Networks are hoping viewers will be swept away by TV next month, betting their big-budget mini-series and movies will draw viewers to the tube during November sweeps.
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When: Nov. 4 to Dec. 1.
Features: Movies, mini-series and "very special" episodes of series in prime time sidebar text
Audience viewing is measured during sweeps periods - traditionally held in February, May, July and November - and the results are used to set advertising rates.
Usually November sweeps end before Thanksgiving, but this year it runs Thursday through Dec. 1.
Ann Elliot, vice president of marketing/communications at Nielsen Media Research, said sweeps dates are set after consultation with organizations like the Television Bureau of Advertising.
"Every once in a while, November sweeps includes Thanksgiving. This isn't the first time it's [been included] by any means," Elliot said. "We try to avoid the change to daylight savings time."
That happened last night. Now November sweeps can begin.
Here's what each of the networks is planning for the next month. Mark your calendars:
"Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" returns one week from today with Regis Philbin annoyingly asking contestants, "Final answer?" The game show will air for 15 consecutive days.
A remake of "Annie" (Nov. 7) airs as a presentation of "The Wonderful World of Disney" with Kathy Bates as Miss Hannigan.
"Come on Get Happy: The Partridge Family Story" (Nov. 13) looks behind the scenes at the personalities involved in making "The Partridge Family" sitcom. Danny Bonaduce, one of the stars of the original TV show, served as a consultant on this TV movie.
A year ago this month NBC scored with its Pittsburgh-made mini-series "The Temptations." CBS will try to attract a similarly large audience with "Shake, Rattle and Roll" (Nov. 7 and 10) the story of a fictional '50s rock band.
In need of a disaster movie to make your life seem sane? Try "Aftershock: Earthquake in New York" (Nov. 14 and 16), the tale of a quake in Manhattan. Tom Skerritt, Sharon Lawrence and Charles S. Dutton star in this four-hour mini-series.
"Hallmark Hall of Fame" premieres the third and final chapter in its ongoing TV saga of "Sarah, Plain and Tall III: Winter's End" (Nov. 21). Glenn Close and Christopher Walken are joined by Jack Palance in this family-friendly TV movie.
The Tiffany network also will air several music specials during the month featuring Celine Dion (Nov. 24), Shania Twain (Nov. 25) and Ricky Martin (Nov. 26).
Off to a dismal start in the ratings this season, Fox will stick with its "ignore sweeps" strategy.
Rather than pay for big ticket movies or mini-series, Fox chooses to air inexpensive, but bound-to-get-a-rating reality specials such as "Celebrities Out of Control" (8 p.m. Thursday) and "Secrets of Street Magic Finally Revealed" (Nov. 24).
"The X-Files" (Nov. 7) finally has its season premiere and the cross-over episode with the canceled "Millennium" (guest starring Lance Henriksen as Frank Black) is scheduled for Nov. 28.
Fox will try to draw attention away from ABC's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" with its game show special "Greed" (premiering Thursday at 9 p.m., also airing Nov. 11 and 18). It pits two teams of contestants against each other and later forces fellow teammates to turn against one another in an effort to win a $2 million grand prize.
Someone make Robert Halmi Sr. and Hallmark Entertainment stop. Please.
The viewing public continues to gobble up even the most awful dreck they produce (i.e. "Noah's Ark"), and there's no reason to think they won't tune in for the four-hour mini-series "The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns" (Nov. 7 and 8), unless, of course, they actually read the title. Randy Quaid plays an American businessman who encounters little green men in Ireland.
NBC will fight CBS's "Aftershock" with religion, airing the made-for-TV "Mary, Mother of Jesus" (Nov. 14). Pernilla August (Anakin's mom in "Star Wars Episode 1") plays Mary with Christian Bale as the Son of God.
The Millennium bug gets its own TV movie in "Y2K" (Nov. 21). WPXI has gone so Y2K-happy in its newscasts, I can't wait to see the local tie-in they'll promote during this movie that stars Ken Olin as a computer trouble-shooter who saves the world.
With Thanksgiving in the November sweeps period, NBC is taking a different approach to turkey night. Instead of a movie (usually "Home Alone"), the network will air original, Thanksgiving-themed episodes of "Friends" (8 p.m.), "Just Shoot Me" (8:30 p.m.), "Frasier" (9 p.m.), "Will & Grace" (9:30 p.m.) and the "ER" where Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) gives birth.
The classic film "It's a Wonderful Life" airs Thanksgiving day at noon.
I still don't understand why PBS insists on competing with the big boys, airing their high-profile programs the same weeks as the commercial networks. Nothing changes as PBS shows off its ritziest wares in the coming weeks.
"Hitchcock, Selznick & the End of Hollywood" (9 p.m. tomorrow) airs as a 90-minute "American Masters" special.
Ken Burns returns with his latest opus. "Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony" (Nov. 7 and 8), a four-hour profile of the founders of the women's rights movement.
His brother, Ric Burns, premieres "New York: A Documentary Film" (Nov. 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18), a history of New York City from its beginning in 1624 as a Dutch trading post. A final installment will air sometime next year.
TBS offers the cable premiere of "The Wizard of Oz" on Thanksgiving night at 8 p.m.
"Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost" (Nov. 27), already released on video, premieres on Cartoon Network along with two new series: "Mike, Lu & Og" (Nov. 12) and "Courage the Cowardly Dog" (Nov. 12).
A new "South Park Thanksgiving Special" (Nov. 24) stirs up trouble on Comedy Central.