February 18, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

Preshow Biz

Bad news: Despite evoking universal derision, ABC’s Oscar preshow will return this year. Good news: It won’t be hosted by Geena Davis, and it won’t be so soul-crushingly stuffy. “Last year, they took a little bit of the excitement out of the show,” says MTV Movie Awards producer Joel Gallen, who’ll be overseeing the 2000 rendition. “This year, it will be an entirely different feeling, much more energetic, with more frenzy.” Gallen plans to catch celebs from all angles by scattering about 15 cameras around L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium. There’ll also be an on-screen clock that ticks down to the ceremony’s launch. And although he’s not ready to name the show’s several hosts, Gallen says he’s “not going after movie actors who’ve never hosted anything. I don’t think it’s appropriate.” Joan Rivers, call your agent.

The ‘Law’ Won

Perhaps ABC should consider renaming its quiz-show smash Who Wants to Be an Actor. After reading our recent On the Air item about that father of a Millionaire contestant who had his plea for a role on NBC’s Law & Order edited out of the game show, L&O producers tracked down the would-be thespian and offered him a job. “I’d love to play a judge, but under five lines will do fine for me,” says 62-year-old retiree Patrick Farrelly, who holds no grudge against the Millionaire folks: “The people there were extremely kind and very professional except for that,” he says. It’s likely that L&O coexec producer Dick Wolf will only give Farrelly the role of a jury foreman. Still, says Wolf, “It’s wonderful to make people’s dreams come true and not pay them a million dollars.”

Olympian Battle

The summer Olympics may be months away, but a major showdown has already emerged: ABC, CBS, Fox, The WB, and UPN are duking it out with NBC over when to start the 2000-01 TV season. The Peacock wants Nielsen to set a traditional launch of Sept. 18, which is three days after its Olympics coverage from Sydney, Australia, begins. The rival nets are pushing for a post-Olympics start date of Oct. 2, arguing the Games will not only skew NBC’s prime-time averages but also seriously handicap its freshman shows. Nielsen’s clearly in the hot seat but hopes to ultimately find a way to make all the networks happy. “We don’t want to cut the baby in half,” says Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus. The networks, meanwhile, just want Nielsen to make up its mind, pronto. “They’re stalling,” gripes one Big Four suit. Let the games begin! </p

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