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Reality returns to the fore in ratings

Scripted shows struggle

It’s a brutal time for the nets’ new midseason entries, but those halcyon days are back for reality TV.

Debuts of Fox’s “American Embassy,” CBS’ “Amazing Race 2,” WB’s “My Guide to Being a Rock Star” and NBC’s “Colin Quinn Show” failed to impress last week.

“Embassy,” “Race” and “Quinn” posted double-digit declines from their respective lead-ins; “Rock Star” was the Frog’s lowest-rated program of the week. Week two of ABC’s “Wayne Brady Show” and UPN’s “As If” and “Random Years” also posted some terribly low numbers.

Last week wasn’t a complete bust for premieres, however. Auds flocked to FX for the debut of its critically lauded skein “The Shield,” which pulled the highest-ever rating for a preem episode of a scripted series on basic cable. And things are starting to look up this week for the broadcast webs, as the bow of CBS’ “Baby Bob” did boffo Monday night.

But it’s non-scripted fare that boosted the networks’ fortunes last week. CBS’ “Survivor: Marquesas” was tops with viewers (20.1 million) and second with adults 18 to 49 (8.9 rating/24 share), behind NBC’s “Friends” (9.6/27).

Three of the week’s top five shows among adults 18 to 49 were rooted in reality: “Survivor” was followed by NBC’s “Fear Factor” (7.6/19) and Fox’s “Celebrity Boxing” (7.1/17). So much for conventional wisdom that reality was on the wane.

NBC won the week in all major measurements, including viewers (11.5 million), adults 18 to 49 (4.4/12) and adults 25 to 54 (5.0/12). Peacock and Fox tied for tops with adults 18 to 34 (3.7/11). NBC posted year-to-year gains in those categories as well.

With power player “CSI” pre-empted for NCAA basketball, CBS was a close second with viewers (11.3 million). Eye also took second with adults 18 to 49 (3.9/11). ABC was third with viewers (9.2 million) and fourth with adults 18 to 49 (3.4/9), as it continued its double-digit declines.

Fox, meanwhile, was fourth with viewers (8.0 million) and third with adults 18 to 49 (3.6/10).

It was a good week for the weblets, both of which posted year-to-year gains despite the disappointing additions of “Rock Star,” “As If” and “Random Years.” UPN attracted 3.7 million viewers and a 1.6/4 with adults 18 to 49, while WB clocked in with 3.3 million viewers and a 1.4/4 with adults 18 to 49.

Sunday

A glimmer of hope for those unfortunate souls at ABC: The Alphabet web won Sunday night among adults 18 to 49 (4.2/11), thanks to solid perfs from “Alias” (4.6/11) and “The Practice” (5.2/12).

But comedy’s still king on the night, as “The Simpsons” scored the night’s best adults 18 to 49 numbers (5.5/14). “Simpsons” was also the top rated show of the week among teens–some of whom weren’t even born when the show premiered in 1989. Chew on that.

Saturday

NBC didn’t get much notice for its original pic “The Matthew Shepard Story,” which averaged just 7 million viewers and a 2.1/7 with adults 18 to 49.

CBS drew 9.5 million viewers with NCAA basketball coverage, winning the night in both viewers (8.6 million) and adults 18 to 49 (3.2/11). Fox was a close second in the demo with its usual crime TV tandem of “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” (3.1/10).

Friday

This is what Friday night has come to: Reality, repeats and “Reba.”

NBC dominated the evening (4.0/13 adults 18 to 49, 12 million viewers), thanks to a repeat of “Law & Order: SVU,” which wound up as the night’s highest-rated program (4.8/15 adults 18 to 49, 13.6 million viewers). Yet another two-hour “Dateline NBC” (Don’t worry, “Providence” fans, the Peacock promises it’ll be back next week) also performed, netting a 3.6/11 with young adults.

CBS, meanwhile, was second with adults 18 to 49 (3.2/10) with NCAA basketball playoffs, which–surprise, surprise–attracted a few more youngsters than “First Monday” and “48 Hours” usually do. ABC was second among total viewers (8.9 million), as auds apparently still love watching people making asses of themselves on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “Bloopers #5.”

As for UPN, the jockstrap net’s viewers have a message for older sibling CBS: Keep your shows off our damn channel. Repeats of the first two episodes of the Eye’s “Amazing Race 2” attracted just 1.7 million viewers–UPN’s lowest-rated Friday of the season. Even last fall’s theatrical premiere of “Booty Call” did better on the night.

