A pall settled over Hollywood today when television ratings came out for last week. ABC's game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" had aired seven times and all seven times landed in the week's top 10 list--not good news for a town that supports itself largely on entertainment series.
Here's a look at the week's wealthy and poor:
"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." Nearly 34 million people watched Wednesday's show, which is its biggest audience yet and ABC's biggest haul on record in the Wednesday 8 p.m. hour. On every night save Monday, "Millionaire" drew its largest crowd ever for those nights; Saturday's show also logged ABC's biggest audience with entertainment programming ever. Overall, the network enjoyed its best week ratings-wise in more than four years.
"Malcolm in the Middle." Fox's new comedy series did even better than in the previous week's Winners column debut: 23 million viewers, which is the net's best showing in the Sunday 8:30 p.m. half-hour in a decade. This one's a hit.
"NYPD Blue." Tuesday's debut audience of 19.1 million outpaced last year's season-starter crowd of 15.7 million, as well as the "Once and Again" debut audience of 16.7 million in the time slot back in September. Proving once again that midseason is the place to be--not a fall starter.
Any show that followed "Millionaire" on ABC. Three ABC programs--"Dharma & Greg," "Sports Night" and "Drew Carey"--drew their largest audiences ever; four more--"Spin City," "20/20" Wednesday and Friday, and "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"--bagged their biggest audiences of the season.
"City of Angels." The jury is still out on Steven Bochco's new doc drama. With a Sunday premiere audience of 13.8 million, it fell short of the 17.8 million season average of regular time-slot holder "Touched by an Angel," but was still a respectable showing given the major broadcast networks' unspectacular track record in attracting white viewers to minority-cast shows, NBC's long-running "Cosby" being the notable exception.
Anything opposite "Millionaire." That includes "least-watched edition ever" titles for NBC's Wednesday "Dateline" and WB's "Dawson's Creek," "Charmed" on Thursday and "Felicity" on Sunday. Meanwhile, Fox's "Beverly Hills, 90210" on Wednesday suffered its smallest turnout since premiere season '90.
"Winning Lines." All game shows are not alike. Witness CBS's "Winning Lines," which plunged from its not-so-great debut audience of 10 million the previous week to 6.7 million last week.
"Muhammad Ali: King of the World." ABC's highly touted movie was its least watched program in the Monday 9-11 p.m. time slot since May 31, when it aired the Julia Roberts dog "Mary Reilly."
The week's 10 most watched shows, in order, were: ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Wednesday); "Millionaire" (Sunday and Tuesday); NBC's "ER" and "Millionaire" (Thursday); "Millionaire" (Friday); "Millionaire" (Monday); Fox's "Malcolm in the Middle"; "Millionaire" (Sunday); and NBC's "Friends."
CAPTION: Frankie Muniz stars in the new hit series "Malcolm in the Middle" on Fox.