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In the Know / A LOOK AT THE WEEK AHEAD

Eminem, Elton John and the Rubberneckers

February 19, 2001

Will the lure of Elton John performing with controversial rapper Eminem boost Wednesday's Grammy Awards to new viewership levels? Michael Greene, president and chief executive of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, doesn't think so. "We've already got the kids: They're already there to see Christina [Aguilera], 'N Sync, Madonna, U2 and Destiny's Child," he says. "The only additional people that might come to this [as a result of the Eminem controversy] are the same people who slow down to watch car wrecks. Some people are very curious. As a result of a lot of the debate and hoopla over the addition of Elton John, the same kind of people who tune in to watch miscreants eat rats on desert islands may tune in to see what this guy's all about. But in the last eight years we haven't seen any act create any kind of spike in terms of viewership. The Grammys are the Grammys, and the show is bigger than any of the acts." U.S. viewership for the Grammy Awards has ranged between 25 million and 30 million viewers the past three years. That's shy of the U.S. audience for the Academy Awards, which has averaged 45 million to 50 million viewers in recent years, but more than the Emmys' viewership, which hovered around 20 million viewers recently. The Grammy ratings are tantalizing numbers for an Irvine businessman who launched a tolerance and education campaign around Eminem's appearance last fall at the MTV Video Music Awards in New York and is doing the same for the Grammys. He's lining up supporters to buy ad spots during the telecast for the airing of public-service announcements promoting tolerance toward gays and minorities and decrying violence. "At last tally, unless it falls through, we have people that are going to do that in 20 of the biggest TV markets across the country," including Los Angeles, says Mitchell Goldstone, president of Irvine-based 30 Minute Photos Etc. Most of his supporters are Southern Californians who work in the entertainment industry "who were looking to do something. All of them like the idea because it wasn't censorship, and they, like me, are against censorship of any kind."

X Marks the Spot for UCLA-USC Rivalry

Sitcoms and dramas aren't the only TV series that find a way to "stunt" during sweeps periods. Game shows also have their bag of tricks, including hitting the road ("Jeopardy!" in Las Vegas, "Wheel of Fortune" in Hawaii) and gimmicks designed to bring in specific audiences--especially the elusive younger viewers sought by many advertisers, which explains the various teen and college tournaments employed. So tonight, viewers of "Hollywood Squares" will learn the answer to that age-old question--"Can a UCLA biochemistry major beat a USC theater major in tic tac toe?"--as part of the Tom Bergeron-hosted show's third annual college tournament, which concludes this week with a $25,000 prize going to the ultimate winner. Beyond providing a new venue for Los Angeles' cross-town college rivalry, this week's "Squares" marks the first time Whoopi Goldberg (ill when the episodes were taped) is absent from her center-square perch since the program's revival, with Jason Alexander filling the box through Wednesday and Martin Short taking a turn at week's end. The showcase comes at an opportune time for Alexander, who was seen on "Friends" recently and is shopping a sitcom project for next fall that would mark his post-"Seinfeld" return to prime time.

Fraser Flick Took Much Monkeying Around

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