Then there’s “Reba.” The laffer has become the WB’s top-rated Friday series, averaging 4.2 million viewers last week.

Thursday

Just as the Peacock has expanded “Dateline” to two hours on recent Fridays, ABC scored big with a double dose of “Primetime Thursday.”

Of course, it wasn’t just any “Primetime Thursday.” It was the coming-out shindig for Rosie O’Donnell. The long-form newsmag scored 14.4 million viewers, winning its two-hour block opposite repeats on NBC and NCAA basketball on CBS. “Primetime” also took a 5.1/13 with adults 18 to 49, the program’s best numbers since Connie Chung made Rep. Gary Condit sweat back in August.

With no “Survivor” and “CSI” competish, NBC won the night handily (7.0/18 adults 18 to 49, 14.6 million viewers). CBS was second in the demo (4.4/12), followed closely by ABC (4.3/11), which was dragged down by two “Whose Line is it Anyway?” segs.

As for the night’s series debut, apparently WB viewers aren’t aiming for big-time music careers. They asked for a refund on “My Guide to Being a Rock Star,” which attracted just 1.6 million viewers and a 0.6/2 in adults 18 to 49.

Wednesday

CBS and Fox posted stronger-than usual Wednesday night numbers, thanks to some good ol’ fashioned non-scripted fare.

“Survivor: Marquesas,” on loan to Wednesday while the NCAA playoffs wage on, dominated the 8 p.m. hour (8.9/24 adults 18 to 49, 20.1 million viewers), while “Amazing Race 2” was respectable at 9 p.m.–scoring its best-ever adults 18 to 34 numbers and top regularly scheduled ratings among viewers (12.5 million) and adults 18 to 49 (5.8/14).

Still, that gravy train won’t last long. “Survivor” returns to Thursday after this week, and “Amazing Race” will have to survive on its own after that. But for now, thanks to that double dose of reality, CBS won the night with young adults (5.8/15), followed by Fox (5.3/14)–which scored big with “Celebrity Boxing.”

The reality special, which included KO’s by the likes of Danny Bonaduce and Paula Jones, attracted an impressive 15.5 million viewers and 7.1/17 rating with adults 18 to 49, dominating the hour in both measurements.

“Celebrity Boxing” clocks in as the season’s third-highest ranked entertainment special among adults 18 to 49 on any network, only behind CBS’ Michael Jackson and Carol Burnett entries.

NBC’s “West Wing” and “Law & Order” were in repeats, hence NBC’s third place finish on the night (4.8/13 adults 18 to 49). “Law & Order” still posted its highest-ever repeat (6.6/18), making it the top-rated drama of the week–even better than shows that were in originals. Peacock won the night in viewers (14.2 million).

And will someone please start watching “The Job,” for heaven’s sake? ABC could use a little love. The critically acclaimed show is whimpering toward cancellation, having posted just a 2.8/7 with adults 18 to 49 last week.

Tuesday

NBC won with adults 18 to 49 (5.1/13). CBS won with viewers (13.2 million). UPN limped along with “As If” and “Random Years”–both of which pulled a 0.5 rating/1 share with adults 18 to 49. But the weblet has now swapped the two shows’ timeslots, so that should change everything.

Monday

Alan Thicke’s back! The latest celeb edition of “Fear Factor,” which included the former “Growing Pains” dad and “Thicke of the Night” host, scored a 7.6/19 with young adults and attracted 17.1 million viewers–making it the reality skein’s best ratings ever.

The 91-minute “Fear Factor” helped propel NBC to Monday night victory with adults 18 to 49 (5.8/15) and total viewers (12.8 million). But those “Fear Factor” viewers apparently switched over to “Becker” or “Girlfriends” at 9:30 p.m., rather than catch the premiere of “The Colin Quinn Show.”

The live sketchfest (7.2 million viewers, 3.5/8 adults 18 to 49), featuring ex-SNLer Colin Quinn, held on to just 46% of its young adults “Fear Factor” lead-in.

The night’s other debuts didn’t fare much better. Fox’s “American Embassy” (8 million viewers, 3.5/8 adults 18 to 49) held on to 76 percent of its “Boston Public” young adults lead-in, and was down vs. what “Ally McBeal” does in that slot. CBS’ “Amazing Race 2” (12.6 million viewers, 3.9/10 adults 18 to 49) also dropped from its “Becker” lead-in, holding onto 72 percent of the laffer’s adults 18 to 49 aud.

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