Sorry silent — been…

Sorry silent -- been sick. Spent much of last night throwing up in Kevin's toilet, yuck. Not sure whether it's flu bug or something I ate or too much time staring at the screen (I've hardly been off the computer for the last three days). Feeling weak but better today.

In the meantime, here's something that really cheered me up. Too tired to format, sorry:

>January 25, 2000
>`Millionaire' Quietly Breaks TV Barriers
>HOLLYWOOD, Jan. 24 -- On Sunday night a contestant on
>"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" embraced his gay
>companion onstage after winning $500,000. The audience
>cheered, Regis Philbin, the host, grinned, and the
>network was not flooded with protest calls.
>Maria Melin/ABC
>On "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" on Sunday, Rob
>Coughlin, second from right, with Mark Leahy, his
>companion, and Regis Philbin, right, the host of the
>In its own quirky way, the quiz show, which is a
>ratings juggernaut and the No. 1 show in the nation,
>has quietly and quite nonchalantly broken sexual and
>racial barriers on television. Not only do gay couples
>routinely appear on the show -- the word "gay" is
>never used -- but so do racially mixed couples, which
>in the past television has often avoided showing.
>By all accounts, the matter-of-fact presentation of
>these couples, without a comment from Mr. Philbin or
>anyone else, has altered the television landscape. The
>show, on ABC three nights a week, has an average
>audience of 28.5 million viewers and has
>single-handedly revived the network.
>Sunday night's show stirred nervousness among the
>"Millionaire" staff members because it was the first
>time in memory that two men -- a contestant and his
>companion in the audience -- embraced before
>television cameras. The contestant was Rob Coughlin of
>Shoreline, Wash., who works for a transit company.
>A matter-of-fact presentation of couples, without
>"We treat everyone the same way, and there's never
>been an issue about people's personal relationships,"
>said Michael Davies, executive producer of the show.
>"If a contestant is married 25 years and white and
>middle-class with 2.4 kids and brings his wife to the
>show, that's fine. Or whether somebody brings their
>college buddy or mother or sister or lover, we don't
>care. We don't care about ethnic things, we don't care
>about sexual things. We treat everybody the same. The
>show broadly reflects society."
>Mr. Davies admitted that he had been a bit anxious
>about Sunday night's show, which was taped late last
>week. When contestants win $250,000 or more, their
>partners, who until then are shown sitting and
>cheering them on, are taken onstage.
>While sitcoms and dramas about racially mixed couples
>are rare, there have been some comedies involving gay
>characters. Billy Crystal played a gay man as far back
>as 1977 in the ABC series "Soap," which was a satire
>on soap operas. Even before the show was broadcast,
>ABC received about 32,000 letters protesting it, and
>some network affiliates were picketed because of the
>show's sexual content. The uproar died down, and the
>series lasted four years.
>The NBC sitcom "Will and Grace," about a gay man and a
>straight woman living together, is one of the most
>successful shows on television. Max Mutchnick, who
>created the series with David Kohan, said he was
>surprised that there were no network "stop signs" for
>the series's writers. In fact, he said, the creators
>and writers can go quite far in terms of subject
>Shortly after the highly publicized decision by Ellen
>DeGeneres to announce that she was a lesbian, her
>show, "Ellen," started to fade. At the time network
>executives said that was in part because the show was
>aging and also because it had lost its sense of humor.
>"There are no flags, no one's underlining it or
>remarking on it," Mr. Mutchnick said. "It's been put
>on its feet and being filmed, and it's going out on
>the air and no one's saying anything about it."
>Mr. Mutchnick said it was a far cry from the NBC
>sitcom "Love, Sidney," from 1981 to 1983, in which
>Tony Randall played a gay commercial artist. But his
>sexuality was inferred, never mentioned. "He was only
>shy," said Mr. Mutchnick with a laugh. "He went to shy
>Earle Marsh, co-author of The Complete Directory to
>Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (Ballantine
>Books), said he could recall no previous quiz show in
>which either gay or multiracial couples were so
>evident. "Twenty years ago there would have been
>serious problems with network standards and practices,
>the censors," he said. "They might have worried about
>segments of the audience being homophobic or have
>other problems."
>"I'm sure at one point the choice of people to go on
>the air might have raised red flags," Mr. Marsh said.
>"In today's environment we've moved beyond that."
>He pointed out that interracial couples, while rare on
>television, are not unique. In "The Jeffersons,"
>Norman Lear's spinoff about Archie Bunker's former
>black neighbors, the son is married to a mixed-race
>woman. Her black mother and white father were also
>neighbors. "It was groundbreaking," said Mr. Marsh.
>On "Millionaire," Mr. Philbin introduced Mr.
>Coughlin's companion, Mark Leahy, as soon as the
>contestant walked onstage.
>"Your partner, Mark, is in the audience, hey, Mark,"
>said Mr. Philbin as the audience cheered.
>As Mr. Coughlin, began answering questions correctly,
>Mr. Philbin asked Mr. Leahy what his partner should do
>if he won $1 million. "Get a new wardrobe," replied
>Mr. Leahy.
>By the time Mr. Coughlin reached $500,000, he was
>stumped by the million-dollar question: In what
>country are all the United States major league
>baseballs manufactured? (The correct answer was Costa
>Rica.) Instead of risking the loss of most of the
>money to go for $1 million, Mr. Coughlin decided to
>halt the questioning and walk off with $500,000.
>At that point, Mr. Philbin said, "Hey, Mark, come
>Mr. Leahy bounded onto the stage and hugged Mr.
>Coughlin. "Hey, Mark, nice to see you," Mr. Philbin
>A winner's companion suggests buying a new wardrobe.
>ABC executives said there was no reaction from viewers
>to the episode.
>Mr. Davies said there had been other gay contestants
>with their companions sitting in the audience and
>introduced by Mr. Philbin. "The first time there were
>definitely some raised eyebrows by some members of my
>team," Mr. Davies said. "I said to Regis, 'Just refer
>to his partner in the audience.' And that was it."
>To be a contestant on "Millionaire" people apply by
>calling (800) 433-8321 from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Eastern
>Standard Time until Feb. 9. To qualify, they have to
>be 18 and over and a United States citizen. An
>elimination process follows, based on responses to
>questions as well as a random drawing. No personal
>questions are asked. About 240,000 people call daily.
>Mr. Davies said that what concerned him was that
>contestants were not a cross section of the nation.
>"We do not have enough minority contestants, we do not
>have enough female contestants and this bothers me,"
>he said. "I don't know what the reason is. There may
>be something about trivia and the amassing of
>knowledge of trivia that's essentially white and male.
>It really bothers me that we can't get more female and
>minority contestants."
>Lloyd Braun, co-chairman of the ABC Entertainment
>Group, said the show's potpourri of contestants was in
>some ways a breakthrough. "It's the most color-blind
>inclusive show you can ever have," said Mr. Braun.
>"It's fantastic that nothing's been made of it."
>Mr. Braun said that each contestant on the show was
>actually a "slice-of-life, a mini-drama." "You get to
>not only meet the contestant when he or she is in the
>hot seat, but you meet their spouse or partner or
>100-year-old grandmother," he said. "It's not
>judgmental. It's totally accepting."

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