‘Wanda’ taps the laffer field

'Beene,' 'Lost' also drawing auds

HOLLYWOOD After a pretty lackluster year for new comedies — with “Still Standing” and “Good Morning Miami” taking up space on expensive pieces of primetime real estate — the last few weeks have produced a reason for hope.

By far the biggest ray of light is beaming from Fox, whose Wanda at Large” is off to a great start. Also, its “Oliver Beene” and ABC’s “Lost at Home” have shown ratings promise.

Down another notch is CBS’ “My Big Fat Greek Life,” which has performed respectably and also is a contender to return next fall, perhaps with some tweaks.

But the best midseason comedy story is “Wanda at Large,” starring Wanda Sykes as an outspoken TV reporter.

According to Nielsen, the laffer has averaged a 6.3 rating/15 share among adults 18-49 in its first three airings and a 6.1/17 among adults 18-34 — easily winning its Wednesday-at-9:30 slot on each occasion.

Of course, it helped to have had “American Idol” as a lead-in for those first two weeks, but ratings for week three held up well even without the direct push from “Idol.”

Now, combined with “Bernie Mac,” which itself racked up its best numbers recently, Fox has two strong comedy pieces coming out of “Idol” on Wednesday.

Net’s “Oliver Beene” has performed pretty well on Sundays at 8:30 (between hits “The Simpsons” and “Malcolm in the Middle”), averaging a 4.8/12 in adults 18-49 and winning its slot all five weeks.

Fox would probably like it to be doing a bit better, but “Oliver” has to be considered at least a 50/50 shot for the net’s fall lineup.

Ditto “Lost at Home,” perhaps the funniest and most substantive of ABC’s current laffers. While not drawing the numbers of “Wanda” or even “Oliver,” its retention of “According to Jim” in its first three weeks (roughly 95% in adults 18-49) suggests that viewers like what they see.

If ABC can properly package “Lost” with some of its other promising laffers, it will be on the right track in its rebuilding efforts.

The Eye’s “Greek Life” has averaged a 3.0/8 in adults 18-49 and has been an improvement over what “Becker” averaged in the slot earlier this season. It may not be the “Smash Hit New Comedy” that the screaming CBS promos boast of, but it is the best-performing non-Monday laffer for the Eye in several years.

It’s too early to tell whether NBC’s “Watching Ellie” can excite auds in its second season, but it bowed last week with a solid second-place finish in its Tuesday slot (3.5/9 in adults 18-49). And the WB’s “Grounded for Life,” a Fox castoff, has done merely OK on Fridays for the Frog — holding on to big chunks of its “Reba” lead-in but averaging a so-so 1.5/4 in adults 18-49 and a 1.6/6 in adults 18-34.

And then there are those shows that came and went nowhere: UPN’s “Abby,” the net’s failed attempt at establishing a comedy presence on Tuesday; Scott Foley starrer “A.U.S.A.,” the latest in NBC’s long line of unfunny Tuesday sitcoms; “On the Spot,” the WB’s improv laffer, which after a decent premiere took a ratings tumble; ABC’s “Regular Joe,” the second Daniel Stern comedy in as many years to flop on Fridays; and Fox’s “The Pitts,” which never made much noise in the net’s Sunday laffer block behind “Malcolm.”

For Rick’s weekday morning ratings reports, visit Variety.com/TVRatings.

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