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Your TV questions answered

Your TV questions answered — The scoop on Felicity’s hair, Michael Richards’ new sitcom, and the future of ”Sports Night”

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How will Will & Grace fare in the Thursday-night hot seat?
Last summer, NBC gave each main cast member of the promising freshman sitcom a brand-new convertible Porsche Boxster. But this spring, the net delivered W&G an even better present: the hallowed Thursday-at-9 p.m. slot (previous tenants? Cheers, Seinfeld, and Frasier). No doubt the comedy fared well last season on Tuesdays against ABC hit Dharma & Greg, but can a show with 11.8 million viewers (Seinfeld averaged 34.1 million in its last season, while Frasier averaged 19.2 million in 1999-2000) hold its own against a Thursday edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? ”It makes sense in that Millionaire does skew older and Will & Grace skews younger,” offers one rival network exec. ”Will & Grace is certainly on the rise, but I still think it’s more limited than Frasier.” In other words, W&G definitely has more Gen-X street cred than the Kelsey Grammer comedy, but its hipper vibe (not to mention those blatantly homosexual high jinks) may not reel in as many total viewers. Still, the combo of that sexy demographic and Thursday night — ”when a lot of the movie studios advertise their films,” points out TN Media senior VP of research Steve Sternberg — means at least the Peacock’s accounting department should be having a gay old time.

If Michael Richards’ pilot was good enough for NBC to pick up, why are they now retooling it?
Although Richards registered well with test audiences, you gotta keep this in mind: Even Jerry Seinfeld couldn’t single-handedly make his sitcom a hit. That’s why NBC has asked Richards’ producer, Castle Rock, to come up with an ensemble comedy, not just a solo gig for the erstwhile Kramer. ”It will change from his character running a business out of his apartment to his running a detective agency,” says one network insider. And while there have been no supporting-cast announcements just yet, don’t be surprised to see a few familiar faces filling the gumshoe agency (NBC recently flew Saturday Night Live‘s Tim Meadows in for a meeting and then offered him a role). What won’t change is the star’s patented buffoonery, which is the ”funniest stuff in the show,” according to one source (in fact, those slapstick scenes were all NBC presented to advertisers last month in New York). Says the insider: ”People loved seeing that stuff.”

What is CBS thinking pitting Bette Midler’s fall sitcom against Who Wants to Be a Millionaire on Wednesdays?
The Eye argues that its Sunday movie, along with NBC’s Frasier, have proved they can stand up to the power of Regis Philbin. Both have (on rare occasions) beaten Millionaire. ”Obviously, we have a lot of confidence in Bette!, and expect it to be one of our stronger players this fall,” says CBS’ senior VP of scheduling, Kelly Kahl. ”And with so many Millionaires on the schedule, you can’t run and hide from all of them.” ABC, not surprisingly, believes the Eye’s not seeing straight. ”Even though Millionaire does great with young adults, it’s also No. 1 with [CBS’] 50-plus viewers,” boasts the Alphabet’s head of scheduling, Jeff Bader. ”It’s actually tougher for CBS to go up against Millionaire.” Attention, cherished AARP members: You may need to buy an extra TV set to solve this Wednesday-night conundrum.