10:38 AM CDT on Thursday, October 14, 2004
By ED BARK / The Dallas Morning News
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's The Benefactor has been further downsized by ABC, almost assuredly killing any possibilities of a sequel to the Dallas-based reality series.
An announced eight-episode run, still in ABC's plans at the start of the week, is now reduced to six episodes, with the finale scheduled on Oct. 25 instead of Nov. 1.
"I have nothing but great things to say about ABC," Mr. Cuban said via e-mail Wednesday. "I still love the show and the way it turned out. Viewers won't see everything we shot, but it still turned out great and will be incredibly entertaining."
Last Monday's scheduled fifth episode belatedly was pre-empted for a tribute to the late actor Christopher Reeve. ABC initially said that two episodes would be condensed into one to keep the finale in place on Nov. 1. It then announced Wednesday that an election-eve special will air instead.
On the finale, Mr. Cuban will give one of two remaining contestants $1 million after they have 60 seconds to "explain why he should pick them," ABC said in a statement scheduled to be released nationally today. The network also promised "a surprising twist."
"There is always a chance of a sequel," Mr. Cuban said, although the first four episodes of the show averaged just 4.7 million viewers to rank 81st in the season-to-date ratings and last among all ABC shows, according to Nielsen Media Research.
The Benefactor did win its time slot three out of four times in Dallas-Fort Worth, where it airs from 7 to 8 p.m. on WFAA-TV (Channel 8). Mr. Cuban said the show was hampered nationally by pre-emptions in several markets and delayed telecasts on the West Coast, where Monday Night Football precedes it instead of vice versa.
"I think we would have done better in a time slot that had us playing [at the same time] in every major market ... but we knew the challenge going in," Mr. Cuban said.