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‘Millionaire’ back in Jan.

ABC builds permanent home for gameshow

ABC will turn “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” into a permanent series in January — and that’s the net’s final answer.

Primed to pick up its first sweeps crown in five years, the Alphabet web will announce this week its long-term plans for the hot primetime quizshow hosted by Regis Philbin.

Sources say the network will run “Millionaire” at least three nights per week. The most likely sked pattern has the show airing Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

As it appears now, “Millionaire” will probably return the second week of January as a regular series.

Given the flexibility of how it’s produced, the show could still move around even after the network makes its announcement.

Besides the Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday scenario, another option has the gamer slated on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It’s likely the Tuesday edition would be a half-hour with the other nights getting the hourlong version.

It’s probably a given that “Millionaire” will land at 9 p.m. on Sundays between “Wonderful World of Disney” and “The Practice,” which received a strong boost the weeks “Millionaire” aired before it.

However, that would mean relocating megaproducer David E. Kelley’s frosh drama “Snoops” to a new night, something that would require a great deal of diplomacy on the part of ABC execs.

Fixing a hole

Thursdays would make sense, given the leaps ABC saw on that night with “Millionaire.” The gameshow consistently beat original episodes of NBC’s “Frasier” at 9 p.m., the first time an ABC program beat an original NBC sitcom in that slot since 1983.

ABC also has a hole on Thursdays following the cancellation of “Wasteland.”

With “Millionaire” on three nights a week, ABC will have to make some hard decisions regarding the future of some of its drama and comedy skeins, and possibly the ABC News mag “20/20.”

Predicting what ABC will do with “Millionaire” has quickly become the sport of choice in TV circles this November.

The network had a number of options with “Millionaire”: keeping it as a sweeps special, airing it as a primetime strip, scheduling it as a weekly series or formulating it as a syndicated strip.

Executive producer Michael Davies originally lobbied to keep “Millionaire” as a sweeps event, but its phenomenal November showing made scheduling the show as a regular series too much of a temptation at ABC.

Of course, come February, “Millionaire” will most likely resume as a two-week (or more) strip, and after that, anything can happen.

Wait-and-see

Expect a flurry of scheduling moves at ABC’s rivals once the net locks in “Millionaire’s” timeslots. Excepting NBC, which already announced a bevy of January shuffles, the networks have been waiting to see how ABC plays its cards before making their own bets.

ABC has scheduled a teleconference Tuesday morning to crow about its “Millionaire”-fueled November victory, but network sources said it won’t announce “Millionaire’s” future during the call.

Courtesy “Millionaire,” ABC averaged its largest non-Academy Award week audience in more than two years for the week ending Nov. 21, posting 16.2 million viewers.

Meanwhile, Fox has yet to announce the future of its primetime gameshow “Greed,” but the program is a strong candidate for Fox’s midseason lineup.

“Millionaire” may also have to contend with gameshows such as NBC’s revival of “Twenty One” and CBS’ new take on “The $64,000 Question” this midseason.

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