipped the hooker with a heart of gold. More than 9 million fans caught the TBS debut of "The Wizard of Oz" last Sunday--the biggest audience ever for a feature film on basic cable. It's also nearly 3 million viewers more than watched Julia Roberts's tour de force, "Pretty Woman," on TBS last month, which had been this season's basic-cable feature-film high till Dorothy and Toto showed up. "Oz's" audience paled, however, next to the 14.1 million who caught the movie's last broadcast on CBS, back in May '98. When Ted Turner bought the old MGM library back in '86, CBS had a deal in place to continue broadcasting the Judy Garland classic; Turner waited 13 years for that deal to expire. The 60-year-old "Oz" also was basic cable's top-rated program last week among young adults, beating an NFL game on ESPN, faux wrestling, "South Park" and NASCAR racing.
"ER." The most watched show of the week, and the only show to top "Millionaire," was the last of the episodes featuring Alan Alda. One more time, explain to me why it was a great idea to write out his character.
"Beverly Hills, 90210." A two-hour version of the prime-time soap scored Fox's best Wednesday this season with entertainment programming.
"20/20 Friday." Yes, it's true; Walters's interview with stricken Dudley Moore, who has an incurable brain disease, boosted the Friday edition of the ABC newsmag to its best performance in nearly a year--15.1 million viewers.
"Sarah, Plain & Tall: Winter's End." This third edition of the Hallmark Hall of Fame series was CBS's most watched Sunday movie since Part 1 of "Joan of Arc" last May.
"Goldeneye." NBC's Saturday broadcast of the James Bond flick attracted about 10.7 million viewers, nearly double the number of people who saw the new 007 movie, "The World Is Never Enough," in theaters when it opened last weekend.
"Time of Your Life." Suffering its least watched episode, "Time" averaged about a third the audience of its lead-out, "Ally McBeal."
"Sabrina." Out of its usual Friday slot and stuck in a Sunday 8 p.m. berth with little notice, ABC's witch series scored its smallest audience.
"Third Watch." NBC's new drama series suffered its smallest audience yet, airing opposite Sunday's "Millionaire." The peacock network is moving the drama to Mondays at 10 in January.
"Safe Harbor." New series capsizes after moving to Sundays at 7 p.m., and is dry-docked by WB.
The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: NBC's "ER"; ABC's Monday "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," Sunday "Millionaire," Thursday "Millionaire," Tuesday "Millionaire" and Wednesday "Millionaire"; NBC's "Friends"; ABC's Friday "Millionaire" and Saturday "Millionaire"; and CBS's Sunday movie, "Sarah, Plain & Tall."