HOLLYWOOD — The true definition of a show that’s a self-starter is one that gets viewers to tune in, no matter what.
Foremost in this motivational group are CBS’ “Judging Amy” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and NBC’s “Third Watch” and “Frasier” — programs that draw a legion of loyal followers despite airing after ratings laggards.
While it’s a testament to these shows that they prevail despite serving as basically an island for their networks on the nights they air, they also run a greater risk of ratings erosion simply because of their less successful neighbors.
It’s also fair to say the four shows are far from reaching their potential: Imagine how high they might climb with any kind of lead-in stepladder.
CBS, for example, was said to be considering moving rookie hit “CSI” to the post-“Survivor” slot on Thursdays because the crime skein is one of the net’s few shows that can truly take advantage of the reality juggernaut’s younger-skewing audience — but also because “CSI’s” current Friday slot doesn’t allow it to reach nearly as many viewers.
“CSI” has been one of the few first-year shows to bolt out of the starting gate with huge numbers and continue to post winning ratings on a weekly basis. Its average of 15.2 million viewers is 55% more than lead-in “The Fugitive,” while its 4.8 rating in the key demo of adults 18-49 is a whopping 78% better.
CBS’ other “island” series, “Judging Amy,” continues to grow midway through its second season. Entering January, it was averaging 15 million viewers and ranked as the net’s No. 2 drama — behind only “CSI.”
The 10 p.m. Tuesday series is key for CBS, often scoring big enough ratings to tilt the night in the net’s favor after a second- or third-place finish over the first two hours. This season, “Amy” is building on its “60 Minutes II” lead-in by 34% in viewers, by 59% in adults 18-49 and by 93% in its core demo of women 25-54.
In NBC’s case, “Third Watch” and “Frasier” are serving as the tentpoles propping up Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
“Third Watch” has proven a strong second-year performer for the Peacock, whose Monday struggles would be even greater without this series’ paramedics and firefighters coming to its rescue in the night’s final hour. “Watch” is delivering stronger demos than its drama competition — CBS’ “Family Law” — even though the Eye net enjoys a considerable advantage in the 9 o’clock hour.
This season, “Third Watch” is building by 41% in adults 18-49 over its lead-in (first “Deadline” and now “Dateline”) and by 58% in adults 18-34.
“Frasier” is perhaps the most important show on NBC’s sked at this time, primarily because of the way it’s single-handedly keeping the Peacock’s Tuesday afloat.The net started out strong on the night this season with new laffers “The Michael Richards Show” at 8 and “DAG” at 9:30, but both went south in a hurry. “Richards” has been axed and “DAG” has been moved to the lower-profile 8:30 slot.
“Frasier,” though, has surprised many by not missing a ratings beat with its move to Tuesdays from Thursday. It ranks as the season’s No. 2 comedy in total viewers, even though it’s not getting much help.
The Kelsey Grammer comedy’s 17.5 million viewers are more than double the 8 million “Third Rock From the Sun” is drawing at 8:30, as is its adults 18-49 rating (7.5 to “Rock’s” 3.7).
“Frasier” remains a vital cog in NBC’s primetime plans, but even a veteran ratings winner shouldn’t be expected to carry a night by itself.