Laffers are best medicine for Alphabet

Ritter to help net back to comedy with '8 Simple Rules'

HOLLYWOOD — If there’s one simple rule that ABC should follow, it’s this: Thou must make viewers laugh on Tuesday night.

The Alphabet learned this the hard way last season, when its Tuesday crumbled under weak showings for comedies like “Dharma & Greg,” “Spin City” and “Bob Patterson.” And when the net scrapped Tuesday laffers altogether for a while last winter — something it hadn’t done in 30 years — things got even worse.

Now, the wayward web is looking to crawl its way back to respectability by returning to a two-hour comedy block on Tuesday. It’s an important and symbolic move, since the night has long been home to the net’s biggest comedy hits (“Happy Days,” “Three’s Company,” “Home Improvement”).

And who better than “Three’s Company’s” own John Ritter to kick off the net’s new-look Tuesday with promising laffer “8 Simple Rules to Dating My Teenage Daughter.” Show, in which Ritter’s character is the father to two teenage daughters, is perhaps the Alphabet’s best shot at a breakout hit this fall.

Overall, Tuesday should be a night that offers something for each of the six broadcast nets to smile about. Here’s how they stack up:


Key to growth here is tapping into the teen and young-adult aud that deserted the net’s Tuesday in recent years. (According to Nielsen, ABC was a shocking sixth in teens last season, losing half its aud in one year, and also declined by 35% in adults 18-34.)

It’s tough when your four-laffer sitcom block includes three newcomers, but the net could pull it off if “8 Simple Rules” clicks at 8 and sophomore “According to Jim” continues to perform well at 8:30.

Perhaps the biggest wild card is 9 p.m. laffer “Life With Bonnie.” The pilot was very funny, but can Bonnie Hunt & Co. maintain that energy level every week and perform well opposite “Frasier”?

If so, the night could be a winner for ABC. If not, new 9:30 workplace comedy “Less Than Perfect” doesn’t stand much of a chance.

“NYPD Blue,” back at 10 after playing at 9 p.m. last season, is past its prime but could spike up if the rest of the night improves.


The Eye was a solid second in adults 25-54 and first in total viewers last season with a lineup of dramas that returns intact this fall.

“The Guardian,” back for a second season, drew a sizable (albeit older) aud in the 9 p.m. hour and could grow this season with “NYPD Blue” out of its way.

“JAG” and “Judging Amy” continue to be solid performers but should see slight declines as they enter their eighth and fourth seasons, respectively.


The Peacock has done it with mirrors on Tuesday in recent years, including last year’s first-place finish on the night in adults 18-49 and 25-54.

Propping up the net has been “Frasier,” which returns for a 10th season, followed at 9:30 by new couple-in-suburbia laffer “Hidden Hills.” Both should win in 18-49, although “Frasier” could continue to see its numbers decline.

Net’s opening hour again looks weak, as the new “In-Laws” and relocated vet “Just Shoot Me” appear destined for the bronze medal in the three-network comedy battle.

An unsung player in NBC’s Tuesday success, newsmag “Dateline,” returns to the 10 p.m. hour it won last season in adults 18-49.


Anchor laffer “That ’70s Show” began to fade in the second half of last season and could face a tough challenge from ABC’s “8 Simple Rules,” but it should still rule among adults 18-34 and keep Fox on top for the night in the demo.

Net placed second in 18-49 last season and could stay there if Emmy-nominated drama “24” can improve in its second season.

Overall, Tuesday should again rank as Fox’s second strongest night (behind Sunday) in all key adult demos.


“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” helped the net establish a beachhead on Tuesday, and new spooky drama “Haunted” will look to hold on to a good size of that aud this fall.

“Haunted” should do better than “Roswell” a year ago, but facing the WB’s “Smallville” is a tough task.


“Smallville” was clearly the standout rookie performer on any network last season. Paired once again with the still-growing “Gilmore Girls,” we likely haven’t seen the best numbers this Tuesday twosome can put up.

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