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''Joe'' finale sets ratings record

”Joe” finale sets ratings record. After drawing Oscar-sized numbers, Fox is trying to figure out how to do a sequel to the deceptive reality show

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Evan Marriott, Joe Millionaire
Joe Millionaire: Fox

As NBC entertainment president Jeff Zucker predicted last week, despite all the hoopla about the dueling Michael Jackson specials on his network and ABC on Monday, everyone would be watching the ”Joe Millionaire” finale on Fox. According to Nielsen, an average of 34.6 million people watched the two-hour show, with 40 million tuning in during the second hour to see Evan Marriott open his heart and his secretly empty wallet to Zora Andrich. That makes Monday the biggest night of entertainment programming in Fox’s 17-year history. The last non-sports show to pull in that kind of number was last year’s Oscar ceremony on ABC (41.8 million viewers).

You wouldn’t think that feat could be duplicated, especially now that the world knows ”Joe”’s deceptive premise. But Fox Television Entertainment Group chairman Sandy Grushow told Variety that the network’s reality guru, Mike Darnell, is ”close to figuring out a way to do a ‘Joe Millionaire 2’ for next season. It’s an idea that would involve men, women and lots of money. How those pieces are put together is for the future to tell.”

Meantime, Fox hopes to keep viewers hooked on hook-up reality shows on Monday nights. Next week, the network will air ”Joe Millionaire: The Aftermath,” in which Evan and Zora will reveal what’s happened with their relationship since they taped the finale in November. The week after, Fox premieres the voter-participation matchmaking show ”Married by America.”