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'Millionaire' Viewers Say They're the Ones Misled

February 12, 2003|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

Millions of viewers dedicated their night to watch "Joe Millionaire" pick between the final two women vying for his companionship and purported fortune. At least that's what the teases during the show suggested.

Instead, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s record Monday audience of 25 million simply saw "Joe Millionaire," a.k.a. Evan Marriott, confess that he was not rich. The show ended before he picked either of the women, leaving viewers feeling as if they were the ones who had been deceived.

Irate fans complained to the Fox network and KTTV-TV Channel 11, the Fox affiliate in Los Angeles, that on-air promotions led them to believe they were watching the final episode.

In New York, Fox employees endured an uncomfortable subway ride to work amid the snarls of fellow commuters.

Web sites were peppered with anti-Fox chatter.

"Absolutely disgraceful the level of deception. Wasted an hour," said one person who posted a message on the "Joe Millionaire Fan Forum" Web site.

Fox spokesman Scott Grogin said "Joe Millionaire" was always scheduled to run seven episodes, not six. The network ordered an eighth episode, a "reunion" show, once it became clear the program had staying power.

Grogin declined to comment on whether the promotions were misleading, saying only, "We're looking forward to the audience returning next week."

For good reason. "Joe Millionaire" and "American Idol" have filled Fox's ratings cavity by drawing millions of female viewers to the male-skewing network.

Fox is asking $500,000 for a 30-second commercial spot during "Joe Millionaire" and $950,000 for a spot during "American Idol," which runs through May.

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