Queer (As in Odd) Ideas Become Cable Winners
By Allison Romano -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/3/2003 8:00:00 PM
From the Old West to new-and-improved straight guys, cable is delivering some summertime hits. Leading the pack: USA Network's latest original Peacemakers, a Western detective drama. And Bravo—not usually the channel people dish about at bars and gyms—is beaming over gay-themed reality makeover show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Both cable nets scored by taking tested broadcast genres—detective shows and reality makeovers—and adding some twists. "Anything that's odd, interesting, different or unusual finds an audience," says David Verklin, CEO of media buyer Carat North America.
|Cable Series Premieres '03|
|Show||Debut Network||HH Rating|
|Source: Nielsen Media Research
|What Not To Wear||TLC||3.0|
|Reno 911!||Comedy Central||1.9|
|Queer Eye for the Straight Guy||Bravo||1.6|
|Boy Meets Boy||Bravo||1.4|
FX also is hitting with its latest original Nip/Tuck, a drama about two handsome Miami plastic surgeons.
Peacemakers boasted the best cable-show premiere this year, with a stunning 4.0 rating with 5.2 million viewers July 30.
USA Network President Doug Herzog has billed the show, which stars Tom Berenger as an old fashioned detective who grudgingly teams up with a younger forensics expert, as "CSI meets the Old West." No surprise then, given the genre, that Peacemakers played older, with 2.1 million viewers 25-54 years old.
"This one felt like a mainstream hit," said USA Network programming chief Jeff Wachtel. He noted that the show rated well on both coasts and in middle America.
USA stands out among its cable competitors this summer with three strong original shows. Quirky detective drama Monk, in its second season, is one of cable's top draws this summer, and thriller The Dead Zone has been a decent performer. After an initial 10-hour order for Peacemakers, USA is now working on several more scripts, Wachtel said. Another new series Touching Evil is slated for March. Then, says Herzog, "we'll get into the business of establishing nights."
On NBC-owned Bravo, Queer Eye grabs a smaller but more youthful audience. The reality show, on which five gay style gurus make over a hapless straight guy, nabbed a stellar 2.5 rating in its third week July 29, five days after NBC stunted a half-hour version of Queer Eye after Will & Grace. It was a 63% jump over the previous week's ratings. Suddenly, Bravo is drawing hordes of young female viewers on Tuesday nights, a far cry from its usual creaky demos.
Horizon Media's research chief Brad Adgate calls the reverse-repurposing a "brilliant" move. The show, he said, "fulfills a niche and attracts a very upscale audience." NBC is considering re-airing the show again.
FX is beaming about Nip/ Tuck, which is averaging a robust 3.1 rating and 3.5 million viewers. The drama was the last series developed by former FX programming chief Kevin Reilly, now NBC's president of programming.
But FX's previous original series, Lucky, was not as fortunate. The network will not renew the dark comedy, which averaged a disappointing 1.1 million viewers last spring. FX's prized original, gritty cop drama The Shield, will go back into production in September and should return for season three in January.
Bravo used Queer Eye last week to launch its second gay-themed show, a Bachelor-type mating show where a gay bachelor picks among suitors who—unknown to him—are both straight and gay. Boy Meets Boy kicked off to a solid 1.4 rating with 1.6 million viewers July 29. Pairing the two shows resulted in a 1.5 prime time average that night—a tally unheard for highbrow Bravo. After Queer Eye's handsome debut July 15, the net signed on for seven more episodes, bringing the first run to 20.
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