Rookies hit paydirt

ABC's 'Kids' culls key demos; Fox's 'Boot' shines

Two more late midseason entries got off to strong starts Wednesday as ABC laffer “My Wife and Kids” and Fox reality series “Boot Camp” scored impressive victories with their premieres.

Touchstone family comedy “My Wife and Kids,” starring Damon Wayans, delivered ABC’s best numbers with comedy programming in Wednesday’s leadoff hour in two years. Two half-hour episodes, presented as a one-hour bow, averaged a winning 13.72 million viewers and a 5.7/15 in adults 18-49 — with the series gaining momentum in the second 30 minutes.

“Boot Camp,” meanwhile, reported for duty in Fox’s 9 p.m. hour with ratings very similar to that of the January premiere of smash hit “Temptation Island,” another short-run reality skein. “Boot” (15.82 million, 7.9/19 in adults 18-49) easily won its hour opposite firstrun ABC comedies and a repeat of NBC’s “The West Wing.”

Strong midseason

For ABC, “My Wife and Kids” is the second strong midseason comedy debut in as many nights after Joan Cusack starrer “What About Joan” (Daily Variety, March 29).

“Wife” bowed in the 8 o’clock half-hour in front of an average of 12.53 million viewers, and its audience grew to 14.91 million at 8:30. It also built impressively in adults 18-49, going from a narrow victory over NBC’s “Ed” and Fox’s repeat of “That ’70s Show” at 8 (4.9/14 to 4.6/13) to a more comfortable advantage over second-place “Ed” at 8:30 (6.4/17 to 5.3/14).

“Wife” appeared to take viewers away from Fox, whose “Grounded for Life” slipped to its lowest firstrun adults 18-49 rating in eight tries (4.2/11).

Overall, “Wife’s” one-hour averages gave ABC its largest comedy aud in the hour (13.72m) since March 31, 1999 (“Dharma & Greg” and “It’s Like You Know”) and its best 18-49 score (5.7/15) since May 26, 1999 (“Dharma & Greg” and “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place”). Compared with what “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” averaged in the hour this season, “Wife” fared 8% better in adults 18-49 (5.7 vs. 5.3) and 23% better in adults 18-34 (5.3 vs. 4.3).

ABC announced Thursday that as a result of the strong start, “My Wife and Kids” will air two original episodes next Wednesday as well.

Over at Fox, “Boot Camp” was the night’s highest-rated program in many demos, including adults 18-49 (7.9/19), adults 18-34 (8.9/24) and teens (8.6/28). It also grew nicely in its second half-hour, winning at 9:30 by 7 shares over second-place “West Wing” in 18-49 (8.2/20 vs. 5.1/13) and by 15 shares over second place “The Job” in 18-34 (9.3/26 vs. 3.9/11).

“Boot Camp” skewed a bit older and more male than “Temptation Island,” which hit a direct bull’s-eye with Fox’s target 18-34 aud. Compared with “Temptation’s” premiere Jan. 10 (opposite an original “West Wing”), “Boot” was flat in teens (8.6), off by 2% in total viewers (15.82m vs. 16.10m), down by 5% in adults 18-49 (7.9 vs. 8.3) and down by 18% in adults 18-34 (8.9 vs. 10.9).

It was up in most male demos, including 11% in men 25-54 (8.0 vs. 7.2).

Elsewhere on the night, ABC’s “The Job” and CBS’ “Some of My Best Friends” continued to perform reasonably well relative to their lead-in. Neither new sitcom is setting the world on fire, though.

Decent ‘Job’

“The Job” retained 83% of its “Drew Carey” lead-in among adults 18-49 (4.8/12 vs. 5.8/14), a bit better than last week’s 80%. It placed third in its slot behind “Boot Camp” (8.2/20) and “West Wing” (5.1/13) but earned its best ratings yet in women 18-49 (5.6/13) and women 18-34 (4.5/12).

“Some of My Best Friends” (7.24m, 2.5/7 in A18-49) performed admirably in a timeslot that’s been a black hole for Eye laffers. Although it lost some of the older viewers who were watching a repeat “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Best Friends” retained 94% of its lead-in among adults 25-54 (3.1 vs. 3.3) and 93% in adults 18-49 (2.5 vs. 2.7); it actually improved on “Raymond” in some younger demos.

Fox won the night in adults 18-49 (6.1/16) and placed second to NBC in total viewers. ABC, dragged down by “Once & Again” at 10, finished third in both categories, CBS a distant fourth.

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