Four hits fly under the radar

'Lopez,' 'Charmed' among TV's unsung heroes

HOLLYWOOD — The paramedics, police officers and firefighters of New York have put up some impressive ratings on Monday night this season, but NBC drama “Third Watch” continues to fly under the radar of most TV observers.

Same goes for the wacky Hughes and Warner families on CBS laffer “Yes, Dear,” the trio of witches who cast spells for the WB on “Charmed” and the antics of standup comedian “George Lopez” on his ABC comedy.

Week in and week out, these series are among primetime’s potent performers who live in the shadows of flashier and more lauded shows. And they likely deliver better ratings in their slots than anything else their respective nets could try.

Here’s a look at the Unsung Heroes of the 2002-03 season:

“Yes, Dear” (CBS): For three years now, this Monday comedy has been the perfect fit between the higher-profile “King of Queens” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” on the Eye’s strong laffer lineup.

It’s down in ratings year-to-year, due in part to competing for a full season opposite the strong second half of NBC’s “Fear Factor,” but “Dear” consistently challenges for its timeslot’s lead in key demos.

This season, Dear” has outperformed its “King” lead-in by 7% in adults 18-49 (4.6/12 vs. 4.3/12), according to Nielsen, making it the only 8:30 or 9:30 laffer on any net to build on the more established show that precedes it.

In overall audience, “Yes, Dear” (14 million) draws more viewers than comedies such as NBC’s “Frasier” (13.5 million) and ABC’s “My Wife and Kids” (12 million).

“Third Watch” (NBC): There aren’t too many hours on the sked where the top-rated net would settle for a third- place finish, but Monday at 9 –opposite “Monday Night Football” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” — is one of them. The rescue drama also endured Fox’s six-week unscripted megahit “Joe Millionaire.”

“Third Watch” averaged a 4.5/11 in adults 18-49 — up slightly vs. last season, on par with net’s “The West Wing” and ahead of dramas like ABC’s “NYPD Blue” and CBS’ “Judging Amy.” When ABC’s “The Practice” moved to the hour at midseason, “Watch” thumped it by 63% in 18-49.

“Watch” continues to work well behind “Fear Factor,” taking advantage of the reality hit’s strong male appeal. And “Watch” also over-indexes in key adults 18-49 upscale measurements, despite following the downscale “Fear.”

“The George Lopez Show” (ABC): After a solid spring tryout a year ago, this broad-appeal family laffer has excelled in its second season despite facing Fox’s “American Idol” for the past four months.

“Lopez” ranks second in its Wednesday-at-8:30 slot in adults 18-49 (4.1/11) and adults 18-34 (3.6/10), as well as teens, kids and total viewers. Its 17% year-to-year growth among 18-49ers is the most for any returning ABC series.

Airing behind the established “My Wife and Kids,” “Lopez” has retained 98% of its lead-in among adults 18-49 and 18-34, and builds slightly on “Wife” in teens — impressive given its “Idol” competish.

Among Hispanic households, “Lopez” is the No. 2 scripted skein in primetime (719,000) behind only Fox’s “The Simpsons” (731,000).

“Charmed” (the WB): Although it’s never been an Emmy magnet, this Aaron Spelling fantasy hour has a core audience — primarily young women — that sticks with the show through cast and timeslot changes. It just wrapped its fifth season, ranking as the net’s No. 5 show in key demos.

This season, it successfully anchored the WB’s new Sunday drama night, improving the 8 o’clock timeslot year-to-year by 100% in adults 18-34 (2.4/7 vs. 1.2/3).

Compared to its perf on Thursdays last season, “Charmed” was up 26% in 18-34 and regularly beat CBS among young women.

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