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'Grey’s Anatomy’ Resuscitates 'ER’

Are the young residents at Seattle Grace breathing new life into their elders over at Chicago’s County General?

That’s the theory among network executives puzzling over the resurgence of NBC’s venerable doc-drama ER: the 13-year-old series may have ABC’s own hospital soap, Grey’s Anatomy, to thank.

After flagging in recent seasons, ER has shown renewed vigor this fall with adults 18-49 Thursdays at 10 p.m. That’s nothing short of a medical miracle given that ER’s 9 p.m. lead-in, game show Deal or No Deal, has taken a beating since ABC moved Grey’s into its time slot.

In the 9:30 half-hour, Deal slid from a 3.8 rating/9 share in week one to a 3.3/8 in week three. Last year, The Apprentice was ER’s lead-in and performed 3-4 share points better.

But ER hasn’t gone down with the drop-off.Whereas it climbed only 4 share points from The Apprentice last year, it has risen an average 7-8 shares coming out of Deal. Meanwhile, ABC has been losing 11-12 shares with Grey’s lead-out, Six Degrees.

Some NBC executives have speculated that ABC’s 9 p.m. viewers are jumping to their network at 10 looking for more medical melodrama. If that’s true, Grey’s may be the best lead-in ER has ever had.

Parody for Parrotheads

CBS News was spinning hard last week over Katie Couric’s ratings drop in her fourth week on the air. Although Evening News slipped to No. 3, a CBS press release trumpeted her “unprecedented double-digit, across-the-board gains!” (The 25-54 demo was a dead heat.)

But it didn’t stop radio station WPLJ New York from mocking the ex-Today host’s ratings woes in a send-up set to the tune of Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville.”

“They hired a honey for sick lots of money/hoping their news would become number one,” goes the opening lyric. “They’re not even lurking. The plan isn’t working/Can’t beat Brian Williams or Charlie Gibson.”

And here comes the chorus: “Cause poor Katie Couric can’t get out of her own way/And I bet she’s sorry that she left Today.”

The song was written and performed by Todd Pettengill, co-host of WPLJ’s Morning Show. He was unavailable to comment, but his executive producer, Joe Pardavila, says the satire was nothing personal: “We like to skewer anybody, and Katie was that day’s target.”

While it may be true, as the song notes, that “most people don’t give a rat’s ass anyway” about Couric’s ratings, the song may just turn the legions of Parrotheads (as Buffett fans are known) into Katie-heads.

To hear the song, go to broadcastingcable.com.

That’s Synergy

NBC Universal may want to review its corporate-synergy strategy. Just as its broadcast network, NBC, is struggling to pick itself off the ratings floor with a slate of ambitious new shows, its cable outpost Bravo is laying odds on when they’ll be cancelled.

At its broadband site BrilliantButCancelled.com —which celebrates TV series that were killed before their time—Bravo is hosting a “DeathWatch” over the fall season’s new broadcast shows and inviting viewers to place “bets” on when the ax will fall (grand prize: a 37” flat-screen HDTV!).

Last week, the list was top-heavy with ABC shows (hmm…), led by Men in Trees at 3-to-1 odds. But things got weird on Thursday when news broke that NBC had put a sleeper hold on new drama Kidnapped, prompting DeathWatch to fire off an e-mail blast to all bettors declaring the show dead.

But reports of Kidnapped’s demise were apparently exaggerated—NBC hadn’t cancelled it, only capped production—and a retraction followed shortly, reclassifying the show as “on life support.” (Fox’s Happy Hour got the same premature death notice. At press time, both shows were clinging to life.)

A Bravo spokesperson attributed the flub to “a trigger-happy editor.” (Couldn’t they have checked with someone upstairs at 30 Rock?)

Even weirder are the site’s banner ads promoting NBC shows like 30 Rock (63-to-1) and Twenty Good Years (236-to-1). Call us superstitious, but do you really want to plug your new shows on a site called BrilliantButCancelled?

Of course, if they do get the hook, we know exactly where they’ll end up.

With Jim Benson and Allison Romano

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