As yet another syndicated season gets into gear, prognosticators are being extremely cautious about passing judgment on a spate of new shows.

The only sure bet after a majority of the new shows debuted the week of Sept. 11 is that both “Home Improvement” and “Seinfeld” are delivering the strongest numbers. They’re also substantially boosting their lead-ins and October 1994 time period averages.

From Monday through Thursday last week, Buena Vista TV’s off-net edition of “Improvement” powered its way to a 7.2 rating/13 share in 33 metered markets, with the highest-rated night on Monday featuring a special original edition that garnered a 7.6/14.

Columbia TriStar TV Distribution’s “Seinfeld” collected a 6.5/12 metered market average in its first week, which analysts consider a strong performance for a series without a big teens or kids audience. CTTD is looking for a dynamic demo performance during the October sweeps.

Firstrun famine

On the firstrun front, meanwhile, just about everything is doing lousy, performing far below their year-ago and leadin averages.

The only exceptions are the Twentieth TV talkshow “Gabrielle Carteris,” the only series to hold its lead-in, and MGM’s new firstrun reality series “LAPD,” which surpassed its year-ago average.

Group W and CBS unveiled their big new firstrun project “Day & Date” last week, with the afternoon newsmagazine series garnering a disappointing 2.1/6. Its numbers were all over the board, starting at 2.5/7 Monday, dropping to 1.7/5 Tuesday, rebounding to 2.3/6 Wednesday and winding up Thursday at 2.0/6. Overall, the highly touted and hugely expensive new series finished far below its 2.8/9 lead-in and 3.3/10 year-ago timeslot average.

Even syndicators are complaining about the glut of new and old talkshows, saying it is hard to distinguish one lurid topic and host from another.

The biggest trend in the ratings so far is that there is no trend. One day the share is up, the next it’s down. And the O.J. Simpson trial is still a pain for many new and returning series as the seemingly endless saga drags toward its conclusion.

So far, the highest-rated new talker is Warner Bros.’ “Carnie Wilson,” which also has the best timeslots. “Carnie,” which jumped from a 2.3/8 in week one to a 2.5/9 through Thursday of last week, is still lagging under its 3.3/12 October ’94 time period average and 3.5/12 lead-in.

In second place last week was CTTD’s debuting “Tempestt Bledsoe,” which grabbed a 1.8/6, down just slightly from its 1.9/7 lead-in and the 2.3/8 average for its timeslot a year ago.

Fox-New World twins 3rd

“Gabrielle” and New World’s “Mark Walberg,” somewhat yoked together under the Fox-New World deal, tied for third place at 1.6/6. “Gabrielle” was off its October ’94 timeslot average of 2.0/8, while “Walberg” fell below both its 2.0/7 lead-in and 2.4/9 year-ago timeslot average.

Buena Vista TV’s “Danny Bonaduce” and Rysher’s “George & Alana” tied for fourth at 1.5/6.

“Danny” dropped from its 1.9/7 lead-in and 2.4/9 time period mark last October, while the verbally sparring divorced couple were off their 2.3/9 leadin and the 2.1/9 year-ago mark.

Turner Program Services’ new latenight entry with model-actress Lauren Hutton, handicapped by many post-2 a.m. slots, garnered a paltry 0.8/4, down from its 1.4/6 lead-in and the 1.0/5 year-ago average.

The other new hour strip, All American’s “Baywatch,” grabbed a 2.5/6 last week after a summer run, down substantially from its 3.2/7 lead-in and the 3.2/8 October ’94 timeslot numbers.

Of the new half-hour strips, MGM’s new “LAPD” firstrun series debuted at a 2.3/6, slightly below its 2.5/6 lead-in but above the 2.0/6 average last October.

New Line’s “Court TV” (1.5/6) and Twentieth’s “America’s Most Wanted: Final Justice” (3.1/7) were also under-performing during the week.

The off-net version of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” debuted with a 2.7/5, exactly even with its lead-in and better than the 2.3/5 average last October.

Of the other new syndie sitcoms, WB’s “Step by Step” (4.1/9) and BVTV’s “Dinosaurs” (1.6/6) were a bit ahead of their lead-in and year-ago marks. But the bloom was off BVTV’s “Blossom” (2.5/6), which fell on both counts.

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