When last we checked in with ratings news, NBC had sent ABC a message with a loaded Thursday lineup. ABC responded with a step that would seem to foreshadow that "All Regis, All the Time" programming strategy we've been trying to warn you about. For the other networks, and for those of us who have to come up with fresh material about the same blasted show every week, this is perhaps our darkest hour. We can only hope and pray that it doesn't go any further than the current "Mostly Regis, Most of the Time."
But in all honesty … What can stop it now?
Here's the carnage report from the primetime front for the week of May 1-7, according to the fine folks at Nielsen Media Research. (Each rating point is worth a little more than 1 million viewers).
1. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Tuesday), ABC -- 23.6 It was Celebrity Week on "Millionaire." Did you notice that, after all that trash-talking he did, Alex Trebek didn't show up? Give Regis credit, he wasn't afraid to bomb on "Jeopardy."
2. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Wednesday), ABC - 22.6 Rosie O'Donnell, Kathie Lee Gifford and Regis … Yep, since Frank, Sammy Dean and Sammy exited, this is what passes for celebrities now. The Bizarro-world version of "The Rat Pack."
3. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Monday), ABC -- 22.5 Regis asks a question, then guest Dana Carvey responds as "Regis." It's as if Regis never stops talking at all. Man, it's just like a little slice of heaven!
4. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Thursday), ABC - 22.1 How hot is this show? "Greed" was giving away a shot at $4 million this week. It finished in 69th place.
5. "ER," NBC - 18.0 Down four places from last week even though its ratings were only a point off from the No. 1 finish. This is what happens when ABC flexes some muscle.
6. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Sunday), ABC --17.1 After this powerhouse week, the regular ol' noncelebrity editions might become a thing of the past.
7. "The Practice," ABC - 14.1
8. "Friends" (8 p.m., Thursday), NBC - 13.7 How much does ABC love "Millionaire?" Even if every contestant actually won a million dollars, it's still cheaper than paying the per-episode salaries for "Friends" and "ER."
9. "20/20: Downtown," ABC - 13.5
"Dharma and Greg," ABC - 12.9
"Friends" (8:30 p.m., Thursday), NBC - 12.9 In the overall battle of the networks, ABC dropped the hammer on everybody and showed who's really driving this bus. It placed eight shows in the Top 10, including four nearly off-the-chart performances by "Millionaire," en route to an 11.7 average rating. CBS, with no shows at the top but a whole bunch scoring consistently in the Top 30, regained second place with an 8.2. NBC, still trying to get the word out that it doesn't just broadcast on Thursday nights, was a step behind at 8.1. Lost in the shuffle, Fox dropped a little to a 5.0.
With the little guys, the drama is all about the WB trying to find an answer for UPN's "Smackdown!" But the wrestling show continues to perform during sweeps -- UPN 2.8. WB 2.4.
Edward Norton has certainly scored with his next picture deal.
The Hollywood Reporter reported today that the 30-year-old actor will receive $6.5 million up front plus 4 percent of first-dollar gross to star opposite Robert De Niro in Frank Oz's "The Score," filling in the slot left opened by Ben Affleck after his decision to drop out last month.
The Paramount/Mandalay pic tells the story of a veteran thief whose retirement is infinitely deferred by an upstart ruffian. The flick is slated to go into production in San Francisco in March.
Norton was seen last fall beating up fellow angst-ridden co-star Brad Pitt in "Fight Club." His next project is "Keeping the Faith," which Norton directed, produced and co-wrote. The flick, a comedy about the friendship between a rabbi and a Catholic priest and the woman they both fall for, co-stars Ben Stiller and "Dharma and Greg" star Jenna Elfman.
SPIDERMAN UNMASKED: All interested parties please take note: "Spider-Man" might no longer be soliciting entries to fill the director spot. The Hollywood Reporter reports today that Sam Raimi ("For Love of the Game") is in final negotiations to helm the long-delayed comic book adaptation. No actor has been attached to the project yet. Shooting for the film is scheduled to begin after the completion of Raimi's next project, "The Gift."
FORD CAUGHT IN 'TRAFFIK': Trade-paper reports say that Harrison Ford, among several A-list talents, is eyeing the lead in director Steven Soderbergh's (""The Limey"," "Out of Sight") indie drug war flick "Traffic," set to go in front of the camera in the spring. The coveted drama war revolves around America's war on drugs in Mexico. Catherine Zeta-Jones, a.k.a. the future Mrs.Michael Douglas, is currently in negotiation for the female lead.
A DOSE OF MARTIN: Final negotiations between Steve Martin and Artisan are well under way for the studio's wacky comedy of errors "Novocaine." Martin is set to play a complacent dentist who unwittingly finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation. The flick is scheduled to roll in mid-April.
SEAGAL UNDER SIEGE: Steven Seagal proves once again that you can never be too old to kick ass. The 50-year-old martial-arts expert has signed on to reprise his role for the third time in New Regency's money making "Under Siege" franchise. Possible co-financiers for the film include 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., which co-funded the first two installments.
The "Under Siege" concept first materialized in 1992, where Seagal played an unassuming cook who happened to prevent terrorist attack on board a U.S. battleship. The sequel, which came three years later in 1995, once again finds Seagal fighting no-good terrorists but this time on a transcontinental train.