May sweeps: Bounty before the drought?

Next month's lineup may be the last fresh batch, if WGA or SAG strike
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Take a good look at this year's May sweeps lineup. You may not see their like for quite a while. With the Writer's Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild getting closer to strikes, the upcoming sweeps (April 26-May 23) could be the last time viewers are presented a bounty of original series and movies.

It's not that game shows and reality projects won't be around next month, too but they could be everywhere in November if there is a work stoppage. By the middle of May, if the WGA hasn't agreed to a new contract, the major networks may be forced to unveil alternative fall schedules at their New York upfront presentations to advertisers.

"This may be the last decent book that any local affiliate station gets until February," says TN Media's Stacey Lynn Koerner, although she says February will be strange because NBC's Olympics telecasts will confuse everything. And this November, sweeps numbers will be compared with November 2000, with the strange presidential election distortings viewing patterns.

The threat of a strike did have some networks holding back original series slated for midseason debuts, but, for the most part, they are going all-out in May.

Here are network-by-network highlights:

CBS

  • CBS kicks off sweeps with the revelation of the $1 million winner on Survivor: The AustralianOutback on May 3. It's unclear whether Bryant Gumbel will be back for another round of chats with contestants, but you can count on some sort of "post-game" special that night, as well. CBS will announce definitive Survivor finale plans shortly.
  • Blonde, a two-part miniseries on the life of Marilyn Monroe, starring Poppy Montgomery, will air on Sunday, May 13, and Wednesday, May 16. It's based on a book by Joyce Carol Oates.
  • CBS is again trying its hand at a live movie presentation, teaming Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer (Sound of Music
    co-stars) for On Golden Pond
    on April 29. (Last year, CBS had George Clooney in Fail Safe.)
  • Mary Tyler Moore and Jean Stapleton co-star in The Kimes, an original film based on the true story of a mother and son convicted of killing a New York socialite.
  • The 36th Annual Country Music Awards
    (May 9), Miss Universe 2001 (May 11) and the final episode of Walker, Texas Ranger (May 12), capping the show's nine-year run, round out CBS' May.

Fox

  • The network's biggest film of the month is There's Something About Mary, which will make its broadcast premiere on May 18.
  • America's Most Wanted is using DNA technology to re-examine criminal cases for which someone was found guilty, to determine whether errors were made.America's Most Wanted Presents Judgment Night: DNA, The Ultimate Test, airs 8-10 p.m. ET/PT on May 17.
  • Fox will air The World's Worst Drivers Caught on Tape (April 26) and a second installment of Surprise Weddings (May 10), hosted by Temptation Island contestant Shannon Roghair, where five women surprise their longtime boyfriends with a marriage proposal.
  • Guests stars on Fox series include Sting (Ally McBeal), Kathy Bates (King of the Hill) and Venus and Serena Williams (The Simpsons).

ABC

  • ABC has an Anne Frank miniseries, a pair of Shirley Temple and Paul McCartney original films and more of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Celebrity Edition.
  • The Holocaust tale of Anne Frank stars Ben Kingsley and Brenda Blethyn and will air on May 20 and May 21.
  • On Sunday, May 13, ABC will air ChildStar: The Shirley Temple Story, starring Ashley Rose Orr and Hinton Battle.
  • The story of Paul and Linda McCartney will be told in Wingspan on May 11.
  • Celebrities lined up for Millionaire
    in May include Chevy Chase, Kelly Ripa, Kevin Sorbo and Ben Stiller. The Celebrity Editions
    will air on May 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11.
  • ABC is also stocked with a handful of theatrical releases, including Meet Joe Black (April 28), Tarzan (April 29), Armageddon (April 30) and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (May 6).

NBC

  • NBC has a big wedding, a miniseries, a game show, some celebrity guest appearances and the end of 3rd RockFrom the Sun in May.
  • On Friends, the long anticipated wedding for Monica and Chandler is set for Must See TV Thursday on May 17.
  • Steve Martin's The Judge, a two-part miniseries starring former Law & Order star Chris Noth, is set for May 6 and 7. Original film Submerged will air May 20.
  • NBC's British-import quiz show The Weakest Link will air in May, and 3rd Rock
    will end its six-year run on May 22 with a one-hour finale.
  • Sally Field is returning to ER in May, and Woody Harrelson will be hanging around Will & Grace for three episodes.

UPN

  • UPN Entertainment President Tom Nunan says the network is gearing its sweeps around the final episode of Star Trek: Voyager. The seven-year-old series will end its run on the network with a two-hour finale on May 23, and UPN will run all original episodes in the sweeps.
  • UPN has added midseason sci-fi/action series Special Unit 2 in front of Voyager
    for the sweeps on Wednesday nights.
  • The network's movie night, now on Fridays, will also be sci-fi–themed with such titles as Demolition Man and The FifthElement.
  • Reality series Chains of Love
    and midseason addition All Souls will air on Tuesdays in May.

The WB

  • The WB is once again staying out of the sweeps-specials rat race and going with its normal lineup, although most of its series will have either guest stars or cliffhanger endings.
  • Robert Goulet will appear on Nikki May 6; Teri Garr, on Felicity May 16.

Related

Brand-X sweeps

The major broadcast networks say it will be business as usual—well, as usual as the networks can ever be—in November