Remember when CBS sitcom star Ray Romano appeared on last season’s celebrity edition of ”Who Wants to be a Millionaire”? Well, now the Eye network — together with rival NBC — is quietly discouraging its stars from appearing on the next edition of celebrity ”Millionaire” planned for the November sweeps. Insiders say the two nets are in no mood to lend a helping hand to the competition — especially now that the Regis-powered franchise is starting to show signs of wear. (CBS and NBC declined to comment.)
Though ”Millionaire” — which accounts for nearly a fifth of ABC’s new primetime lineup — is still managing to pull first and second place wins, the editions are down nearly 30% among total viewers (from 28 million to 19.8 million) this season. ”You won’t find anyone who will say this show is dead,” says one suit at a competing network. ”It’s just no longer invincible.”
Although the celebrity editions don’t rely solely on stars from competing networks, last season’s presence of such popular actors as Romano and ”The X-Files”’ David Duchovny provided a boost for the hit show. That’s why producers reached out to NBC and CBS stars for the ”Millionaire” editions planned for Nov. 12, 14, 15, and 16. The Peacock’s Conan O’Brien and Martin Sheen of ”The West Wing” were approached — but both gave it a thumbs down. So did ”Nash Bridges” star Cheech Marin, though it was a scheduling problem, not a network mandate, that prompted his refusal (CBS was willing to let him appear because Marin is passionate about supporting his favorite charity).
ABC declined to comment, but it’s believed that no CBS or NBC stars will be among the 10 celebs participating next month. Among the guests: ABC’s ”Spin City” lead Charlie Sheen, Vivica A. Fox, Jon Stewart, and Puff Daddy.