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'Millionaire' keeps changing TV

Its star, Regis Philbin, is said to be getting a new $20 million contract. A Fox follow-up show with a troubling twist, "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" provided well more than 15 minutes of (embarrassing) fame for everyone involved.

"Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?" continues to shake up the commercial TV industry - an industry that seems less sure than ever where the boundaries of taste lie and what people will watch.

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"Reality TV" is the hot topic of the moment, but our cover story (at right) looks in another direction at what is in some ways a conventional drama. The smartly written "West Wing" may be doing more than just entertaining - it may be helping to redefine politics as an honorable profession and a worthy career.

Meanwhile, ABC's strategy of running "Millionaire" several times a week seems to have spawned at least one other experiment. Next month CBS will premire "Falcone," a gritty series about a policeman who infiltrates the mob, and will run it on eight consecutive nights. If the gimmick makes "Falcone" a TV "event" and wins enough viewers, it'll return weekly on CBS's fall schedule.

The network pulled "Falcone" from its lineup last fall in the wake of the Littleton, Colo., school shootings. But in the interim, the success of the violent but critically praised "The Sopranos" on HBO cable has changed the TV landscape. Will critics be just as tough on "Falcone" this spring as they would have been last fall?

Broadway will be a little less wild, and a little less confusing, now that the producers of the off-Broadway show "The Wild Party" have announced that their musical will close next month and not transfer to Broadway. Another version of the same story, based on a Jazz Age poem by Joseph Moncure March, also called "The Wild Party," is scheduled to open on Broadway April 13, starring Mandy Patinkin, Eartha Kitt, and Oscar-nominee Toni Collette. That would have been just a little too "wild."

Steven Spielberg is creating a logjam in Hollywood that'll affect what films you'll see in the next couple of years - and who will star in them. The Oscar-winner recently denied published reports that he would direct a movie based on the "Harry Potter" children's books.

Superstars Tom Cruise and Matt Damon are said to be waiting to see if Spielberg will go ahead with the film "Minority Report," in which they would appear. Meanwhile, other movies are being held up just in case either of them might become available if Spielberg doesn't make "Minority Report."

*Send your comments on Arts & Leisure to entertainment@csps.com

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(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society