SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 9, 2000 -- The short-term diagnosis of NBC's "ER" is looking a lot brighter, as the show finally rebounded to the top of the ratings heap for the prime-time week ended Sunday, narrowly edging ABC's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" juggernaut.
Overall, though, these are ABC's days. In addition to the still stealthy "Millionaire," "Mary & Rhoda," the network's much-anticipated TV-movie reunion of "Mary Tyler Moore Show" sitcom gals Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) and Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), dominated Monday night, with an estimated 17.7 million viewers checking out the scene. The show was ABC's most-watched Monday night TV movie in a year. It simply blew out its competition -- in one case, it topped NBC's rival 8-10 p.m. lineup by 131 percent.
We won't know where "Mary & Rhoda" stacks up in the weekly ratings until, well, next week. For now, "ER" wears the crown. The ever-evolving chaos of a hospital emergency room brought in the single largest share of viewers last week -- flickering across the screens in 19.1 million homes.
Still, the nation's collective fantasy of striking it rich continued to dominate, with ABC's money-soaked "Millionaire" racking up four of the Top Five prime-time slots, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Night in, night out, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" consistently was watched in more than 17 million homes, reaching as many as 19.1 million viewers Feb. 1. Along with a strong showing by the legal drama "The Practice," ABC claimed half of the Top 10 spots. It easily won the network race with an average 10.2 rating. CBS was second with an 8.8, NBC slid to third with an 8.7, Fox finished fourth with an 8.5 and UPN topped rival WB, 2.9 to 2.7. (Each ratings point equals a little more than 1 million TV homes.)
Aside from "ER," NBC clocked into the Top 10 with the sitcoms "Friends" and "Frasier," which garnered viewing audiences in 15.7 and 14.1 million homes, respectively.
The Tiffany network (CBS' old-school nickname) managed two Top 10 entries, courtesy of "Touched by an Angel" and "Everybody Loves Raymond."
Some other random ratings factoids:
THE OTHERS: Fox's highest-rated show was "Malcolm in the Middle" (No. 28), the WB's "7th Heaven" (No. 63) and UPN's "WWF Smackdown" (No. 80).
OPPOSITE OF SUCCESS: The lowest-rated Fox show was the family drama "Get Real" (No. 88). On NBC, the laggard was the once-hot "3rd Rock From the Sun" (No. 82). At ABC, an ABC News special ran in the rear (No. 80), while at CBS, "Candid Camera" (No. 75) shuttered.
NICE TRY: NBC's attempt to build "Freaks and Geeks" into -- oh, let's say a show people actually watch -- is being met with resistance by, um, people who actually watch. The ode to 1980s high school finished in 64th place in its new 8-9 p.m. Monday time slot.
ON LIFE SUPPORT? CBS' much-touted urban medical drama "City of Angels" landed in an unheavenly 72nd place.
BAD NEWS IS GOOD NEWS: "Spin City," in headlines of late due to star Michael J. Fox's decision to bolt the political-minded sitcom at the end of the season, spun up to 24th place -- or 13 slots above its season-to-date ranking.
FIZZLED: UPN's hip-hop comedy "Shasta" was the lowest-rated major network show of the week (not including the rerun stuff on PAX). In a 109-show race, "Shasta" came in, yes, 109th place, averaging a 1.7 rating.
Here's the complete look at the Top 10 for the ratings week Jan. 31-Feb. 6:
1. "ER," NBC 2. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Tues.), ABC 3. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Thurs.), ABC 4. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Wed.), ABC 5. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Sun.), ABC 6. "Friends," NBC 7. "The Practice," ABC 8. "Frasier," NBC 9. "Touched by an Angel," CBS 10. "Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS
"American Beauty," the dark existential comedy set in Anywhere, Suburbia, led the pack as nominations were announced today for the 6th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, honoring performances in both film and TV acting.
The film picked up four nominations, including a best actor nod for Kevin Spacey, a best actress one for Annette Bening and a best supporting actor one for Chris Cooper. The "Beauty" cast also was singled out for an ensemble acting nomination.
Trailing "American Beauty" in the movie division with a total of three nods is Spike Jonze's head-scratching absurdist offering "Being John Malkovich". That flick also earned a best ensemble acting nomination, as well as best supporting actress nods for Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener.
Along with "American Beauty" and "Being John Malkovich," Paul Thomas Anderson's sprawling melodrama "Magnolia," "The Cider House Rules" and the Tom Hanks-driven death row flick "The Green Mile" are also in contention for best ensemble film.
Other nominees in the best actor category are: odds-on-Oscar favorite Russell Crowe, for his turn as a tobacco industry whistle-blower in "The Insider"; Philip Seymour Hoffman, for donning drag in "Flawless"; Denzel Washington, for his Golden Globe-winning turn as a wrongly imprisoned boxer in "The Hurricane"; and Jim Carrey, for his equally Golden Globe-winning turn as comic eccentric Andy Kaufman in "Man on the Moon."
