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by Jim Hill (archives)
May 15, 2001
Yet another pile of Disney-related news coming out of the Big Apple. Learn how the Mouse used its "50/50" on Regis, as the Walt Disney Company opted to cut back on the number of times "Millionaire" would be broadcast each week on ABC. Plus other assorted N.Y.C. stories

"M-I-C ..." in N.Y.C.
Yet another pile of Disney-related news coming out of the Big Apple. Learn how the Mouse used its "50/50" on Regis, as the Walt Disney Company opted to cut back on the number of times "Millionaire" would be broadcast each week on ABC. Plus other assorted N.Y.C. stories

Isn't it ironic?

Even as the Mouse races to get "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - Play It!" installed at the Hollywood Studio Backlot area at its California Adventure theme park (with the hope that a West Coast version of this hit WDW attraction will somehow help boost attendance at DCA), Disney's television network -- ABC -- is radically cutting back on the number of episodes of "Millionaire" it plans to air each week.

Why for? Well, while the American version of this British hit game show continues to pull down decent ratings, "Millionaire" 's viewing audience has aged significantly over the past year. The quiz program is no longer considered "Must See TV" by that most desirable of demographics, TV viewers aged 18-49.

That's why the Mouse opted to cut "Millionaire" -- which has been airing on ABC four (sometimes five!) nights a week on ABC during the past television season -- to just twice weekly starting this fall: Mondays at 8 p.m. and Thursdays at 9 p.m.

Also -- with the hope that this might help shore up Regis' ratings -- the Thursday edition of "Millionaire" will be devoted entirely devoted to stunt versions of the program. This means that celebrities, sports figures, couples, children and college students will regularly be climbing into the "hot seat" to compete for big bucks.

Speaking of competition: ABC's "Millionaire" may find itself in serious competition for game show viewers this fall when the two year old program goes head-to-head with another Americanized version of a popular British quiz show: NBC's "The Weakest Link." Yesterday, the Peacock Network announced plans to begin airing "Link" twice weekly: Sunday & Monday nights starting at 8 p.m. That proposed Monday time slot means that Philbin's going to be in direct competition with acerbic host Anne Robinson. Let's hope that all those years he spent listening to Kathy Lee's yammering will help Reege bear up under Anne's icy stare.

As part of today's presentation of ABC's 2001 - 2002 line-up (Which was held at the New Amsterdam theater in New York. Why NYC? Because that's where most of the folks who actually buy commercial time on ABC's programs have their offices), Disney also announced that it was entering into a partnership with Academy Award winning film-maker James Cameron and noted oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau. Their goal was to produce a series of spectacular undersea exploration television specials similar to the ones Jean-Michel's dad -- the legendary Jacques Cousteau -- did for ABC back in the mid-1960s.

And what will be the subject of the first collaboration between ABC, Cameron & Cousteau? Given Cameron's well-known fascination with the Titanic, it is anticipated that the first program will deal with yet another deep sea dive to the final resting place of the doomed ocean liner.

(Epcot fans take note: WDI is hoping to take advantage of this ABC/Cameron/Cousteau collaboration to help come up with some new cutting edge exhibits for Future World's faded "Living Seas" pavilion. Who knows? Maybe if they're lucky, the Imagineers could even persuade Cameron to create a new pre-show film for the attraction.)

Finally, one last piece of New York City-based news: What's all that noise coming from the St. James Theater? Well, it's not the cast celebrating the record number of Tony nominations (15!) that this new Mel Brooks' musical, "The Producers," racked up last week. Nor is the ticket-buyers outside the theater, who are bemoaning about the incredibly high ticket prices ($100 apiece for a decent orchestra seat) or that the show already is virtually sold out through April 2002.

No, all that wailing and gnashing of teeth you're hearing is coming from the producers of "The Producers." They just learned that Tony Award nominee Matthew Broderick is actually under contract to the Walt Disney Company to make a TV movie version of Meredith Willson's "The Music Man" later this summer. That means that Broderick will have to leave the hit show for at least a few weeks in July & August while he goes out west to work.

The big question is: who do "The Producers" producers get to replace Matthew while he's away singing "Seventy Six Trombones" for the Mouse? The word on the street is that Mel Brooks' original choice of the Leo Bloom role -- comedian (and Tony Award winner) Martin Short -- might be willing to fill in for Broderick while he's away. Providing -- of course -- the check and the billing is big enough.

That's enough New York news for now. Until next time, remember: there's more to the Walt Disney Company than those theme parks.

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-- Jim Hill

Jim Hill can be reached using the Talkback form below or by emailing him at [email protected].

Jim Hill is this guy who lives 'way out in the woods of New Hampshire. (Hey, it's not like he wants to live there. But the Witness Protection Program has got rules, you know.) He has one beautiful daughter and three obnoxious cats. When he's not looking for real work, Jim writes about the Walt Disney Company and related matters for LaughingPlace.com, AmusementPark.com, "Orlando Weekly" and Digital Media FX.

The opinions expressed by Jim Hill, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the past decisions and future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.

-- Posted May 15, 2001