'Titus' preem strongest with male viewers

Fox’s comedy comeback continued Monday with the net’s midseason laffer “Titus” premiering to revved-up Nielsen numbers.

Edgy comedy from 20th Century Fox, starring standup comedian Christopher Titus, drew a timeslot-winning 14.19 million viewers and an adults 18-49 rating (7.7/20) that more than doubled its nearest competitor. It’s Fox’s highest-rated Monday series premiere ever among adults 18-49, total viewers and all key male demos.

“Titus” increased on its strong “That ’70s Show” lead-in by 20% among adults 18-49 (7.7/20 vs. 6.4/18) and by 19% in total viewers (14.19 million vs. 11.91 million).

Top scores came from men 18-34 (9.5/30) and men 18-49 (8.2/23), earning Fox’s best marks in the Monday 8:30 time period in six and five years, respectively.

Fox Television Entertainment Group chairman Sandy Grushow, who spearheaded the effort to get “Titus” on the air while at 20th Century Fox TV, admitted he was surprised by just how well the laffer performed in its first outing.

“I don’t think anyone saw a premiere of this magnitude coming,” he said.

Colorful follow-up

The strong bow comes on the heels of the net’s recent success in the live-action comedy arena with rookie out-of-the-box hit “Malcolm in the Middle” and sophomore sensation “That ’70s Show,” which has blossomed since its move to Mondays last month. Although Fox has had some luck with animated comedies in recent years, these are its first real live-action laffer hits since “In Living Color” bowed in 1992.

Fox’s luck with “Malcolm,” “Titus” and “’70s” comes in a season considered to be one of the worst-ever for laffers. The Big Three have yet to score a sitcom hit this season, with the Eye’s “Ladies Man” a borderline success.

As with the January premiere of “Malcolm in the Middle,” Fox launched “Titus” with a concentrated burst of promotion in the month leading up to Monday’s bow. With no other major events to talk up, Fox focused almost all of its on-air promo muscle on “Titus”; indeed, in the week before the premiere, it was almost impossible to turn on Fox without seeing a spot hyping the show.

“In this new world, I don’t think there’s any other way to launch a television series unless you’re standing on your head creating an event for your audience,” Grushow said.

Twentieth co-toppers Dana Walden and Gary Newman also gave “big ups” to the “Titus” crew.

“We’re really thrilled for Jack Kenny, Brian Hargrove and Christopher and everyone at the show and this studio who worked so hard on this project and believed in it so strongly,” the duo said. “And we applaud the network for embracing the series and all its risk-taking elements and launching it so aggressively.”

Grushow was careful to keep his excitement over the strong numbers in check. “We all know that it’s nice to open a show, but it doesn’t guarantee the long-term success of a series,” he said. “We’re gratified … but we know we’ve got a long road.”

Anticipation of the “Titus” bow also brought more viewers Monday to “That ’70s,” as the laffer scored its highest adults 18-49 rating since last March and its highest ever outside Sunday.

For the night, Fox posted its highest Monday ratings with series programming in more than four years in total viewers, in two years among adults 18-49, in more than five years among men 18-49 and more than six years among men 25-54.

The emergence of “Titus” was not good news for the two other series trying to find their way in Monday’s 8 o’clock hour. CBS’ “Grapevine” (6.50 million, 3.2/8 in A18-49) and NBC’s “Freaks & Geeks” (6.04 million, 2.3/6) both slipped about 10% from week-ago numbers.

Surprisingly, Fox’s “Ally McBeal” (prelim 14.41 million, 8.2/20 in A18-49) didn’t see a surge with the strong “Titus” lead-in. The dramedy’s adults 18-49 score was off slightly from its season average of 8.4/20.

Adults love ‘Raymond’

CBS’ “Everybody Loves Raymond” (18.39 million, 6.9/17 in A18-49) was the night’s most-watched program, more than doubling the adults 18-49 lead-in from “Grapevine.” It was “Raymond’s” best score in the key demo since Jan. 10.

At 9:30, “Becker” (17 million, 6.1/15 in A18-49) also pitched in with its best adults 18-49 rating since Jan. 10.

With a Peter Jennings news special sitting in at 10 p.m. for ABC drama “Once and Again,” CBS drama “Family Law” (12.66 million, 4.6/13 in A18-49) rallied to its best demo marks since November and topped fellow rookie drama “Third Watch” in adults 18-49 for the first time.

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