Off the bleep end

Explicit Fox laffer 'Action' slow out of box

The Fox network’s premiere of “Action” hasn’t generated much in the way of Nielsen traction with viewers.

Despite rave reviews, an aggressive marketing push and lots of controversy over its explicit content, “Action’s” premiere last Thursday attracted a young adult audience only marginally bigger than what the network averaged with “Fox Files” in the slot last season.

At 9 p.m., a “preview” of “Action” generated a 4.4 rating, 12 share among adults 18-49. Then at 9:30, a second episode faded 11% to a 3.9/11 in what will be “Action’s” regular slot.

Those results were good enough to keep Fox in second place for both half-hours, with OK increases (10% and 8% respectively) vs. “Fox Files” averages for last season. But those are rather modest gains for the most-talked-about new series on the Fox fall schedule, especially considering the night’s mostly rerun competition.

The two “Action” segs attracted total viewer counts of 8.3 million and 7.1 million, which actually puts the new Jay Mohr comedy behind the 8 million averaged in the hour last season by “Fox Files.”

Fox realizes better numbers are possible in the slot, as was demonstrated last season with 10 nights of reality specials that aired there during sweeps months. Those specs averaged a 7.3 rating in adults 18-49, meaning Thursday’s “Action” hour fell 42% short of that standard.

The Sept. 16 results suggest NBC’s formidable Thursday lineup may be a lot tougher to bring down this fall than the competition has anticipated. Last Thursday, NBC reran its “Friends,” “Frasier” and “ER” cliffhanger episodes from last May and surged to an 8.1/24 in adults 18-49, virtually equaling year-ago results and more than doubling the night’s Fox competition.

UPN’s WWF wrestling also excelled vs. Fox’s premieres, swaggering to a best-yet 6.7 million viewers and a 2.5/7 in adults 18-49. “Smackdown” beat Fox’s “Action” in men 18-34, the CBS competition in adults 18-49 and ABC’s in households.

The WB got a much slower Thursday start from “Charmed” (a sixth-place 3.2 million viewers and a 1.4/5 in adults 18-49). The fantasy-drama, a WB hit as a Wednesday rookie last season, is switching to Thursdays this fall.

Fox’s “Action” start may have been impacted by Tropical Storm Floyd, which caused widespread flooding and damage in most key northeastern markets, where the Murdoch net tends to do well.

Leading into “Action” was the season debut of “World’s Wildest Police Videos,” (8.4 million viewers, 3.6/11 in adults 18-49) which skidded 18% below year-ago 18-49 result with a rerun seg.

“Action’s” unimpressive debut, coupled with Fox’s weak start Wednesday with “Get Real,” hints that this could be a tough fall for any net trying to cut through primetime’s clutter and get viewers to sample new choices. If the most controversial show on the fall broadcast schedule doesn’t generate more interest than this, it could be a bleak premiere week for some of the new season’s less publicized rookies.

Each adults 18-49 rating point reps 1.24 million viewers, or 1% of the U.S. total in that age group. A share is the same sort of percentage, except it’s measured against only those watching TV during the timeslot involved.