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Quiz Favorites Fall Forecast

       We're a shade less than three weeks away from the moment of truth from the networks. The fall lineups (and standby replacements) will determine the fate of several "bubble" series.
       So, let's pull out our trusty crystal ball (that and 65 cents will get you a cup of coffee at Waffle House) and offer our forecasts on the fortunes of our quiz favorites.
   Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - The only question is whether the series will stay on a Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday rotation. One idea floated is if ABC moves its Disney franchise to Fridays, Millionaire would move to 8 Sundays, which may even give ABC an opportunity to air Mastermind at 7. The Practice would move up to 9 to serve as a lead-in to introduce a new drama.
   One other possibility: move the Tuesday edition to Mondays as a companion to the ratings-eroded Monday Night Football and allow ABC to go back to four comedies on Tuesdays.
   My forecast: The Sunday move is the most likely, to 8:00, to put a dent in CBS' now-aging Touched By an Angel. I don't see moving from Tuesday, which is regularly now the number one show on television. Plus, ABC doesn't have a strong enough comedy to carry the kind of ratings WWTBAM brings. Outside chance: adding a fourth edition Mondays during football season but I doubt it, without renegotiating Regis' contract.

   Twenty-One - Regardless of what happens, this series deserves a medal of honor for surviving five time period shifts and every effort of the network suits to kill it when it didn't match the phenomenon of Millionaire.
   My forecast: After this odyssey, Twenty-One gets a renewal. You don't suddenly name a new network executive (Curt Sharp) and trumpet him as being immediately being placed in supervision of the show if you have no plans to make new episodes.
   Where does it go? I can't see leaving it Mondays at 9, despite its admirable performance against a murderers' row. That would include NFL football in the fall. Going to 8 leaves it vulnerable to periodic drop-ins of Millionaire by ABC. The most likely slot: Saturday nights at 8 or 9 on a throwaway night where NBC will bide its time until Vince McMahon's XFL football begins in February. Outside possibility: hold it out and save it as a "replacement" series for an early fall failure on the NBC lineup.

   Greed - This one has pretty well peaked and the upcoming Super Greed, in my view, won't perk up the numbers merely by doubling the jackpot. Nor will a celebrity version. However, Fox is showing nothing substantively in development in scripted series which would probably do better on Friday nights. Knight-Ridder Newspapers critics are already predicting cancellation. Ironically, the theme-based Greed specials performed better than anything this show has done since its first month.
   My forecast: The future all depends on whether Fox has designs on picking up Fox Family's Paranoia, which I think has a real possibility on a major network. Or whether Fox's summer $1 Million Chance of a Lifetime strikes a chord. I nervously go with a second-season renewal but not for a full 52.

   Mastermind - ABC has still not made a firm committment to introduce this one in the summer. If it does, it won't have a chance to hit the regular schedule until November or January. However, don't be surprised at a Sunday at 7 slot eventually, if ABC moves WWTBAM to Sundays at 8 in the fall.

   The $64,000 Question - Who knows? From what I'm told Greg Gumbel was very good but the CBS executives are very hands-on with this show which may not portend good news. If CBS plops this one in on Friday or Saturday nights as a half-hour during the summer, forget it. If the network rolled the dice and rested a couple of its Monday night comedies for the summer, it may get a sampling. I'm not encouraged about more than a short run here.

   What's My Line? - Harry Anderson is going to host this one and he brings at least some kind of name to the show. However, I sense Les Moonves of CBS has never had a lot of faith in this revival, considering he has nixed scheduled summer runs the last two years. I'm betting CBS may well go with this one on Saturday nights back-to-back with Question during the summer and they'll both go the route of Super Jeopardy and Monopoly ten years earlier.

   The $1 Million Chance of a Lifetime - I've never seen the Australian version of this show and I can't begin to tell you of its chances. However, Fox thinks enough to give it a five-night run this summer before settling it in directly opposite CBS' Survivor Wednesday nights. There's where the challenge will be: will the audience be more interested in Lord of the Flies than a hard quiz? I'm betting before summer's end, Fox may move this one to Friday as a back-to-back with Greed.

   Survivor - Because this is scheduled as a weekly and because of the advance publicity already leaking out (although if the winner's identity leaks early, that will, in my opinion, kill it), this one will probably get a lot of early attention. A lot depends on how well-edited the show is and how different the look of each episode is. Give me a quiz any day but I'll give this one a better-than-average chance to lock in as a summer regular.

   Big Brother - Here's the Steve Special: I think this one is headed for a bigger crash than CBS' Falcone. Maybe the first few shows will attract attention because of the bizarre nature. However, I am nonplussed to believe an audience is going to find this kind of voyeurism compelling five nights a week for nine weeks, even with the highly-touted round-the-clock Internet cams. Not even The Real World could hold up with teens that often. My prediction is CBS will question why it spent $20 million for this clinker by the time the third week rolls around.
       Next week: we'll take out the 8-ball on the cable and syndicated offerings for summer and fall.
*******************************************************
       Remember, if you want to express yourself about the future of Twenty-One, send an e-mail to programming@nbc.com. After Monday, a one-month hiatus until the final first-run episode May 28....Dan Avila's brother will likely be a contestant during the Super Greed episodes....I still say CBS would have been better remaking the old $64,000 Challenge, simply because it has no resemblance to Millionaire, other than hurdle climbs....Is it just me, or have you had a bellyful of Kathie Lee, Rosie, etc., all spilling the beans about what happened on their episodes of Celebrity Millionaire....TV Guide is doing a comprehensive feature on the quiz shows during May and they'll tackle a bit on the Philbin-Trebek "feud," which I told them I believe is one of the most concocted disputes since Fred Allen and Jack Benny in the days of radio. Let's tell the truth: it's had most of the major newspapers and magazines writing about both WWTBAM and Jeopardy, as if either show needed the publicity....We'll soon be talking with Tommy Oliver, the bandleader of Name That Tune and Face the Music....Our interview with Dave Legler, network television's all-time quiz champion, begins Monday....The Sheri Hicks interview touched a nerve in a lot of quarters. Split into three camps: some who believe Sheri is a sore loser, some who believe Sheri has a legitimate issue with Greed but weakened her case by going back on the show's Tournament of Losers and still others who believe she is Stempel 2000 and the show should be investigated. Still no response to us from the Fox camp.

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