Sked shifts after ' Housewives' ratings cool

The ladies of Wisteria Lane are still scaring up big auds on Sunday night, but they no longer frighten the folks at the Golden Globes.

After a two-year run on Monday nights — in a bid primarily to get away from ABC juggernaut “Desperate Housewives” — the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and NBC have set this year’s kudocast for a return to Sunday night.

Those involved with the Jan. 13 show are tight-lipped on the specifics leading to the selection of the date earlier this year, but Philip Berk — who just finished his term as HFPA prexy — made it clear in April that the org was keeping a close eye on the competition.

“‘Desperate Housewives’ doesn’t have the same impact it had,” he noted. “It does seem that Sunday night is not insurmountable.”

It seemed inconceivable a few years ago that four middle-age suburban housewives would have the HFPA and its Globe partners quaking. After all, the 2004 audience for the Globes set a record with 26.8 million viewers — 10 months after the Oscars fell to an all-time low on ABC (33 million).

In fact, no awards show was hotter.

In January 2005, though, four months after “Desperate Housewives” burst onto the scene as television’s biggest new show in a decade, the Golden Globes took a major ratings hit.

The kudocast dropped to 16.8 million viewers, and fell below 15 million in the hour directly opposite “Housewives.”

That seemed to stall momentum for the Globes, which in 10 years on NBC had swelled in popularity to become the net’s biggest winter ratings winner and a pacesetter for other kudocasts.

The HFPA, NBC and kudocast producer Dick Clark Prods. saw an opportunity to shift the kudocast to Monday and ran with it.

And because the date fell on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, late-afternoon traffic near the Beverly Hilton (at the usually busy intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards) could more easily be diverted to accommodate the show.

That 2006 broadcast improved to 18.8 million viewers, and things got even better in 2007 when, again on a Monday, the Globes averaged 20 million viewers — on par with the Grammy Awards and ranking behind only the Academy Awards among kudocasts.

But due to a variety of reasons, including “Desperate Housewives” losing a bit of steam (though it’s still a top-five show) — and the King holiday landing a week later — a decision was made to return to Sunday.

“The three partners got together, and we decided on a date that was best for all of us,” Golden Globes exec producer Barry Adelman says. “We want the show to get the best possible platform and be seen and enjoyed by the widest audience possible.”

Translation: While Monday worked out nicely, Sunday is still preferable.

Sunday, after all, is the home to television’s big events — from the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards to the Grammy Awards and high-profile original movies. The night also offers four hours of primetime, enabling NBC to kick things off with an arrivals show and still get in the three-hour ceremony in time for the late local news.

It’s also not surprising that NBC may have wanted off Monday because, thanks to hot drama “Heroes,” it was shaping up as the strongest night of series programming for the fourth-place network.

Another down side to the Globes staying on the King holiday in 2008 would have been that its Monday show would have ended just 12 hours before the Academy Awards announces its nominees — a nightmare scenario for Hollywood publicists.

As for the show itself, Adelman is back as exec producers, and Chris Donovan as director.

Adelman says viewers might expect a few wrinkles for the 65th anniversary of the Globes — including a bit of a look back at the history of the show — but that he and the production team will be focusing on its strengths.

“This is like the Hollywood senior prom, and everybody wants to go and be seen,” he explains. “We take advantage of that and try to let the party happen, let it breathe.”

He says the tight quarters at the BevHilton make for an intimate atmosphere, and that Donovan will experiment with some directorial innovations. There will be more cameras designed to make viewers “feel more part of the show.”

Notably, while the date is still more than a month away, there’s a chance the Writers Guild of America will still be on strike. There hasn’t been a major awards show affected by a work stoppage since the 1981 Emmys, which occurred while the actors guild was on the picket lines; the show went on, but nearly every nominated thesp stayed home.

“Hopefully it doesn’t happen, and we’ll be exploring all our options (in January) if that happens,” Adelman says. “We have our fingers crossed.”

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