Along with Bening, the best film actress nominees are: Julianne Moore ("The End of the Affair"), Meryl Streep ("Music of the Heart"), Janet McTeer ("Tumbleweeds") and Hilary Swank ("Boys Don't Cry).
In the domain of television, HBO's reigning mob hit "The Sopranos" continued its domination of the awards scene, pulling down a field-best five SAG nominations, including one for best ensemble.
Winners will be announced March 12.
Here's the complete nominee list for the 6th Annual SAG Awards:
Best Actor Jim Carrey ("Man on the Moon") Russell Crowe ("The Insider") Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Flawless") Kevin Spacey ("American Beauty") Denzel Washington ("The Hurricane")
Best Actress Annette Bening ("American Beauty") Janet McTeer ("Tumbleweeds") Julianne Moore ("The End of the Affair") Meryl Streep ("Music of the Heart") Hilary Swank ("Boys Don't Cry")
Best Supporting Actor Michael Caine ("The Cider House Rules") Chris Cooper ("American Beauty") Tom Cruise ("Magnolia") Michael Clarke Duncan ("The Green Mile") Haley Joel Osment ("The Sixth Sense")
Best Supporting Actress Cameron Diaz ("Being John Malkovich") Angelina Jolie ("Girl, Interrupted) Catherine Keener ("Being John Malkovich") Julianne Moore ("Magnolia") Chloe Sevigny ("Boys Don't Cry")
Best Ensemble Film "American Beauty" "Being John Malkovich" "The Cider House Rules" "The Green Mile" "Magnolia"
Best Actor for Telefilms and Miniseries Hank Azaria ("Tuesdays With Morrie," ABC) Peter Fonda ("The Passion of Ayn Rand," Showtime) Jack Lemmon ("Tuesdays With Morrie," ABC) George C. Scott ("Inherit the Wind," Showtime) Patrick Stewart ("A Christmas Carol," TNT)
Best Actress for Telefilms and Miniseries Kathy Bates ("Annie," ABC) Halle Berry ("Introducing Dorothy Dandridge," HBO) Judy Davis ("A Cooler Climate," Showtime) Sally Field ("A Cooler Climate," Showtime) Helen Mirren ("The Passion of Ayn Rand," Showtime)
Best Actor for TV Drama Series David Duchovny ("The X-Files," Fox) Dennis Franz ("NYPD Blue," ABC) James Gandolfini ("The Sopranos," HBO) Rick Schroder ("NYPD Blue," ABC) Martin Sheen ("The West Wing," NBC)
Best Actress for TV Drama Series Gillian Anderson ("The X-Files," Fox) Lorraine Bracco ("The Sopranos," HBO) Edie Falco ("The Sopranos," HBO) Nancy Marchand ("The Sopranos," HBO) Annie Potts ("One Fine Day," Lifetime)
Best Actor for TV Comedy Series Michael J. Fox ("Spin City," ABC) Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier," NBC) Peter MacNicol ("Ally McBeal," Fox) David Hyde Pierce ("Frasier," NBC) Ray Romano ("Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS)
Best Actress for TV Comedy Series Calista Flockhart ("Ally McBeal," Fox) Lisa Kudrow ("Friends," NBC) Lucy Liu ("Ally McBeal," Fox) Sarah Jessica Parker ("Sex in the City," HBO) Tracey Ullman ("Tracey Takes On," HBO)
Best Ensemble TV Drama "ER," NBC "Law & Order," NBC "NYPD Blue," ABC "The Practice," ABC "The Sopranos," HBO
Best Ensemble TV Comedy "Ally McBeal," Fox "Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS "Frasier," NBC "Friends," NBC "Sports Night," ABC
The crime spree is over. "The Sopranos" will have to kiss someone else's ring -- namely, the big boss man's, the president of the United States of TV America.
"The West Wing" was named Best Drama Series at the 52nd Annual Emmy Awards, capping a night wherein the political drama dominated, save for one major setback when James Gandolfini of "The Sopranos" bested Martin Sheen in the competition for Best Actor in a Drama Series.
"I think the Academy has an affinity for slightly overweight bald men," Gandolfini quipped onstage.
Gandolfini's win was the lone bright spot for "The Sopranos," which otherwise got whacked -- like when Sela Ward of ABC’s "Once and Again" beat both Edie Falco and Lorraine Bracco for the Best Actress in a Drama Series Emmy. "The Sopranos" came into the night with 18 nominations.
Hollywood.com's Sandy Kenyon asked Gandolfini: "It's been a long kind of overnight success for you. What was going through your mind and is this a form of sweet justice for you?"
