ABCs good fortune

Millionaire' gives it a strong base to build on

What's new

Four new series: three comedies and one drama

Comedies: Geena. Oscar-winner Geena Davis is a single career woman living a fast-paced life in New York. Then she meets father and widower Peter Horton (thirtysomething). It's produced by Sex and the City's Terri Minsky.

Madigan Men. Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects) comes to the small screen in an Irish comedy about three generations of men in New York City. Written and produced by Cindy Chupack (Sex and the City).

People Who Fear People. An ensemble cast that includes Jon Cryer (Pretty in Pink) is caught up in an apartment building where everyone thinks the others are spying on them. They are, too.

Drama: Gideon's Crossing. Emmy-winner Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street) plays a tireless doctor and medical-school professor who uses words and medicine to heal patients. The drama is written by Paul Attanasio (Quiz Show and Homicide).

The strategy

"Who would have thought that one simple addition last summer would impact all our fortunes so dramatically?" asked ABC Entertainment Television Group Co-Chairman Stu Bloomberg of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? at ABC's upfront presentation.

ABC also has four new series (three from co-owned Touchstone Television) and a fourth night of Millionaire (Wednesday at 8 p.m.).

ABC execs left Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday intact but changed their Friday nights. No more youth-oriented TGIF lineup. Now there are four older-skewing comedies anchored by Two Guys and a Girl.

Gone to new networks are Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (The WB) and The Hughleys (UPN).

Once and Again and NYPD Blue are sharing the Tuesday 10 p.m. slot for the second year in a row-with Once and Again moving to Mondays after Monday Night Football is concluded.

"The challenge is to create a schedule that capitalizes on the stability of 17 returning programs and Millionaire's strength," says Lloyd Braun, ABC's other co-chairman.

What they are saying

Agency executives love Millionaire, which has catapulted the network into first place in households and most key demos. As to press speculation about its legs, advertisers don't seem concerned. "It could lose a third to half of its audience, and it's still going to be one of the higher-rated shows in network television," said TN Media's Steve Sternberg. "The thing with Millionaire is, a lot of people are switching to it, instead of cable, when they don't like whatever else is on."


Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, The Hughleys, Boy Meets World, It's Like.You Know, Sports Night, Wasteland, Oh Grow Up

Season to date

Total households: 9.3 rating/15 share (+15% from last year), first place.

Adults 18-49: 5.5/15 (+17%).