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Jerry gets Millionaire-d

Talk show veteran Jerry Springer had little spring to his step during the first full week of the May sweeps period, perhaps yet another victim of Regis and ABC's runaway hit.

For the week May 1-7, his series sank to its lowest national numbers in more than two years (down 8% to a 3.5), placing it in a tie for fourth among talk shows with Maury (which stayed flat). Normally a second runner-up among the chat crowd, Jerry Springer was beaten by Rosie O'Donnell (surging 11% to 3.9) and Regis & Kathie Lee (climbing 9% to a 3.8). Oprah Winfrey (unchanged at a 6.1) did not loosen her grip on talk's title belt.

But Springer's slump may have been the result of some tag-teaming by the opposition and, thus, could be short-lived. That week's prime time ratings powerhouse, the celebrity editions of ABC's juggernaut Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, may have boosted the performances of both Rosie and Regis & Kathie Lee. Both shows offered behind-the-scenes Millionaire nuggets (Regis hosts Millionaire, and Rosie was a contestant) prior to the airing of several of the game show's celebrity episodes (the highest-rated of which starred O'Donnell).

"Whenever your show is in the viewer's consciousness, there is the potential of having a residual effect in terms of your viewership," explained Katz TV's Bill Carroll. Moreover, "[Jerry Springer's] story will be told when you look back at the entire May sweeps month."

Rounding out the seasoned talk circuit were Montel Williams (up 7% to a 3.0), Sally (flat at a 2.8), Ricki (down 4% to a 2.4), Jenny (down 13% to a 2.1) and Donny & Marie (flat at a 1.6). As for the talk rookies, canceled Leeza (1.9) was tops followed by the returning Queen Latifah (1.0).