The winning just doesn't stop for CBS's Jesus project. It won't air in the United States until the May sweeps, but the eye network's miniseries is already a hit in Italy.
Just a couple of weeks after CBS Television CEO Leslie Moonves flew to Rome to hand-deliver a copy of the miniseries to Pope John Paul II, "Jesus" became Italy's highest-rated program of the year.
Part 1 of the two-parter, airing Dec. 5 on government-run RAI Uno, bagged 10 million viewers, reports the trade paper Variety. The next night it logged 12 million. For comparison's sake, Italy's population is about 54 million and the "Jesus" numbers rival those of world championship soccer finals there when Italy is playing.
"Jesus" is one of three competing Jesus projects on the broadcast networks this season. NBC had high hopes for its "Mary, Mother of Jesus" movie during the November sweeps, but it got buried by ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." ABC plans to air its animated Jesus movie during Easter week.
This season's other big TV battle--the dueling Partridge Family movies--gathers steam. NBC plans to air its "David Cassidy Story" next month. The former teen idol is looking to counter ABC's November sweeps movie "Come On Get Happy: The Partridge Family Story," which painted a less-than-flattering picture of him.
What did Cassidy, 49, think of the ABC version, on which former "Partridge Family" co-star Danny Bonaduce served as consultant?
"I never saw it," Cassidy told The Post's John Maynard during a recent telephone news conference with The Reporters Who Cover Television.
But Cassidy does have it on good authority that it wasn't much good. "My brother Sean called me and said he could only watch a half-hour. . . . He said it was embarrassing.
"Hearing that makes me sad," Cassidy added.
Among the more memorable lines of the ABC movie is the one in which Cassidy, portrayed by Rodney Scott, screams at a "Partridge Family" producer: "I have a life! And pubic hair!" Cassidy brushed off the harsh treatment he received in the film. "I guess when you're the number one guy, everyone tries to shoot for you."
As for his relationship with Bonaduce, Cassidy said, "I love the guy."
Cassidy's an executive producer on NBC's take on his TV family, which airs Jan. 9. The film, he says, "has integrity and honesty--as much as you can dig out of an hour and 35 minutes--about someone's extraordinary life.
"I don't say that boastfully but almost apologetically," he added.
NBC suits had originally planned to air the special on Jan. 2, which would have suited Cassidy fine, based on his theory that people stay home that night because they're "hung over."
But NBC brass told him they decided to move it to the following Sunday because of Y2K concerns. Apparently, NBC execs bought into their own Y2K disaster movie that aired last month.
"They never gave me a better reason," Cassidy said.
This New Year's Eve, ABC has Peter, NBC has Tom and CBS has Dan.
But only Washington's UPN 20 has the Count.
Count Gore De Vol, a former Saturday night staple who for 15 years hosted "Creature Feature" on Channel 20, will emcee "Countdown With the Count" tomorrow night.
The 4 1/2-hour program features the Count, portrayed by Dick Dyszel, introducing two horror movies while telling bad jokes and showcasing abysmal special effects during commercial breaks. Highlights include a horribly superimposed wind-up doll chasing the Count around the studio and two buxom blondes paying their respects to the host.
"It's hokey, it's camp, it's humorous, it's not offensive," said Dyszel, who is ecstatic to return to the D.C. market after his "involuntary" retirement 12 years ago.
Dyszel left WDCA in 1987 due to a "change of ownership and change of philosophy" and started his own mobile deejay company. He said he would return to Channel 20 as the Count "in a heartbeat."
Channel 20 General Manager John Long said there were no plans to bring back the Count on a permanent basis. However, for ringing out the millennium, the Count gives Washington viewers "an interesting alternative," he said.
Y2K is DOA on PAX.
"Millennium Live," the internationally syndicated 24-hour live New Year's Eve special that was to have been hosted by Carmen Electra, has been scrapped, reportedly after its producers couldn't cough up all the cash they needed.
Though the show was to have featured the Spice Girls, 'N Sync, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Maxi Priest, 10,000 Maniacs and more, it was going to be aired in the United States on Christian broadcast network Pax-TV, for reasons The TV Column was never able to fathom.
With "Millennium Live" zapped, Pax-TV will instead air old movies and "Pax Millennium Moments," says Variety.
And next millennium, CBS will start buying its viewers.
Starting Jan. 2, Club CBS will launch on the Web portal iWon.com, in which CBS acquired a majority ownership stake for $30 million.
Viewers can collect points by identifying the CBS "star of the day" and answering questions about CBS programs. These points can be turned in to enter monthly contests. January's prize is a trip to Los Angeles and tickets to the Grammy Awards--which CBS broadcasts.
Unlike other portals, iWon.com gives points each time a user partakes of its features: e-mail, top news headlines, stock quotes, weather report, Web search, etc. Those points may be used to qualify for a daily, monthly or grand cash prize.
In mid-October, the site began running a national ad campaign with the tag line, "Why wouldn't you?" The spots aired primarily during prime time, late-night, sports and news shows--on CBS.
CAPTION: "Jesus," starring Jeremy Sisto and Jacqueline Bisset, has yet to air in this country.