Peacock should let ‘Ed’ roll

Execs may believe show has maxed out ratings-wise

HOLLYWOOD — Has NBC’s “Ed” rolled its last frame?

The light-hearted drama about a small-town lawyer and his bowling alley wrapped its third season April 11, and now awaits word whether it will return in the fall.

In its first two outings on Friday, “Ed” easily led its hour in adults 18-49 (averaging a 3.5/10, according to Nielsen) and helped NBC win the night.

But is that enough?

The Peacock net won’t announce its fall sked for another month, but “Ed” does warrant renewal.

Its audience is densely comprised of the upscale viewers advertisers love. It’s the kind of show people talk about in chatrooms or around the water cooler, and it’s a nice alternative to the procedural whodunits that dominate so many hours on the sked.

There are certainly some reasons why “Ed” remains on the bubble, beyond the fact that its ratings performance has never lived up to its promise.

Softer dramas in general don’t play well in repeats, and “Ed” is no exception. In fact, the net has opted to air virtually no encores, thus limiting the advertiser revenue it can reap from the show.

Also, NBC execs may believe the show, which has incorporated its share of stunt casting and plot twists, has maxed out ratings-wise.

But Friday at 9, where it moved after more than two years on Wednesdays at 8, is the single best spot on the sked for “Ed” — and a timeslot where it can possibly grow its audience.

Sure, viewing levels are lower on Friday than most days, but by moving the show to a less competitive night (away from “American Idol,” for starters), more young adults may actually be available. And “Ed” airs right before the evening’s biggest hit, 10 o’clock drama “Law & Order: SVU,” thus creating a strong one-two combo for NBC.

Looking ahead to a potential Friday berth next fall, “Ed” wouldn’t figure to face much competish either — certainly not the hot reality shows or bells and whistles of other stunt programming it endured Wednesdays.

ABC will go with comedies or an unproven drama on Fridays, Fox has been unable to do much on the night in recent years (“John Doe” could return), and whatever crime program CBS offers up (“48 Hours,” “Hack” or a new drama) doesn’t figure to cut into “Ed’s” audience.

The ball is in NBC’s alley now, but it should seriously consider more patience with a show that needs nurturing in a less crowded garden.

* * *

In ratings for the week of March 31-April 6, a balanced Peacock eked out a victory over Fox in adults 18-49 (4.3/12 vs. 4.2/11), while CBS was back on top in total viewers thanks to its Monday and Thursday lineups, according to Nielsen.

Fox, with two hours of “American Idol,” remained very competitive, but ABC once again struggled to distant fourth-place finishes. On the cable side, Fox News Channel opened up a wider lead on CNN (4.5 million vs. 3.4 million), with both nets atop the primetime rankings for a third straight week.

Pacing the Peacock was Thursday laffer “Friends,” which ranked as the frame’s No. 1 program in adults 18-49 (9.8/27), edging out two hourlong segs of “American Idol” (9.7/24 on Wednesday, 9.6/26 on Tuesday) and CBS drama “CSI” (9.4/23).

NBC didn’t clinch the week in 18-49, though, until its strong Sunday, when “Dateline” (2.9/9), “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (5.7/13) and a Katie Couric special on the Central Park jogger (5.3/13) all led their slots.

“CSI,” which returned after a two-week Thursday hiatus with an original seg that was the week’s most-watched program (26.37 million), has moved ahead of NBC’s “ER” for the season in adults 18-49 and now ranks as television’s No. 1 drama in the key demo (9.8 vs. 9.7) — the first time the medical drama has been No. 2.

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