JACKPOT ”Who Wants to be a Millionaire” topped its previous record cash giveaway when Wednesday night’s winner took home $500,000. Michael Shutterly, 46 — who won $49,000 on ”Jeopardy” 10 years ago — was one answer away from the $1 million jackpot, but declined the final question of who won the first Grammy in the hard-rock category. Taking the money and running was a wise choice, since Shutterly said that the only one of four possible answers he knew was wrong was Jethro Tull, which was the right answer.
AILING A representative for ”Blue Streak” star Martin Lawrence has revealed that the actor is in critical condition in an L.A. area hospital, having recently emerged from a three-day coma. The comedian collapsed while jogging on Sunday. Lawrence, in an attempt to lose weight for an upcoming movie role, had put on several layers of clothing to ”sweat off” the pounds and subsequently suffered heat stroke. When he arrived at the Los Robles Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Lawrence clocked in with a 107 degree body temperature.
GONE CORPORATE The Artist Formerly Known as Prince has apparently forgiven the record business and has returned to a major label. He’s been steadfastly marketing and distributing his own records since leaving Warner Bros. in 1995 (and making a temporary deal with EMI), but his next album, ”Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic,” will be released in November through Arista in a one-record deal. The album’s first single, ”The Greatest Romance Ever Sold,” will be out in late September.
CASTING Lisa Kudrow may join the comedy ”Numbers,” playing the wife of a postal worker (John Travolta) who figures out how to scam the lottery.
A SHOW DEFERRED ABC is taking ”Sports Night” reruns off the net’s schedule for the next six weeks and will not bring the show back until its season premiere on Oct. 5. Apparently the program is not finding an audience its second time around either (last week it was fourth in its time slot), and the network feels the show’s second season would be better hyped by plugging it during ABC’s hits. The ”Sports Night” cast wasn’t reached for comment, but if the show’s dialogue is any indication, they might be expected to react thusly: ”We’re off the air.” ”What do you mean by ‘off’?” ”You know what the TV looks like when it’s unplugged? Kind of like that.” ”Well, that’s not as good as being, say, on the air.” ”Definitely not. In fact, significantly less good.” And that would continue for another five minutes.
IOU Sometimes being a diva isn’t cost-effective. According to the Associated Press, officials in Concord, Calif., want Whitney Houston to reimburse the city $100,000 it claims was spent preparing for the Aug. 1 concert that she backed out of 15 minutes before show time when she claimed she was too ill to perform. Houston’s rep did not comment.
REEL DEAL Rob Reiner will return to exploring his dark side (left untouched since ”Misery”) by directing an untitled thriller about a group of teenagers on a murder spree trying to evade an FBI agent.
CYBERSCOWLING MTV’s ”Daria” will soon be cynical in a whole new media. Simon and Schuster Interactive is producing a line of videogames based around the show, and the first release, ”Daria’s Sick, Sad Life Planner,” will be in stores in October.
CRITIQUE Bill Gates has finally filed his review of TNT’s recent TV movie ”Pirates of Silicon Valley,” and — big surprise — he didn’t like the contentious way his rise to power was depicted. ”Maybe I’m too close to the situation to like the portrayal, but that was not history,” he said at a conference for Dell Computer Corp. ”This business was fun and exciting and full of great people, and it’s been a great privilege to be part of its being created. I hope that someday somebody can capture that in a truthful way.” He didn’t specifically comment on Anthony Michael Hall’s performance, but the Microsoft guru is probably more of a ”Weird Science” fan.
REUNITING Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre are taking their recent reunion on the road. According to MTV News, they’ll appear on stage together for the last show of Concert on Chronic Island, a three-day rap festival being held September 24-26 in Oahu, Hawaii. Their performance should be extra good after three days of eating mad motherf—–g poi.
THE DEAD SELL NO TALES You won’t be seeing Bette Davis hawking 1-800-COLLECT, thanks to a bill likely to pass in California that would forbid the unauthorized use of dead celebrities‘ images to sell commercial items. The bill was coauthored by Fred Astaire’s widow Robin, who was enraged when her late husband’s likeness was used in an instructional-dance video. The MPAA and networks had been fighting the legislation, but thanks to a compromise that made the bill apply only to commercial use and not artistic — like, for example, the digitized use of President Johnson in ”Forrest Gump” — support is now nearly unanimous. It appears likely that the bill will receive the needed approval of the full California Assembly and Gov. Gray Davis.
OBITUARY Screenwriter Norman Wexler, who wrote the scripts for ”Saturday Night Fever” and ”Serpico,” died of a heart attack on Monday at the age of 73…. Mary Jane Croft, Lucille Ball’s sidekick on ”The Lucy Show” and ”Here’s Lucy,” passed away Tuesday at 83 from natural causes.