ABC's Simple good news

John Ritter comedy, called central to ABC's revival, starts strong on Tuesdays

Maybe there's some heft behind the hype over ABC's 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, the show ABC Entertainment President Susan Lyne has called the network's best hope for a hit this year.

The show, which stars John Ritter, premiered at 8 p.m. ET/PT last Tuesday and won households, total viewers, and adults 18-49 and 25-54. It was second among adults 18-34, behind the season premiere of Fox's That '70s Show. And perhaps most important, 8 Simple Rules
gave ABC its best performance from a regularly scheduled program among adults 18-49 and 25-54 since Nov. 14, 2000, when smash hit Who Wants to Be a Millionaire

The follow-up to 8 Simple Rules, the new Life With Bonnie, turned in solid numbers as well, first in households and adults 18-49 and 25-54 and second among adults 18-34, behind the season premiere of Fox's Grounded For Life.
And at 9 p.m., quirky new drama Push, Nevada, from producers Ben Affleck and Sean Bailey, also won its time period for households, total viewers and adults 25-54.

At 10 p.m., ABC had less success. Regis and Kelly Live in Primetime tied for second in households but was third or fourth in the key adult demos.

For the night, ABC was first in households, total viewers and adults 25-54 and second among adults 18-49 and 18-34.

"Everyone at ABC is absolutely delighted with last night's performances," Lyne said in a statement. "A lot of hard work went into this, and our strategy of premiering early for advanced audience sampling worked."

Yeah, but at least some of ABC's Tuesday success story happened because its new stuff was airing against other networks' reruns. It might have been a better indicator (and a sadder story) in two weeks, when its Tuesday lineup goes up against new episodes of CBS's JAG
and The Guardian
and NBC's In-Laws, Just Shoot Me, Frazier
and Hidden Hills.

The success of ABC, as has been widely speculated, might determine the future of Disney boss Michael Eisner. Coupled with a 10% decline in theme-park attendance and a 22% drop in prime time ratings last season, the Disney mouse is in a deep hole.

Meanwhile, last Tuesday's season premieres of the two Fox comedies also had strong demo performances. In addition to winning adults 18-34, both placed second among adults 18-49 and adults 25-54. A Fox outtakes special from 9 to 10 p.m. ET won adults 18-34 and was a close second among adults 18-49.

On Wednesday night, Fox got strong performances out of the season premiere of the sitcom Bernie Mac
at 8 p.m. ET/PT, the series premiere of comedy Cedric the Entertainer Presents
at 8:30 p.m., and the series premiere of Fastlane
at 9 p.m.

According to Nielsen fast affiliate ratings, both comedies were first in total viewers and across the key adult demographics (18-49, 25-54 and 18-34). Bernie
was tops in households as well, while Cedric
tied for second with CBS. A third Fox premiere, the crime action hour Fastlane, also turned in a solid performance, coming in first with adults 18-34 and 18-49, second with adults 25-54 and third in households.

"We had two goals in putting the schedule together," says Preston Beckman, Fox's executive vice president of strategic program planning. "First, we felt it was a night that should flow from start to finish, and second, given the competition, we thought we would be okay if we could attract significant numbers of men. The early signs, at least for the first week, are that we seem to have accomplished both those things."

Now that it has aired its premieres, Fox has to put its Wednesday-night shows on hold while it waits out the interruption from Major League Baseball playoffs.