It's all a question of timing. CBS announced last week that TV's new
summer season ended on Aug. 12, right before NBC kicked off the Olympics. While
there has been much hoopla about the new summer programming, most networks have
little to celebrate. They'd probably side with CBS—and let the push for
summer fare fade into the sunset.
Out of the six broadcast networks, only CBS is up summer-to-summer,
boasting 4% increases in adults 18-49 and viewers and a 3% increase in adults
25-54. NBC is down 14% in its target 18-49 demo, although it managed to win the
summer by a scant one-tenth of a rating point over rival CBS.
NBC's lead should increase substantially once the Olympics finish. Fox,
which called its new summer programming a "revolution," is down 12%
summer-to-summer in the 18-49 demo, while ABC stayed flat among those
Matters are even worse at The WB and UPN, which are down 17% and 23%,
respectively, in their key adult 18-34 demo.
All this is good for cable, which is up 10% among viewers, 9% in adults
18-49 and 8% in adults 25-54. Basic cable's gain is premium cable's loss; it
saw a 6% drop in viewers, a 9% drop in adults 18-49 and a 12% in adults
Still, both broadcast and cable networks have their share of hits.
Surprisingly, scripted shows have done the trick for cable, while The WB's
Summerland is the only new scripted show
that scored a hit for its network.
It's soapy, it's sudsy, and Lori Loughlin looks hot in a bikini—even
though she's 40 and has three kids. Aaron Spelling still knows what viewers
want, and The WB's audiences are thrilled with the break from the networks'
reality drek. Plus, rumor has it that Jordan Levin just loves this show.
We can understand why Fox wants a crime/legal franchise all its own, and
Oz's Tom Fontana seems like a guy Fox would like. But this
creation had disaster written all over it from the show's first five minutes.
That is, if disaster means really slow. Averaging a 1.2/4 in adults 18-49, the
verdict was in early on this one. Case closed.
The Simple Life 2
Just because Paris had a personality lobotomy and Nicole is a sociopath
is no reason to miss the ditzy debutantes' driving their RV cross-country. It's
simple: The Simple Life 2 is this summer's No. 1 show in
adults 18-49, so let's hear it for the girls.
Last Comic Standing 2
This was the surprise hit of the season, a much-improved product and
performance over last year's effort. The Jay Mohr-produced and -hosted show did
so well this summer that NBC gave it a berth on its fall schedule. But note to
standup-challenged Mohr: Count your blessings. If you were a contestant on your
own show, you would face stiff competition.
Next Action Star
NBC held this show for what seemed years before airing it. Now we see
why. Bad ratings in a reality show—Next Action Star
averaged a 1.8/6 in adults 18-49, losing to the premiere of UPN's
Amish in the City—don't mean the show's cast is history.
One of Star's losers will be the next Average
Amish in the City
Turns out, being raised in a community without TV and trusting only your
elders to teach you how to behave actually produces kids who have morals and
character (a concept novel only to Hollywood TV executives). Although the show
has declined since its premiere, dropping from 5.4 million people in week one
to 4 million in week two, it has been a triumph of ratings and publicity for
TV's most-improved network.
CBS's Entire Summer Lineup
Although the collective IQ of the entire Big
Brother house equals the number of seasons the show has been on the
air (five), no one can argue with its performance. In fact, by offering no new
series and sticking with the tried and true, CBS has become the success story
of the summer. Go figure.
Blue Collar TV (The WB)
It is with some reluctance that we award the coveted "up arrow" to this
sketch comedy. Frankly, we thought The WB execs had lost their minds when they
ordered, for the youth-oriented network, a show starring has-been comics who
would appeal to blue-collar male 45+ demo. We were dead wrong, but that's why
TV execs make the big bucks, and we're writing this at 8 p.m.
The Casino (Fox)
Even Mark Burnett, who scored huge hits with The
Bachelor and Survivor, can produce a clunker.
But the truth about reality TV is that someone needs to get voted off.
Otherwise, it's called a documentary.
Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy (Fox)
Take that, ABC! Fox got its show on the air faster than poor ABC, which
was mired in executive shuffles and corporate drama. And viewers rewarded Fox's
piracy—or, if you prefer, quick thinking—by making Trading
Spouses a must-see. (Why rip off the concept when you can take the
name, too?) Crime pays. It's No. 5 in adults 18-49. If only Wife
Swap does as well.
Studio 7 (The WB)
Michael Davies' attempt to twist the reality genre by creating a
mishmash of game show and Real World may have been a
clever idea. Unfortunately, few tuned in to find out. With an average score of
0.8/3 among adults 18-34, don't expect Studio 7 to make it
The 4400 (USA Network)
The six-hour limited series about 4,400 people abducted by aliens
averaged a sizzling 5.9 million viewers, almost three times USA's usual
viewership. Network execs feared that viewers wouldn't stick with a short-run
drama. Clearly, abduction is hot.
Even firefighters approve of this gritty, emotionally charged drama.
Star Denis Leary shines, thanks to a little extra creative freedom on cable.
After three weeks, Rescue Me averaged 3.2 million viewers,
three times the network's usual audience.
John McEnroe's puffed-up talk show is a ratings disaster,
under-delivering the channel's lowly prime time marks. On a good night, the
surly tennis great might attract 50,000 viewers, barely a blip on cable and
short of CNBC's prime time average. Temper tantrums aren't what they used to
This counterterrorism drama was TNT's first attempt at scripted fare
since it canned Witchblade in 2002, and the limited series
scored. The BBC co-production notched an average 3.2 million viewers over six
hours. And having sexy leads Dylan McDermott and Julianna Margulies doesn't
Five Days Til Midnight
Not all limited series worked this summer. Sci Fi, which usually enjoys
strong ratings for its miniseries, stumbled here. The well-hyped five-part
drama drew only 1.7 million viewers, less than half the audience for other
recent minis, such as BattleStar Galactica and
Children of Dune. Five days was enough for this one.
Growing Up Gotti
It's been a while since people were talking about A&E. But Mob
relations rule. Just ask Victoria Gotti, daughter of Mafia chief John Gotti,
and her three teenage sons. Growing Up Gotti debuted
strong Aug. 2 with 3.5 million viewers but slowed to 2.6 million viewers by
week two. We'll see if viewers stick with Victoria's brand of tough love.
The Graham Norton Effect (Comedy Central)
British comic Graham Norton pranks Americans on his variety show, but
the jury is still out. Norton's ratings have fluctuated throughout the summer.
After a big June debut, the show fell off in July but perked up in August.
Evel Knievel (TNT)
To hype its biopic on daredevil Evel Knievel, TNT aired his son Robbie
jumping over planes on the USS Intrepid live. The stunt grabbed 2.5 million
viewers, but only 1.6 million stuck around for the movie's premiere that
Stargate Atlantis (Sci Fi Channel)
Space operas are usually a safe bet for Sci Fi Channel, but this one is
exceeding expectations. A spinoff of the network's popular Stargate
SG-1 series, Atlantis is pulling in about 3
million viewers per episode.
American Candidate (Showtime)
Viewers don't seem interested in Showtime's presidential race. The pay
channel's reality show American Candidate mustered just
42,000 for its second episode on Aug. 8, down from 128,000 for its Aug. 1
premiere. Let's hope the actual candidates do better.
Joe Schmo 2 (Spike TV)
Joe Schmo should have learned from Joe Millionaire: Reality gimmicks
work once. After success with Joe Schmo, Spike followed
with Schmo 2. The audience didn't.