Sweeping into May television

The race is going be tight this year.

As the TV season winds down and moves into the May sweeps, the major networks are duking it out for those coveted No. 1 spots, especially in the adults 18-49 group that advertisers love and the ego-boosting title of the most-watched network. This kind of tight primetime competition hasn’t been seen in the TV arena in many years, but the reality TV explosion has truly changed the landscape and kept network execs on their toes.

One of the bigger contests is between CBS’s post-Survivor show. Survivor: Back from the Outback, will air Monday, May 10, a week after the $1 million winner is determined, up against NBC’s newest game show phenomenon, The Weakest Link.

The Survivor show will follow the 16 contestants as they go back home and deal with their newfound lives as celebrities (even if it’s only for the requisite 15 minutes). The show also features interviews with the original Survivor cast members.

Link has a trick up its sleeve by having a handful of the original Survivor cast on the show as contestants. [see related news story {link to /news/topstories/04-17-01/html/1-2.html}]

Here’s a complete look at what the networks are up to in May:


April 29: A live movie presentation of On Golden Pond, reuniting Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer for first time since the classic Sound of Music.

May 3: The two-hour finale of Survivor: The Australian Outback, with the post-show on May 10.

May 13, 16: Blonde, a two-part miniseries on the life of Marilyn Monroe, based on a book by Joyce Carol Oates. Poppy Montgomery (The Other Sister) stars as the infamous blonde one and weaves fact with fiction.

May 12: The series finale of Walker, Texas Ranger. Chuck Norris ends his time as the tough Texas lawman after nine years.

Others to consider: The 36th annual Country Music Awards on May 9, and Miss Universe 2001 on May 11. And there also is a planned original movie called The Kimes, about the true-life sensational murder story about a mother and son who kill a New York socialite, with Mary Tyler Moore and Jean Stapleton.

Even with the huge success of Survivor, CBS has little chance of winning the 18-49 demographic. But it will certainly finish strong with a 4-plus demo rating for the first time in three years.


May 6, 7: The Judge, a two-part miniseries starring Sex in the City‘s Chris Noth and Edward James Olmos.

May 17: Friends will end its season with the much-anticipated wedding between Monica and Chandler, with Morgan Fairchild and Kathleen Turner, playing Chandler’s mother and, uh, father, respectively.

May 22: The one-hour series finale of 3rd Rock from the Sun, ending its six-year run.

Others to consider: The Weakest Link will continue on Monday nights; Sally Field will return to ER; Woody Harrelson joins the cast of Will & Grace as the latter’s new boyfriend; and Just Shoot Me will allow the audience to decide how the season finale should end.

NBC is favored to win the 18-49 demographics, leading with a 4.7 to Fox and ABC’s 4.5.


May 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11: Who Wants to be a Millionaire, with such celebrity players as Ben Stiller, Jason Alexander, Dennis Franz, Kelly Ripa (Regis Philbin‘s co-host on his morning show), Kevin Sorbo and Alfre Woodard.

May 11: The story of Paul and Linda McCartney in the TV-biopic Wingspan.

May 13: A Wonderful World of Disney’s portrait of Shirley Temple in Childstar: The Shirley Temple Story, starring Ashley Rose Orr and Hinton Battle.

May 20, 21: A Holocaust miniseries about Anne Frank, with Ben Kingsley and Brenda Blethyn.

Others to consider: Movies include Meet Joe Black on April 28, Tarzan on April 29, Armageddon on April 30 and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective on May 6.

With its overkill on Millionaire shows, ABC stands the best chance to win the most-watched network with approximately 220,000 total viewers.


May 18: The broadcast premiere of the comedy There’s Something About Mary

May 17: America’s Most Wanted is using DNA technology to reexamine criminal cases with guilty verdicts to determine whether errors were made. America’s Most Wanted Presents Judgement Night: DNA, The Ultimate Test. Oh boy, watch out.

May 23: The series finale of Boot Camp. The winner gets $500,000.

Others to consider: Guest stints on Ally McBeal (Sting) and King of the Hill (Kathy Bates).

Fox was to show the broadcast premiere of Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace during the sweeps, but decided to wait until the November sweeps.


The major defection is Buffy, The Vampire Slayer from WB to UPN, so its series finale should be enjoy a large audience. Also leaving the air after seven years will be UPN’s Star Trek: Voyager, with the two-hour finale airing May 23. UPN also plans to air several sci-fi type movies including Demolition Man and The Fifth Element. The two fledging networks, however, are fairly even in their demographic numbers.