It's official; ABC won the November sweeps ratings race and pickled the minds of millions with its multiple-choice game show, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." ABC's first sweeps win since 1994 was so shocking, the earth moved for ABC suits. No, really. During their phone news conference yesterday with The Reporters Who Cover Television, ABC's Century City digs were rattled by an earthquake, which brought the Q&A to a temporary halt.
Here is a look at Thanksgiving week's sweet potatoes and turkeys:
"Millionaire." Last week, three last-minute, one-hour editions of "Millionaire" broke all viewing records for the game show, which ABC is bringing back as a regular series, maybe as soon as next month. It'll air three times each week: Tuesdays from 8 to 8:30 p.m., Thursdays from 8:30 to 9:30 and Sundays from 9 to 10, according to sources, though ABC would not confirm. Last week, Monday's edition was the second-most-watched ever; the next night, "Millionaire" scored ABC's second-highest audience in the Tuesday 8 p.m. hour in more than six years; and Wednesday, one of the nation's busiest travel days of the year, "Millionaire" nonetheless enjoyed its biggest audience ever, 30 million viewers.
Shania Twain. Guys who like watching Dallas play Miami apparently also like to watch Shania Twain, who benefited from the football lead-in to the tune of 18 million viewers. Twain also swamped NBC in the Thursday 8:30 p.m. half-hour among young adults, which gave old-skewing CBS something to be really thankful for.
"Home Alone." Given the choice of watching the umpteenth TV presentation of the flick starring the formerly adorable Macaulay Culkin or the Notre Dame at Stanford football game on Saturday, viewers chose warmed-over Culkin.
"Forrest Gump." Warmed-over Tom Hanks gave ABC its best non-"Millionaire" Thursday since February.
"Jumanji." Warmed-over Robin Williams managed Fox's biggest Friday since February.
"Will & Grace" scored its biggest audience ever last week. Yes, the episode aired on NBC's powerhouse Thursday, and right before that hyped-to-the-moon baby-birthing episode of "ER." Must've galled the guys at NBC to use up valuable original episodes on Thanksgiving night, when American families actually sit down and dine together and not in front of the tube. It was the first time in ages that the holiday fell into the November sweeps race.
"One Special Night." When CBS's movies try to be NBC movies ("Shake, Rattle & Roll," "Aftershock"), they don't do so well. When CBS movies play to CBS's audience, like Sunday's "One Special Night," starring Julie Andrews and James Garner, they soar. About 26 million people tuned in, making it CBS's most-watched Sunday movie since November 1997 and the second-most-watched movie of the November sweeps.
Notre Dame at Stanford. Nobody cared.
"Snoops." Finished fourth in its hour on Sunday and looks to be a victim of "Millionaire's" success.
And, just about any show that aired opposite "Millionaire," but especially:
"Veronica's Closet," on NBC, suffered its smallest audience ever.
"Time of Your Life," on Fox, suffered its smallest audience ever.
"Just Shoot Me," on NBC, suffered its smallest audience ever.
"Dawson's Creek," on WB, suffered its smallest audience ever.
"Dateline" Wednesday, on NBC, suffered . . . oh, you get the point.
The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: NBC's "ER"; ABC's Wednesday "Millionaire," Monday "Millionaire" and Tuesday "Millionaire"; CBS's Sunday movie, "One Special Night"; NBC's "Frasier," "Friends" and Thursday 9:30 p.m. broadcast of "Will & Grace"; ABC's "Wonderful World of Disney" broadcast of "The Santa Clause"; and CBS's "Touched by an Angel."