Rookies get cookin’

'Apprentice' tops ratings among frosh 2003 skeins

More than 30 new shows will bow on the broadcast nets in the fall, but it may take well into winter before we learn which of them have the goods.

Last fall, for example, two of this season’s top 10 rookies hadn’t even debuted yet and another was dead last in its timeslot.

While most of the focus has turned to the upcoming season, this is also a good time to honor the notable newbies of the 2004-05 campaign. So based on their Nielsens and timeslot competish, here’s a top-10 rookie ranking (note that limited-run reality skeins such as “Average Joe” and “The Simple Life” aren’t included):

HONORABLE MENTION: A tip of the cap goes to UPN comedy “All of Us,” which helped the net gain some traction on Tuesday despite getting hit hard by “American Idol,” and the WB’s variety comedy skein “Steve Harvey’s Big Time,” which produced solid teen numbers Thursday opposite the brutal combo of “Friends” and “Survivor.”

10. “NAVY NCIS” (CBS): This military crime drama stepped in “JAG’s” old Tuesday-at-8 slot and performed admirably, as its 3.8 rating/9 share in adults 25-54 was on par with the long-running legal hour that spawned it.

Its appeal among the 35-plus crowd made it less vulnerable to “American Idol” than the comedies that also inhabited the timeslot, and “Navy” often placed second to the Fox sensation in adults 25-54.

9. HOPE & FAITH (ABC) — This wacky sister sitcom served as the tentpole for the net’s return to comedy on Friday night, winning its slot with a 3.0/10 in adults 18-49.

It would have ranked higher earlier in the season, but “Hope” wasn’t quite the ratings draw as spring rolled around. It did, however, perk up with guest stars in the closing weeks, suggesting that’s there still some healthy interest in Kelly Ripa and her first primetime laffer.

8. JOAN OF ARCADIA (CBS) — Opening a new drama at 8 o’clock on Friday isn’t easy, but this unique family skein in which the title teen speaks to God emerged as both a critical and ratings hit. It generally won its timeslot in adults 25-54 (3.6/11) and total viewers (10.1 million).

“Joan” lost a bit of steam in the second half of the season — perhaps the result of an inordinate number of repeats — and CBS is expected to give it some exposure on another night during the summer.

7. ONE TREE HILL (WB) — There was no longer shot on the board to make this list after the opening weeks of the season last fall when it put up miniscule numbers, but this teen sudser picked up a head of steam in winter and produced season-high ratings with its finale, including a 23 share among female teens.

Although “Hill” was lost a bit in the shadow of Fox’s success with fellow young soap “The OC,” the WB is hoping it can become its next “Dawson’s Creek,” a signature show for the Frog with more than two-thirds of its audience comprised of femmes 12-34.

6. LAS VEGAS (NBC) — The Peacock found the ideal scripted skein to follow hot reality series “Fear Factor,” as this sexy newcomer emerged as the season’s No. 1 new drama in adults 18-49 (4.9/12) despite facing tough foes like “Monday Night Football” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

After football ended its run on ABC in December, “Las Vegas” consistently led its timeslot in key male demos.

5. THE OC (Fox) — No new scripted show had people buzzing more than this fun sudser, which caught on with its summer launch and blossomed into a hit this winter when it followed “American Idol” on Wednesday.

It was the season’s No. 2 new drama in 18-49 (4.4/11), but that wasn’t where the real story could be found. A huge draw among teens — it often built on its “Idol” lead-in among the 12-17 crowd — “The OC” finished as the season’s No. 1 new scripted program among viewers 12-34 (5.7/16).

4. EXTREME MAKEOVER: HOME EDITION (ABC) — This spinoff of the popular “Extreme Makeover” surgery skein didn’t bow until February, but it became an instant hit, often winning its hour among young adults. For the season, its 4.3 rating among adults 18-49 ranked third among ABC series.

“Home” was paired nicely with “America’s Funniest Home Videos” to give ABC a 7-9 p.m. combo that could be tough to beat on Sundays next season.

3. COLD CASE (CBS) — It’s not a demo darling, but this crime drama put up great numbers coming out of the creaky “60 Minutes,” dominating in total viewers and consistently challenging for the 25-54 lead.

Probably no new show has improved more than its pilot, as writers lightened it up a bit and even had lead Kathryn Morris crack a smile now and then — a rarity for a CBS drama.

2. TWO AND A HALF MEN (CBS) — Another show that gains points for a strong finish, this laffer was regularly retaining nearly all of its “Everybody Loves Raymond” lead-in in the season’s final months. It ended as the year’s top new comedy (5.1/12 in 18-49, 15.2 million viewers overall).

Sure, it had a cushy timeslot, but we’ve seen enough instances of where that wasn’t enough to suggest that CBS has something here. It could be the heir apparent to “Raymond” in the 9 o’clock slot.

1. THE APPRENTICE (NBC) — The right show, at the right time and on the right network, the Donald Trump rallied the Peacock’s Thursday lineup when it bowed in January.

Skein wasn’t a huge hit with teens or the 55-plus crowd, but hit a bull’s-eye for NBC in the 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 demos. It ranked as the season’s No. 3 program in adults 18-49 (10.1/25), tied with “Friends” and behind only the two editions of “American Idol.”

It’s interesting that many doubt the longevity of this skein even as “Survivor” preps for its ninth edition. There’s no reason to expect “The Apprentice” won’t be able to hang tough with “CSI” in the fall and beyond.

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