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TV Notes: Mark Cuban joins $1 million mania

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Dallas Mavericks owner and Pittsburgh native Mark Cuban will give away $1 million of his own money this summer as the host of an ABC reality series called "The Benefactor."

"Why has he agreed to give away such a large sum of money? Simply because he can and because he can't wait to devise the means through which applicants must prove to him that they deserve the money," ABC said in a news release.

About 30 contestants will compete on the series for the billionaire's cash. Show details, like the format and number of episodes, remain to be worked out, The Dallas Morning News reported yesterday.

In a statement released to the newspaper, Cuban said the show won't be a traditional contest.

"You don't need special talents," he said. "I'm not looking to find out who is the grossest, funniest, prettiest, smartest or able to go without food or water the longest.

"The right person is going to get on my good side at the right time, and whoever that is, is going to walk away with a check from me for $1 million," he said.

For details on how to participate, go to ABC.com and enter the keyword "casting."

Cuban has gotten used to giving away his money in recent years -- he's been fined repeatedly by the NBA since he bought the team in January 2000, mostly for criticizing referees, with the penalties totaling more than $1 million.

The largest fine was $500,000 for saying he wouldn't hire the NBA's head of officials to manage a Dairy Queen. Cuban later poked fun at himself by working behind the counter of an ice cream shop, serving cones.

(Associated Press)

'Millionaire' gets solid ratings

Television viewers welcomed Regis Philbin and "Super Millionaire" back with open arms.

The new version of the game show that used to be known as "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" was Sunday night's most popular broadcast show, with 17.5 million viewers, Nielsen Media Research said Monday.

"Super Millionaire" offers prizes of up to $10 million, or 10 times the jackpot of the old show, and a handful of new lifelines.

ABC shelved "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," once a sensation, after overusing it and seeing its ratings plummet. It had last aired in June 2002.

Sunday was the first of five episodes running this week as part of a sweeps-month stunt. ABC executives promised to resist repeating its mistake of overusing it. But the ratings offer temptation: it was the slumping network's most-watched Sunday night without sports programming this season.

(AP)

Viewers say yes to executions

Three in 10 Americans polled last month said Osama bin Laden should be the first victim if executions were televised -- and 21 percent said they'd pay for the privilege.

Eighteen percent said Saddam Hussein should be executed on TV, and 11 percent said they'd pay to watch it.

The opinions on executions came in a poll taken by Harris Interactive for the Trio cable channel.

One-third of the respondents told Harris that they didn't believe executions should be televised.

Harris Interactive interviewed 1,017 Americans aged 18 or older at random Jan. 24-26. The margin of error for the sample is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

(Associated Press)

Emmy changes

Further establishing the growing credibility of the genre of so-called reality shows, unscripted series will have their own Emmy category at this year's ceremony.

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' board of directors on Thursday approved several changes to Emmy rules and regulations, including giving reality/competitive shows their own category.

Reality/competitive entries last year were grouped into a category with other shows under a "special class" division. In that ceremony, "The Amazing Race," "Survivor" and "American Idol" competed against a Bob Hope tribute and "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Passions: America's Greatest Love Stories." "The Amazing Race" won the award.

(Greg Braxton, Los Angeles Times)

Timberlake out of ABC show

Justin Timberlake has pulled out as cohost of ABC's upcoming "Motown 45" special. The network and the producers insist his decision is unrelated to protests from some black groups that felt he let Janet Jackson take the blame for her breast-baring stunt at the recent Super Bowl halftime show."Motown 45" executive producer Jeff Margolis said Timberlake's withdrawal was solely because of his obligation to star in his first movie.

Several groups, including Project Islamic Hope, had blasted Timberlake's participation on the Motown special, saying he had never recorded for the label. He has also been criticized for not accepting responsibility for his role in the dance routine with Jackson, in which he pulled off part of her costume.

(G.B.)

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