Plus, who wants to date a prince?, and more

By Lynette Rice
Updated April 03, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
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DEVELOPMENT SWELL It’s time for ABC to stop playing so many games — literally. Come fall, expect the net to air fewer installments of ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” since Regis Philbin and Co. have done a number on the Alphabet’s younger demos: ABC is down 16 percent among adults 18 to 49, but it’s up 15 percent and 3 percent, respectively, among women and men 50 plus (as a result, the net’s median age jumped from 41 to 47). ABC’s still taking the prize in total viewers — it’s No. 1 so far this season with 12.9 million — but is unlikely to finish first in the 18 to 49 demo as it did last season (it’s tied with Fox for second place behind NBC).

Fortunately, ABC is more than prepared for life without wall to wall ”Millionaire”s: It has developed three times as many series for fall as last year, including high profile projects starring John Stamos (as a professional thief), Sally Field (as a judge), ”NYPD Blue” star Kim Delaney (as a Philly lawyer), and Jim Belushi (as a family man). ”Since the four ‘Millionaire’s allowed ABC to have fewer new shows this season, they’ve had more time than normal to work on new product, which could benefit them in the fall if there’s no strike,” says TN Media analyst Steve Sternberg. ”If there is a strike, ‘Millionaire’ gives them an edge over the other nets.” In other words, the Reege may be cutting back his hours, but don’t expect a final answer from him just yet.

ROYAL CRUSH Fox just won’t let up on the matchmaking thing. With both a second edition of ”Surprise Wedding” and the new series ”Love Cruise” in the hopper, the net’s now looking to play fairy godmother to some wannabe Cinderella. Fox has tapped Nash Entertainment (”Sexiest Bachelor in America”) to search for 30 women willing to compete for a dream date with a prince. Much like the infamous ”Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire”, the man’s identity will remain a secret while he makes his final selection.

But in this special, the Nash folks promise that their European prince won’t turn out to be a royal pain. ”Everything we believed about the prince turned out to be true,” says exec producer Don Weiner, adding that a love connection is not mandatory in the special that’s yet to be taped or scheduled. ”It’s not about marriage or falling in love. She’ll jet off to his country and be the guest of honor at a royal function and get to see his country through the eyes of a princess.” Paparazzi not included.

AND SO ON… Who says there are no second chances in Hollywood? After spending three years in the spotlight as television’s first female entertainment president, former ABC exec Jamie Tarses is hunkered down with Jim Burrows’ production company, Three Sisters, to develop ”Tikiville,” a family sitcom for NBC. The project reunites Tarses with writer Dottie Dartland-Zicklin, who created ”Dharma & Greg” for ABC. ”Jamie’s a wonderful developer,” says NBC Studios president Ted Harbert, who helmed ABC with Tarses before he exited in 1996. ”Jamie’s doing exactly what she should be doing, making shows better.”

There was no sign of Drew Carey at the Oscars, but the bespectacled sitcom star did have a presence, of sorts, at Sunday’s Academy Awards. Deborah Oppenheimer, an executive producer on Carey’s ABC comedy, took home the Best Documentary Feature statue for producing the Holocaust themed ”Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport.” ”Drew came to the premiere and left in tears,” Oppenheimer told reporters. ”He asked for a copy of the tape for his mother, which he FedExed to Cleveland.”

Love Cruise

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