"I didn't feel any miscarriage of justice last year or anything like that, I'm just pleased to be in the show, doing the work we do,” Gandolfini said. “I didn't feel anything went wrong last year, so this year is just icing on the cake for me personally."
Meanwhile, Sheen was doing a lot of congratulatory on-camera hugging, as his comrades made their way to the stage to accept their trophies. Among the other honors for "The West Wing" were Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Allison Janney) and Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Richard Schiff); Best Writing in a Drama Series (Aaron Sorkin and Rick Cleveland); and Best Direction in a Drama Series (Thomas Schlamme).
"I've got a 'West Wing' feeling," host Gary Shandling mused halfway through the telecast.
NBC’s “Will & Grace” came away with some big wins, including Best Comedy Series and Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Megan Mullally and Best Supporting Actor in A Comedy Series for Sean Hayes.
The lead actor and actress in “Will & Grace,” Eric McCormack and Debra Messing, respectively, lost out to Michael J. Fox for ABC’s “Spin City” and Patricia Heaton of CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
HURRY IT UP: The Emmys aren't known for brevity. In recent years, the broadcast has dragged on well past the allotted running time, but this year's festivities wrapped up within its three-hour slot. Just barely.
During the final hour, that tinkly "get off the stage, already" piano music was heard often as awardees dragged on too long with acceptance speeches. Host Shandling was cut off in mid-sentence as he introduced presenter Bruce Willis, who walked onstage before his cue and explained, "We're running really late" under his breath.
The producers tried (mostly in vain) using TelePrompTers to quicken the pace -- a fact that Jack Lemmon inadvertently revealed, when he unconsciously read the "please wrap up" cue out loud.
In his opening monologue, Shandling said, "You know what slows this show down? It's the awards," and jokingly suggested that the names of winners be taped to the bottom of their seats to save time.
Not a bad idea.
Here's a brief blow by blow of the highlights of the 2000 Emmy telecast:
THERE'S NOTHING LIKE A GOOD POTTY JOKE: This being an awards telecast, there were of course lots of pre-taped and live time killers in between the awards and commercials.
The best of these was a "Big Brother" parody, wherein Shandling was caught on camera in the men's room. The valet offering him a hot towel was David Duchovny, who informed Shandling that a vote was taken and his bathroom privileges had been revoked. Guess you had to be there.
The whole show began, of course, with a "Survivor" parody that featured a mock vote of the Tribal Council (with celebrity members including Andy Richter of "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" fame). The winner of which would be named host of the Emmy telecast and also get an SUV. Shandling tried to cop out, asking if he could just take the car instead. Guess you had to be there for that one, too.
There were other funny gags. Conan O'Brien did a self-effacing bit about paying lip service to women's issues so he could get a date to next year's Emmys; and Shandling did a tribute to his idea of "risk taking" TV: like the Home Shopping Network, "Jerry Springer," monster trucks, "Teletubbies," "Xena" and The Weather Channel.
PRESSING THE FLESH: Hubba, hubba. Was it just the fact that we're watching the Emmy telecast on crystal-clear satellite TV, or did everyone see Geena Davis' um, er, um, ahem ... nipples? Is Renny Harlin nuts? She's the most beautiful over-40 woman in the universe -- see-through, skin-tight outfit or no.
I SEE DEAD PEOPLE: The annual montage of dearly departed TV celebs featured Loretta Young, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Madeline Kahn, John Gielgud, George C. Scott, Larry Linville, Meredith MacRae, Gene Rayburn, Durward Kirby, Shirley Hemphill, Hoyt Axton, Nancy Marchand, Leonard Goldenson, Clayton Moore, Doug Henning, Craig Stevens, Mary Jane Croft, Mabel King, Charles M. Schulz, Alec Guinness and Walter Matthau.
WHO'S THAT, ER, GIRL? Cher's got blonde hair now. She looks just like Christina Aguilera, sort of. Just thought you'd like to know.
WE LIKE MIKE: The evening's biggest no-brainer was probably Michael J. Fox's win for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. The actor received the second standing O of the night (the first went to Jack Lemmon) as he took his first "Spin City" Emmy in four tries and fourth trophy overall (he got three for "Family Ties").
NBC won bragging rights for the night, taking 23 Emmys. HBO won 20, ABC 15, Fox 11 and CBS 7.
Doug Henning, the perpetually upbeat, curly haired, mustachioed magician who made illusion a multimedia affair (on the road, on stage, on television) in the 1970s and 1980s, died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 52.
Henning had suffered from liver cancer for five months.
Henning revived the popularity of magic through the rock musical "The Magic Show" in the 1970s, which ran on Broadway for more than four years. He returned to the stage for "Merlin" and "Doug Henning's World of Magic" in the 1980s. Henning is survived by his wife, Debbie.
