Regis Philbin isn’t the only guy at ABC handing out the big money. On Wednesday, ”The Drew Carey Show” and ”Norm” will follow Reege’s lead-in with their own sweeps-boosting shenanigans. ”Drew” will launch its third annual April Fool’s ”What’s Wrong With This Episode?” special (hint: The incorrect date is a gimme), while ”Norm” will air its first stunt episode, which challenges viewers to guess which lines of dialogue and props are borrowed from famous films. ”What I really like about ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ is that a family can hang out and play along, and it becomes an event,” says Bruce Helford, executive producer of both ”Drew” and ”Norm.” ”This is the same thing, giving the show a life beyond its time slot [as families study their VCR tapes to find more hidden clues].”
While neither show will make anyone a millionaire, the prizes are none too shabby. ”Drew” will award a grand prize of $200,000, along with a chance to visit Los Angeles and go bowling with Carey, while ”Norm” will hand out a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, a trip for two to Los Angeles, VIP tickets to the bleacher seats outside the Oscars, and passes to In Style magazine’s Oscar party.
This may seem like an expensive gimmick, but both series badly need the ratings boost as sweeps draw to a close on Thursday. ”’The Drew Carey Show’ has been around for five years, and it’s long since peaked,” explains Marc Berman, programming analyst for Mediaweek.com. ”ABC gambled by signing on for two more years, because by next year there’s a chance the numbers will really be dropping. But the stunt is even more important for ‘Norm,’ because its numbers haven’t been exactly great — it’s on the fence as to whether the show will be back next season.”