Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Secret Millionaire‘s prospects at ABC are getting better by the minute. First, the network pulled the new reality series from the low-profile Friday 8 PM slot where it was originally scheduled. Now I hear it is giving it Extreme Makeover: Home Edition‘s Sunday 8 PM time period for a six-episode midseason run starting March 6. That is the Sunday after the Academy Awards, with ABC planning to heavily promote Secret Millionaire during the awards broadcast. For ABC, which has no football, the Oscars are the most-watched telecast of the year and the biggest possible promotional platform for its shows. Additionally, ABC has asked Secret Millionaire producer Zodiak USA to begin casting on a new cycle, an indication that the network is looking to order more episodes beyond the original 6. ABC’s Sunday 8 PM slot has already become synonymous with feel-good reality programming thanks to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, so it is considered perfectly suited for the similarly-inspirational Secret Millionaire. The move will avoid airing Home Edition repeats and, after the 6-week hiatus, the veteran home-rebuilding show will return to its Sunday slot with originals. But, with Home Edition aging and its ratings suffering serious erosion this season, it is not inconceivable to look at Secret Millionaire‘s airing on Sunday as a trial run for a possible permanent spot there in the future.

Based on the Channel 4 series, Secret Millionaire follows successful U.S. businessmen who spend a week in the country’s poorest areas and at the end of their stay reveal their true identity and give deserving people in the community hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money. Secret Millionaire started gaining support among ABC executives when they began to see cuts at the beginning of the summer, with its fan base at the network growing with every delivered episode. After he joined ABC in August, new president Paul Lee, who is British and reportedly a fan of the original UK series, also liked it, and talk started about finding a better spot on the schedule for the show and giving it a proper launch. The ABC version of Secret Millionaire is said to be different from the one that ran as a strip on Fox in 2008. While Fox’s series went more for shock value in depicting poor people’s plight, the ABC has an emphasis on the emotional experience. It is faithful to the original but is faster-paced, and the actual giving is a lot more prominent.

With its new time slot assignment, Secret Millionaire will air on the same night as CBS’ similarly-themed Undercover Boss. Both originated in the UK but Millionaire preceded Boss by 3 years. Zodiak USA’s Grant Mansfield, who, as managing director of RDF UK oversaw the production of every episode of the original Secret Millionaire, is executive producing the ABC adaptation with Claire O’Donohoe, Natalka Znak and Leslie Garvin. Paul Osborne is co-executive producer. Here is ABC’s trailer for the show from this past summer (It has a reference to the old Friday slot at the end.)

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