It is a sad reality that sweeps months ultimately decide advertising rates for the TV networks, because every few months the networks do everything in their power to make us watch in record numbers. May sweeps, which (naturally) started in late April, are no different. Hence the two-hour “Survivor II” finale. Lame movies, terribly scripted sitcom subplots and god-awful miniseries tend to overshadow the few gems that manage to emerge at this time of year.
Let”s begin with ABC. For some reason unexplainable to man, ABC is showing “Speed 2” and “Meet Joe Black,” two box office duds, when they most need people to watch. Perhaps balancing those with the successes of “Tarzan,” Ace Ventura,” “Air Force One” and “Armageddon” will help?
ABC continues the tradition of piling on guest stars like Ed Asner, Kevin Sorbo and the ever-talented Kirstie Alley. They also are forcing considerably notable ABC stars like Kelly Ripa to boost the lagging “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” in its celebrity edition. “Millionaire” will also present a new format, a “couples” competition, in which couples play as a team.
May also means the season finales for most shows. “Dharma and Greg” concludes with a two-part episode threatening the title characters” marriage. “Drew Carey” leaves Drew in a mental hospital. For those few people who actually watch “Two Guys and a Girl,” you can vote on who becomes pregnant. It should be a real treat.
The real offenders are the miniseries. This Friday leaves us with “Wingspan,” the story of Paul and Linda McCartney”s early years together. Just two days later, out comes “The Shirley Temple Story.” Make sure to have your hankies ready. One possible bright spot might be the miniseries “Anne Frank.” The talented cast includes Oscar winner Ben Kingsley, and award winning actresses Brenda Blethyn and Lili Taylor.
NBC follows in similar fashion. The major event, the cliffhanger episode of “Friends” may involve Chandler and Monica”s wedding if Chandler doesn”t get cold feet. On “ER,” Dr. Greene”s family may be in danger of a rampaging shooter. You get the idea.
Guest stars include Woody Harrelson on “Will and Grace” and Gary Oldman on “Friends.” And how many networks can claim that they will have both Hugh Hefner and the new Playboy Playmate of the Year? NBC can, as both will have cameos on “Just Shoot Me.”
Two shows say goodbye this month. They are NBC”s “Third Rock from the Sun” and UPN”s “Star Trek: Voyager.” “Third Rock” stayed on just a bit too long, but “Voyager”s” exit leaves UPN with one less show with a fan base.
All in all, sweeps may fill us in on who the father of Scully”s baby is on “The X-Files,” but it hardly is worth the fuss. All too often, shows resort to unfunny stunts that interfere with writing and are just plain bad.