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‘Desperate’ for ratings in Spain

Dramedy generates talk, press coverage but doesn't pull in auds

MADRID — Don’t Spaniards dig suburban satire, dead narrators and sex with gardeners?

“Desperate Housewives” has trounced the opposition on terrestrial webs in northern Europe, decimating broadcasters’ averages.

But it’s doing so-so in Spain where the dramedy generates table talk and press coverage but not ratings.

Airing Tuesday nights on pubcaster RTVE’s commercial channel, TVE-1, “Desperate Housewives” has averaged 16.1% over its first ten episodes — down on TVE-1’s average 21.4% for 2004.

Per Paris-based audience research company the WIT, “Housewives” Spanish run pales before Germany’s ProSieben (up 64% on ProSieben’s average 2004 share), the U.K.’s Channel 4 (up 137%) Norway TV2 (up 25%), Sweden’s Kanal 5 (up 121%) and Holland’s Net 5 (up 134%).

The skein’s so-so start could be explained by competition and TVE-1’s demo.

“Housewives” is highbrow for TVE-1, which skews old and rural. It also airs against Telecinco’s entrenched “Hospital Central,” punching a ninth-season 31%.

Yet the main complaint about “Desperate Housewives” is that it’s too arcane for Spain.

“The scripts have talent, malice, but I don’t give a toss about the sexual and emotional hangups of these suburban yuppies,” writes Carlos Boyero in El Mundo.

Why should he? Spain doesn’t have large tracts of suburbia. Nor is material success seen as a benchmark of life achievement. So the skein’s central irony — that the housewives have lovely homes but desperate lives — is lost.

Most Spanish housewives have to work and salaries are low. Spain is still in the throes of a first-phase feminist revolution. Its women regard work as not only a necessity, but also a hard-won right.

And Spaniards are not known for hiding their emotions, as the buttoned up characters do in “DH.”

The jury’s still out on “Desperate Housewives.” It has a faithful ABC1 following of 2.5 million and may do better once “Hospital Central” ends July 18.

” ‘Desperate Housewives’ is bound to improve after that,” says TVE head of acquisitions Jose Luis Roncal.

But its Spanish perf raises larger questions for other markets, such as Latin America where many countries share similar sensibilities to Spain. It’s interesting to note that such countries are negotiating for remake rights.

The skein is due to bow on Italo pubcaster RAI in the fall, although it already airs on paybox Sky Italia.

Its perf on Italian terrestrial TV may be telling.

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