It wasn't that long ago that ABC viewed "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" as a the goose that laid golden egg, but now the network isn't even sure the show will be on its primetime schedule next fall.
In a conference call with journalists Wednesday, a top network official didn't rule out bringing the show back for the 2002-03 season, but he said it's far from a sure thing.
The show not only made ABC an instant ratings winner when it first came on in August 1999, it also gave the network a property it could program several nights a week -- sometime several times a night. With Regis Philbin as host and a fresh, new visual design, the show clobbered the competition in the ratings and spawned a new wave of TV game shows.
Now, Lloyd Braun -- co-chairman of ABC Entertainment Television Group -- isn't sure about the show's future.
Talking with journalists about the network's performance during the 2001-02 season, Braun said he'd "like to think that there'll be a place on our schedule" for the show next fall.
"But at the same time, I'm not going to tell you there will be any guarantees," he said. "We cannot say with certainty that 'Millionaire' is going to be on the fall schedule."
The show was still performing well early this year -- finishing in the Nielsen top 20 as recently as February -- but its numbers have been falling lately. Last week, one edition of the show finished at No. 40 for the week and the other was No. 72.
Other reports indicated the show -- inexpensive to produce and once called the most profitable show in television -- had lost many younger viewers sought by advertisers.
SUNDANCE LINE-UP ANNOUNCED
The festival opens Jan. 10, 2002 with the screening of "The Laramie Project" -- an HBO movie by Moises Kaufman based on his play about a theater group that travels to Laramie, Wyo. to try to stage a play about the murder of Matthew Shepard. The movie stars Steve Buscemi, Jeremy Davies, Janeane Garofalo, Laura Linney, Camryn Manheim and Christina Ricci.
Thurman stars in another HBO movie, "Hysterical Blindness," as a woman who looks for something more in life than the nightlife she shares with other working class women. The cast includes Ben Gazzara, Juliette Lewis and Gena Rowlands.
The program also features "Coastlines," by writer-director Victor Nunez ("Ulee's Gold," "Ruby in Paradise"), and "The Dancer Upstairs," in which John Malkovich directed Javier Bardem ("Before Night Falls") in a screen adaptation of Nicholas Shakespeare's novel about a military policeman's lifelong mission to track down a rebel leader.
Damon teams up again with "Good Will Hunting" director Gus Van Sant in "Jerry." Foster stars as Sister Assumpta in "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys" -- about a group of Catholic school friends who get caught drawing an obscene comic book and react by planning a crime that will make them local legends.
Robin Williams stars in "One Hour Photo" as a photo lab worker who becomes obsessed with a family he knows mainly from their photographic images.
The 2002 Sundance Film Festival runs through Jan. 20 in Park City, Utah.
CROWE HEADED FOR POW CAMP?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe is ready to develop and star in a movie version of the 1960's TV comedy, "Hogan's Heroes."
Crowe reportedly is working with Ron Howard's production company, Imagine Entertainment, to develop the project.
"Hogan's Heroes" ran on CBS from 1965-71, starring the late Bob Crane as U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Hogan -- the leader of a group of POW's being held by the Nazis at Stalag 13.
HALLE BERRY AS VILLAINESS
The 20th Bond movie is scheduled to start shooting in January at Pinewood Studios near London. Producers have reached an agreement with Equity, the union that represents professionals actors in England, to ensure the project will not be affected by an impending actors strike.
Equity instructed its members in September not to perform any movie work after Dec. 1. The union has been making side arrangements with various producers, enabling some productions to go forward during the strike.
Among those agreements is one that allows Warner Bros. to carry on with filming on "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the second movie adaptation of author J.K. Rowling's popular series of books about a boy wizard.
CAROL IS A HIT ALL OVER AGAIN FOR CBS
CBS -- whose primetime schedule featured "The Carol Burnett Show" from 1967-78 -- enjoyed another round of prosperity with the legendary entertainer when it aired "The Carol Burnett Show: Show Stoppers," Monday night.
The special drew nearly 30 million viewers. That was the network's biggest audience for a non-sports show in the time slot in more than 10 years.
All in all, the night was a big success for CBS -- as all four of its Monday half-hour comedies racked up their highest ratings ever -- including "Everybody Loves Raymond," which drew 24.3 million viewers.
BLOCKBUSTER AWARDS BITE THE DUST
Blockbuster has announced that it will not hold its Blockbuster Entertainment Awards next April, because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.
"Due to the uncertainty of the times," said the company in a prepared statement, "we can't predict consumer response to our show, nor audience behavior -- especially media viewing habits -- all of which are being affected by world events."
Blockbuster Awards are, or were, decided by consumers at Blockbuster stores and online. The company did not rule out staging an awards show in 2003.
`THREE SISTERS' GOING FOR MORE
NBC has ordered six more episodes of the comedy, "Three Sisters," even though the show has not been performing well in the ratings.
The show got off to a strong start when it premiered last January and continued to do well when the network programmed it in the Tuesday 9:30 slot following "Frasier." But when the show was moved up to 8:30 on Tuesday this fall, its ratings suffered.
DANGERFIELD LEAVES HOSPITAL
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield was discharged Wednesday from Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, six days after he was hospitalized with a heart attack on his 80th birthday.
A spokesman for Dangerfield said an angiogram revealed that "a small artery had collapsed." The artery had been repaired during double bypass heart surgery in March 2000. The spokesman said Dangerfield's doctor found "no significant blockage and sees no reason for surgery."
Dangerfield was hospitalized one day after he appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
Los Angeles police were not commenting Wednesday on reports that officers searched the home of actor Paul Reubens on Nov. 16 and confiscated his collection of vintage erotica.
Entertainment Tonight reported Tuesday that police started the investigation after getting a tip from someone who knows Reubens -- best known for his wacky character, Pee-wee Herman.
The material police reportedly carted off from Ruebens' home included paintings and photographs, according to ET.
A spokesperson for Reubens said he has committed no crime, and accused the police tipster of making false allegations for financial gain.
Reubens is no stranger to sex scandals. In 1991 -- while he was starring in the popular CBS Saturday morning show, "Pee-wee's Playhouse" -- he was arrested at an adult movie theater in Sarasota, Fla. for performing lewd acts in public.
Reubens pleaded no contest and was sentenced to perform 75 hours of community service, and his career was derailed for a time by the scandal.
He began a comeback with a well-received appearance on the MTV Awards and a series of guest appearances on the CBS comedy, "Murphy Brown." He also appeared in features such as "Matilda" and "Mystery Men," and voiced characters in Disney animated projects, including the "Hercules" TV series and "Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas."
He appeared this year in the movie "Blow" with Johnny Depp. He also appeared as host Troy Stevens in the TV version of the CD-ROM game, "You Don't Know Jack."
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