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Fox’ claims surfing turf as ‘OC’ rides high

Soap, Bravo's 'Queer Eye' hit new levels

Fox’s “The OC” rode some bigger waves on Tuesday, hitting another ratings high on the same night that the net’s music talent skein “Performing As …” bowed with promising numbers.

With “OC” now picking up momentum, Fox has ordered six additional scripts from Warner Bros. TV — a sign that bodes well for the skein’s chances of snagging an official full-season pickup.

“It’s pretty safe to say that if the show continues to perform at the level it’s been performing at, we’re going to want more episodes than Warner Bros. will ever be able to produce,” Fox topper Sandy Grushow said. “But if anyone can figure it out, it’s (WBTV prexy) Peter Roth.”

According to Nielsen, the fourth original episode of “OC” (3.8/11 in adults 18-49, 8.65 million viewers overall) won the 9 o’clock hour in all key categories against competition that included firstrun reality programs on CBS (“Cupid”) and NBC (“Dog Eat Dog”).

In key categories like adults 18-34, teens and total viewers, “OC” has grown with every telecast. Tuesday’s 4.6/15 in 18-34 was a 53% improvement over its Aug. 5 premiere (3.0/9).

Grushow credits “The OC’s” early success, following a modest bow, to relentless marketing — and, perhaps just as importantly, the net’s decision to run repeats of the skein twice per week.

“No matter how much you promote a show like ‘The OC’ in the summer, it’s extremely difficult to get the audience to come to you in one fell swoop,” Grushow said. “What you really have to do is avail yourself to them. There are so many things vying for a young adult’s attention in a month like August that no matter how strong your marketing campaign is, you really have to offer that audience multiple opportunities to sample your goods.”

After its seventh episode Sept. 16, “The OC” will rest and is scheduled to return in a tough Thursday-at-9 slot after postseason baseball.

“Performing As …,” a sort-of extreme karaoke contest with wannabe singers emulating their favorite stars, averaged a 2.9/10 in adults 18-49 and 6.87 million viewers overall. It placed second to CBS’ “Big Brother 4” (3.5/11 in 18-49, 8.73m) in the 8 o’clock hour, where it will air for another five weeks.

Grushow said he’s also encouraged by the successful bow of “Performing” as well as the continued solid perf of another product of Mike Darnell’s alternative division: “Paradise Hotel.”

“I think ‘Paradise Hotel’ is underappreciated,” Grushow said. “I don’t think there’s a stronger unscripted show this summer in adults 18-34 or teens. I think there’s a very good chance ‘Paradise Hotel’ will be back (next summer) given its performance.”

Grushow said the successful summer launch of “The OC” is proof that Fox has “changed the game” of summer TV by proving that scripted fare can still do well in warm weather months.

Fox in ‘Paradise’

“And with ‘Paradise Hotel,’ we satisfied another goal, which is to create a summer (reality) franchise a la ‘Big Brother,’ ” he added.

While NBC has won every week of the summer in adults 18-49, Grushow implied the Peacock and other webs might be making a mistake if they don’t attempt at least some scripted fare in the summer (Daily Variety, July 25).

“The best thing that can happen to Fox is if the other networks continue to act as though business was usual,” he said. “In fact, we’re thrilled that NBC has declared the summer as an inappropriate time to launch scripted shows. May that be their mantra for the next decade.”

New ‘Queer Eye’ high

As for the Tuesday ratings, busy night also included more best-yet ratings for Bravo’s hot “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” week-to-week gains for MTV’s “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica” and strong first-down yardage for the premiere of ESPN football drama “Playmakers.”

“Playmakers,” the first scripted series for ESPN, averaged 2.66 million viewers for its 45-minute commercial-free bow and delivered the largest men 18-49 and 25-54 auds for a drama premiere on cable this year. Net was also pleased with the skein’s ratings growth with each half-hour.

Viewership was roughly 75% male for the drama, which received mostly stellar reviews.

Pleasant surprise

“Given our track record in the summer, we’re just as surprised as anyone else with these ratings,” said Mike Shapiro, ESPN exec veep of programming and production. “To be able to develop our own original scripted series and get people to watch it is a healthy sign for the future.”

At Bravo, “Queer Eye” (1.7/5 in A18-49, 3.09m) ranked third in 18-49 and 25-54 among ad-supported networks from 10 to 11, trailing only NBC’s and ABC’s offerings. It was up slightly week-to-week in 18-49 viewers to 2.217 million — more than four times Bravo’s pre-“Queer Eye” record.

Giving “Queer Eye” a bigger boost was lead-in dating show “Boy Meets Boy” (0.8/2 in 18-49, 1.38m), which delivered best-since-premiere scores.

MTV’s “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica” averaged 2.85 million viewers from 10:30 to 11, up from 2.48 million for last week’s launch.