Making ‘Progress’

ABC 'Jake' on the make; 'Contender' lacks punch

Auds tuned in to sample ABC’s John Stamos laffer “Jake in Progress” Sunday night but remain only modestly interested in NBC’s boxing series “The Contender.”

Also Sunday, Fox didn’t do a whole lot with the series premiere of “Kelsey Grammer Presents: The Sketch Show.”

According to prelim nationals from Nielsen that will be finalized today, 20th Century Fox comedy “Jake in Progress” averaged a 5.5 rating in adults 18-49 and a 12 share with a pair of preview episodes in Sunday’s 9 o’clock hour. In the slot usually occupied by “Desperate Housewives,” “Jake” benefited from a dominant “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” lead-in (5.8/15 in 18-49, 14.3 million viewers).

“Jake” led in virtually all key demos with its first episode at 9 (prelim 5.8/13 in 18-49, 13.9 million), then dropped off to second in 18-49 at 9:30 (5.1/12, 12 million viewers overall). It pulled in 15 shares in all female demos.

Though the “Jake” preview does not count as an official series premiere, no comedy has opened to a higher 18-49 rating this season. (NBC’s “Joey” came in with a 7.5/23 with its late-summer premiere.)

ABC wanted to give auds a peak at “Jake” before its shift to a tough slot Thursdays at 8, where it will air back-to-back original episodes.

For the first two weeks, though, the laffer about the romantic escapades of a slick, eligible New York publicist will face basketball and not “Survivor” on CBS; toughest competish at the outset will be NBC comedies “Joey” and “Will & Grace” and Fox’s “The OC.”

(ABC also will rebroadcast the first two episodes of “Jake” on Thursday from 9 to 10, an hour where there’s no broadcast comedy competish.)

At NBC, “The Contender” (prelim 2.7/7 in 18-49, 6.7 million) ran fourth from 8 to 9, but it did pull into third in 18-49 — ahead of Fox’s “Arrested Development” — at 8:30 (3.1/7 vs. 2.9/7).

Although NBC no doubt was bracing for a fourth-place 18-49 finish in the tough time period, it would like to see “The Contender” more competitive with both Fox’s “The Simpsons” (4.0/10) and CBS’ “Cold Case” (3.6/9).

In its Sunday premiere, “Contender” came in a bit ahead of the net’s regular slot occupant this season, drama “American Dreams” (2.5/6 in 18-49), but down vs. last week’s “Dateline” in the hour (3.1/8) as well as a stronger “American Dreams” in the same week a year ago (also 3.1/8).

At Fox, “The Sketch Show” (prelim 2.4/5 in 18-49, 5.5 million) ran fourth at 9:30, retaining 83% of its lead-in from a special repeat “The Simpsons” (prelim 2.9/7, 6.2 million). This isn’t a bad start, since Fox has struggled in the hour this season.

Elsewhere on the night, according to Nielsen prelims, NBC’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” stepped up at 9 to its best numbers in 13 months (5.4/12 in 18-49, 15.7 million), and the same net’s “Crossing Jordan” (4.5/11 in 18-49, 13.3 million) won out at 10 over ABC’s “Boston Legal” (4.2/11, 11.3 million).

CBS struck out with original movie “Saving Milly” (prelim 1.8/4 in 18-49, 8.8 million). It retained just 50% of its lead-in from “Cold Case,” which stood as the evening’s most watched program overall (16.5 million viewers).

National ratings for Friday, meanwhile, showed CBS drama “Numbers” (3.2/9 in 18-49, 10.55m) still topped NBC’s “Law & Order: Trial by Jury” in 18-49 (3.0/9, 10.69m), but it was closer than preliminary results suggested (Daily Variety, March 14). “Numbers” was cleared in just 96% of the country, preempted in several markets by college basketball.

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