It's just possible that you could be $10,000 richer tonight, and all because you watched an hourlong television program. (And here you thought Sir Spud was the only one who made big bucks watching TV.)
The program is Unclaimed Fortunes (7 p.m., Ch. 4), an ABC special that will attempt to line viewer pockets with money that already belongs to them - they just don't know it.No, this isn't "Amazing Stories" or "Candid Camera." It isn't even a lottery or sweepstakes - it's being hosted by Darren McGavin, not Ed McMahon. It's a legitimate infotainment pilot that tells the story of a number of American citizens who finally got what they had coming to them.
The show is based on stories from the files of state and federal government bureaus that accumulate - and attempt to disburse - unclaimed property. Lorin Nielsen, a deputy state treasurer in Utah and administrator of the state's Unclaimed Property Division, says there are currently more than $8 billion in unclaimed assets being held by various government agencies.
"Most of it is cash - tax refunds, Social Security checks, insurance refunds, money left from closed bank accounts, retirement benefits, things like that," Nielsen said. "Some of it is property - stock certificates, contents of safe deposit boxes and even a little real estate."
Nielsen said that the government tries to locate the owners, but because the population has become so mobile that's often difficult to do.
"Last year we accumulated $2.6 million in unclaimed property in Utah," he said. "We were able to pay out $730,000 in claims."
And what happens to the rest?
"Well, we operate on a trust fund of $250,000," Nielsen said. "The rest - about $1.7 million - went to the uniform school fund."
Nielsen said he hopes the show will help them get even more money back to the people it rightfully belongs to. And even if folks don't see their name on the show, there's a good chance that they are included among them 170,000 names currently in Nielsen's files. If you'd like Nielsen's office to search for your "Unclaimed Fortune," drop him a line at the Unclaimed Properties Division, 219 State Capitol Building, Salt Lake City, UT 84114.
- ALSO ON TV TONIGHT: So are they going to kill Alexis or not? That's one of the questions all of America (well, OK - at least 7 percent of America) is wondering about as Dynasty (8 p.m., Ch. 4) presents its season finale. It's been widely publicized that Joan Collins will not return for another season - if, indeed, "Dynasty" is invited to return to the ABC schedule - so there has been considerable speculation about how they intend to eliminate her from the series. (I'd suggest another of "Dynasty's" famed cat fights, with Alexis and, say, a 300-pound tiger.)
Speaking of annoying women on television, NBC is giving Jackee (7:30 p.m., Ch. 2) a shot at her own series. In this "227" spinoff, Sandra goes to New York to work at a health club. But she'll go without me - I can barely tolerate her mincing and over-acting as part of the "227" ensemble. I think I'd rather watch a full hour of "Dynasty" than 30 minutes of "Jackee." (I know, I know - I'll probably have to watch it sometime. Since the show follows "Cosby," it'll do dynamite ratings numbers and NBC'll have it on the fall schedule. But until then, I'll take my chances and exercise my right to "Just Say No.")
If neither of those series options sound any better to you than they do to me there are some good movies to watch tonight. Kathleen Turner remembers why she fell in love with her husband when she is transported back in time to when Peggy Sue Got Married (7 p.m., Ch. 13). George C. Scott is outstanding as Patton (7 p.m., Ch. 14) and pretty darn good in The Changeling (7 p.m., Ch. 30). And Robert Redford is featured in an interesting movie about a mountain man named Jeremiah Johnson (10 p.m., DSN).
Elsewhere, 48 Hours (7 p.m., Ch. 5) reports on teenagers on death row; Hugh Downs hosts The National Cholesterol Test (9 p.m., Ch. 4); and the NBA Playoffs (6:05 and 8:30 p.m., TBS) continue.