The hip-hop world, meanwhile, is mourning the loss of Big Punisher (a.k.a. Christopher Rios) who died Monday in New York at age 28. The 698-pound Puerto Rican-born rapper, whose double-platinum album "Capital Punishment" spawned the hit single "Still Not a Player" in 1998, was thought to have suffered a heart attack. A Westchester County, N.Y., medical examiner, said that while Rios had an enlarged heart and other health problems, the cause of death would not be determined until autopsy tests were complete. Rios is survived by wife Liza and three young children.
In other obituary notices: "Lonesome" Dave Peverett, lead singer of the British blues-rock quartet Foghat, died Monday at age 56 of complications from liver cancer; and Hercules, the grizzly bear who starred in Disney films, commercials and once wrestled with Roger Moore in the James Bond film "Octopussy." Hercules passed away Monday at age 25.
LEAPIN' LIZARDS: OK, warning to potential "Magnolia" moviegoers: If you don't want to read about a key plot point, THEN SKIP THE REST OF THIS ITEM.
Anyway ... those frogs that rain down on "Magnolia" at the end of the film? Well, they're widely assumed to be a biblical reference to the book of Exodus. But director Paul Thomas Anderson says the inspiration came from writer Charles Fort first, God second.
Fort was known for compiling clippings about strange, unexplained phenomena, and Anderson used his story about three men being hanged named Green, Berry and Hill in a town called Green Berry Hill to open the film. He also found the frog-shower tidbit from Fort's various accounts.
"He thought it shouldn't be explained or that there was a far better explanation. He believed in a place called Megonia, a mythical place above the firmament where stuff would go up to and hang out before dropping back down to Earth. 'Magnolia' is a little tribute to that," the 30-year-old director says in Daily Variety. "And it sounds funny, but he believed that you can judge a society by the health of its frogs. That doesn't seem too crazy to me because our frogs are getting all deformed and dying."
EXPECTING: "Spin City's" Michael Boatman, who plays Carter, the deadpan-funny gay special assistant on minority affairs, is about to be a father again, according to People magazine. Boatman, 35, and wife Myra are expecting their second child, due in July. The baby will join sister Jordan, 3 ... ...
"Baywatch's" Brooke Burns, 21, is expecting her first child with husband Julian McMahon of NBC's "Profiler." The two were married Dec. 22.
IN COURT: Looks like "Veronica's Closet" co-star Wallace Langham will have to face hate-crime charges after all. A Los Angeles judge refused Monday to drop the case, in which Langham was accused of beating a gay tabloid reporter during a supermarket altercation. Despite a civil settlement between the actor and the journalist, the judge says the case must go forward because it was "a fairly brutal attack" and because Langham, 34, allegedly used slurs against the victim. ...
... Rapper-entrepreneur Sean "Puffy" Combs pleaded not guilty Monday to charges he was in possession of two illegal guns after a Manhattan nightclub shooting Dec. 27 that injured three people. Combs was indicted Jan. 13 with criminal possession of a weapon. Combs and girlfriend Jennifer Lopez were taken into custody after they allegedly fled the scene of the shooting in the rapper's sport utility vehicle, but Lopez was released without charges after questioning ...
... And we're happy to report that John Tesh has won back his name. Celebsites.com has agreed to return the cybername Johntesh.com to the ex-"Entertainment Tonight" host after the TV personality-musician filed suit in federal court.
LAUDED: The Publicist Guild of America has announced its nominations for the Maxwell Weinberg Publicists Showmanship Awards, honoring PR types.
In the film categories, the nominees are the publicists for "American Beauty," "The Matrix," "Stuart Little," The Talented Mr. Ripley and "Toy Story 2"; the television nominees are "Annie," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Judging Amy," "Law & Order," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and "The West Wing.". The awards will be handed out March 22 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. ...
... Tom Sherak, chairman of 20th Century Fox's Domestic Film Group and senior VP of Fox Filmed Entertainment, will receive the Sherrill Corwin Humanitarian Award at ShoWest for his involvement with numerous charities. The National Association of Theater Owners will give Sherak the honor, which has not been awarded since 1994, during its convention March 6-9 in Las Vegas.
QUICK TAKES: Two-time Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman will pull the early-morning shift to help announce the nominations for the 72nd Annual Academy Awards bright and early Feb. 15. He'll be joined by Academy President Robert Rehme. ...
... Jude Law ("The Talented Mr. Ripley") has joined the presenting team for Oscar night March 26 at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium. ...
... Elizabeth Taylor is scheduled to hold an online chat session on AOL Live from 9-9:30 p.m. EST on Wednesday as a kickoff to Valentine's Day. Ironically, Dame Liz will be advising men on romantic gifts and other gestures. Tip No. 1: If your lady can't remember if your present was better than that of hubby No. 4 or No. 7, it's a very bad sign.