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TV stunts sure sign of November sweeps

November 19, 1997
Web posted at: 4:55 p.m. EST (2155 GMT)

From Correspondent Sherri Sylvester

HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- What would you do to increase your personal value by hundreds, even thousands of dollars per minute? As the networks jockey to increase their series' worth this month, their answer is: Sing, dance, and shake things about.

Advertiser rates are based on November's Nielsen ratings. To make sure it clinches those ratings points, already highly ranked "Seinfeld" is including a reverse "Seinfeld" in its November lineup. The entire show will run backwards.

Look at some of the stunts TV shows have in store for you this month
icon 2 min., 30 sec. VXtreme streaming video

Big names juice things up

Meanwhile, Emma Thompson will play a gay character on ABC's "Ellen." Ellen DeGeneres, the show's star and producer, personally asked Thompson to appear.

Ellen DeGeneres

"She said, 'Will you come, and you know, be gay on my show,'" Thompson said. "And I said, I'd love to, I can't think of anything more fun."

The timing of Thompson's appearance is no coincidence. However, DeGeneres said, "I'd be just as happy if Emma was on not a sweeps month. It doesn't matter, I just want the level of my show to be like this every week."

On CBS's "The Nanny," Ray Charles will be romancing Fran Drescher's Grandma Yetta. If viewers love the affair, May sweeps could bring a wedding.

"We're going to milk it," Drescher said. "It'll take the whole season, too, you know."

A little song-and-dance

Drew Carey

Music is also a popular ploy this month. CBS started the musical trend last week, as "The Drew Carey Show" offered a "Full Monty" send-up. Although the cast from the hit movie came to the shoot to offer a few tips, stripping in prime-time is strictly of the PG variety -- a fact for which Carey says he remains grateful.

"I don't even like to make out with the lights on," Carey said. "Making love, the lights have to be totally dark, maybe a candle, and now here I am showing my gross hairy fat body."

This week, NBC also plugged its Monday night lineup with songs on every sitcom.

And, living by his motto that anything worth doing is worth over-doing, John Lithgow will pay tribute to the Lord of the Dance on this week's episode of his NBC sitcom "3rd Rock from the Sun."

Will the shenanigans have an impact? So far, the critics are underwhelmed -- but not turned off. "Usually it's shoot 'em up, stab 'em up, sex 'em up kind of junk," said TV Guide's Mark Schwed.

Sweeps stunts on the drama side have been low-key. On the NBC side, for example, "ER" left the emergency room for a road show, and "Law & Order" and "Homicide: Life on the Streets" mingled their stars between the two shows for a two-part murder mystery.

But whether the muted grandstanding will win the networks those elusive Nielsens is yet to be determined: So far, kids' shows may be beating the sitcoms by a nose. The CBS special "Kids Say the Darndest Things" and ABC's "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella" are the ratings darlings this season.


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