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.