Originally created 03/03/03

Fox says it is readying a second version of "Joe Millionaire"



NEW YORK -- Flush with the success of "Joe Millionaire," Fox executives said Wednesday that they are readying a second edition.

Fox would not say when the hit reality series would return or how a sequel would differ from the first, which was based on a joke that everyone but the female competitors were in on.

"It can't be done identically to the first one for all the obvious reasons," said Sandy Grushow, Fox Television Entertainment chairman.

Grushow said the network "has come up with a notion that carries all of the same values forward. We're obviously optimistic that it will perform extremely well when it returns."

An estimated 40 million viewers watched the final hour of the series on Feb. 17, helping lead Fox to its first-ever victory in a ratings "sweeps" month among viewers aged 18 to 49.

CBS was the most popular network in February when viewers of all ages are counted. But networks like Fox, NBC and ABC are intensely interested in the youthful demographic because it's craved by advertisers.

The chaotic February sweeps was marked by intense competition for Michael Jackson programming and reality series like "American Idol" and "The Bachelorette" that could be moved and expanded in a scheduling chess game.

CBS President Leslie Moonves called it the "craziest sweeps in the history of television." NBC Entertainment Chairman Jeff Zucker said it was "nutty" and his ABC counterpart, Lloyd Braun, called it "wild and woolly."

All of those assessments left Grushow somewhat miffed.

"The comments are so transparent that it borders on being comical," he said. "If they feel that February was ridiculous or crazy or nutty, they ought to be ready for ridiculous or crazy months of March, April and May."

Zucker congratulated Fox and noted it was the first sweeps month NBC had lost in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic since February 2000.

"Obviously, it's disappointing that we didn't win," Zucker said. "But it's far more a credit to what Fox did than what we didn't do."

One of NBC's top priorities for this summer and next year is to develop a successful relationship-based reality series along the lines of "Joe Millionaire" and "The Bachelor," he said.

Meanwhile, ABC announced Thursday it was preparing a fourth edition of "The Bachelor" that "has the heir to a well-known family, a 'Dynasty'-like family," ABC executive Susan Lyne said.

Fox is about to debut "Married by America," a series based on the idea that it can marry off two longing-for-love people who had never met, In April, Fox presents "Mr. Personality," a series that "explores how looks effect love," said entertainment President Gail Berman.