Hourlong dramas generally are overwhelmed by half-hour sitcoms in overall rankings, but some hour skeins make up for lost time by nabbing higher numbers of coveted age groups.
A case in point is “thirtysomething.” Through Jan. 13, the hourlong yuppie drama ranked only 59th overall. But Nielsen’s demographics reveal that in the desirable women’s 18-34 age category, “thirtysomething” performs on a level with shows in the top 25. The poor overall performance is due to an exceptionally weak following among viewers over age 55.
With 10,060,000 viewers in the 18-54 group, “thirtysomething” edges out the 9,990,000 earned “Perfect Strangers,” even though the sitcom ranked 23 places higher overall. The 36th-ranked sitcom also was defeated narrowly by the 39th-ranked “Hunter” for the 18-54 male audience.
Only six hourlong shows managed to crack the top 40 through Feb. 3 this season.
Even among the more successful shows, demographics can be dramatically skewed. Twentysecond-ranked “Growing Pains” defeated 23rd-ranked “L.A. Law” in the young adult categories, but the drama dominated the sitcom in both the male and female 35-54 crowd, with over 2 million more viewers.
In a time slot where there is no dominating show like a “Cheers” or “Roseanne,” the proper hourlong show can capture the prime targets and hold them for both half-hour slots. ABC fills its lead in to “Monday Night Football” with “MacGyver,” which delivers the prized young male viewers to ABC in its match-up against sitcoms.
On Dec. 3, the show had more male viewers in the 18-34,35-54 and over-55 categories than NBC’s “Fresh Prince Of Bel Air” and “Ferris Bueller,” and CBS’ “Evening Shade” and “Major Dad.” In the 18-34 bunch, only “Fresh Prince” was within a million viewers, and no show was even that close within the 35-54 category.
In a time slot with a blockbuster sitcom like “Roseanne” grabbing all the young viewers, an hourlong show like “In the Heat Of The Night” with Carroll O’Connor can work effectively as counterprogramming.
On Dec. 4, “Roseanne” pulled in 10,580,000 18-34′ s, which was more than three times “Heat Of The Night’s” 3.3 million. “Coach,” with “Roseanne’s” strong lead in had nearly 5 million more in that age group.
But in the 35-54 audience, “Roseanne’s” lead was sliced to just over half a million viewers. And the men in that category ditched “Coach” (2.53 million) for “Heat Of The Night” (2.9 million).
Finally, the over-55 crowd had no taste for the sitcoms: “Roseanne’s” 4.12 million and “Coach’s” 3.3 million were crushed “Heat Of The Night’s” 11.06 million.