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Television's November sweeps begin in October

Sunday, October 27, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

November sweeps begins early this year, starting on Halloween. How appropriate. Networks always encounter cruel tricks (a highly promoted miniseries that tanks in the ratings) and surprise treats (a huge tune-in for last year's Carol Burnett special on CBS) in sweeps.

November sweeps begin early this year with the usual flock of ripped-from-the-headline dramatizations, sexy specials, awards shows and trips down memory lane.

During sweeps month, a local station's viewership is measured to set future advertising rates. That's why you'll see a rash of investigative stories on local newscasts. Prime-time programs attempt to keep viewers watching in an effort to deliver those same viewers to stations' 11 p.m. newscasts.

This year, the networks' prime-time lineups include ripped-from-the-headline dramatizations, sexy specials, awards shows and trips down memory lane. And that doesn't even count the "very special episodes" of regular weekly series.

Here we're primarily interested in non-series programs that will be hitting the tube in the next month.

ABC

"The Pennsylvania Miners' Story" (9 p.m. Nov. 24), a dramatization of the ordeal faced this past summer by the nine rescued Quecreek miners, will air in sweeps, giving ABC what it hopes will be the most bang for the millions of bucks it spent on the project.

Paul McCartney headlines "Back in the U.S." (9 p.m. Nov. 27), a chronicle of his most recent American concert tour.

"The Wonderful World of Disney" airs two original movies. Macaulay Culkin didn't make it as far as "Home Alone 3," so there's no reason to expect to see him in "Home Alone 4" (7 p.m. Nov. 3).

Mike Weinberg ("Stolen Summer," "Project Greenlight") takes over the role of 11-year-old Kevin McCallister as he battles an old nemesis, Marv (French Stewart replacing Daniel Stern), while dealing with the separation of his parents.

In "Mr. St. Nick" (7 p.m. Nov. 17), Santa Claus (Charles Durning) prepares to pass his responsibilities to his son (Kelsey Grammer), who isn't ready to take over the family business.

CBS

The Eye network has two real-life stories as part of its sweeps month strategy.

William Hurt stars as the title character in "Master Spy: The Life of Robert Hanssen" (9 p.m. Nov. 10 and 17), the story of the FBI agent whose subversive double life did the most damage to U.S. security in the country's history.

The story of an entertainment partnership is explored in "Martin and Lewis" (9 p.m. Nov. 24), starring Jeremy Northam and Sean Hayes as the comedic duo.

Last year, viewers wrote to the FCC to complain about a similar show on ABC, but that won't stop CBS from revealing "The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" (10 p.m. Nov. 20), featuring models Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks and Gisele Bundchen.

"This isn't your grandmother's CBS," said CBS president Leslie Moonves at a July press conference in response to questions about the Victoria's Secret special.

Country music stars gather for "The 36th Annual CMA Awards" (8 p.m. Nov. 6), with expected performances by nominees Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Shania Twain, Alan Jackson, George Strait and Faith Hill.

Fox

"The Simpsons" (8 p.m. Nov. 3) will be a little late for the holiday, but that shouldn't matter to fans who look forward to the clan's annual Halloween episode.

In "Treehouse of Horror XIII," Homer comes face to face with Homer clones and the cast appears in mutated form in "The Island of Dr. Hibbert."

Fox goes back to the ring for "Celebrity Boxing 3" (9 p.m. Nov. 21) and down the aisle for "Funniest Wedding Outtakes" (9 p.m. Thursday). Other Thursday night space fillers include "Funniest Animals" (9 p.m. Nov. 7) and "TV's Funniest Game Show Moments 2" (9 p.m. Nov. 14).

Though airing technically after the sweeps period ends, Fox's highest-profile project in November is "The Brady Bunch in the White House" (8 p.m. Nov. 29), starring Gary Cole and Shelley Long, who played Mike and Carol Brady in "The Brady Bunch Movie" and its sequel.

A new crop of actors play the Brady children, who find themselves living in the White House after Mike becomes President of the United States.

NBC

With several theatrical movies on its schedule ("Jurassic Park," "The Bone Collector," "Runaway Bride"), NBC has fewer original productions than some of its competitors.

The Peacock offers a three-hour remake of "Carrie" (8 p.m. Nov. 4) starring newcomer Angela Bettis (in the Sissy Spacek title role), Rena Sofer, David Keith, and Patricia Clarkson.

Former prime-time mainstays Fred Dryer and Stepfanie Kramer return to play the characters from their popular '80s cop series in "Hunter: Return to Justice" (9 p.m. Nov. 16).

NBC gets a couple of concerts out of country singers Tim McGraw (8 p.m Nov. 27) and Faith Hill (9 p.m. Nov. 28).

NBC's traditional coverage of the "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade" (9 a.m. Nov. 28) will be followed this year by "The National Dog Show Presented by Purina" (noon), a two-hour event hosted by John O'Hurley ("Seinfeld").

The WB & UPN

The up-and-coming networks don't go in for specials, preferring stunt casting in their regular series.

UPN offers several musical guest stars including Method Man ("One on One," Nov. 4), DMX ("Half & Half," Nov. 4) and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 ("Haunted," Nov. 5).

The WB's four Friday night comedies promote an anti-smoking message Nov. 15. And on the increasingly grating "7th Heaven," Rev. Camden's church hires an associate pastor played by Jeremy London ("Party of Five").


You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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