Big-ticket items missed their marks


WHAT WORKED: Viva “Las Vegas” — the Monday sudser emerged as the season’s most-watched new drama in young adults and proved to be a good partner with “Fear Factor.”

Peacock pumped up Monday even more in November with the introduction of “Bachelor” parody “Average Joe,” which was a fall phenom.

NBC also did OK numbers on Tuesday with its overhauled laffer lineup. Neither “Whoopi,” “Happy Family” nor “The Tracy Morgan Show” sizzled, but they didn’t sink — and in an era of diminished comic expectations, that’s not such a bad thing.

Peacock also helped its fiscal bottom line by moving “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” to Tuesdays at 10. Move put a big hole in the net’s Friday lineup (see below), but NBC bean counters insist they’ll grab more ad coin this way. What’s more, the presence of “L&O” has softened numbers for “Judging Amy” on CBS and made it tougher for ABC to find a successor to “NYPD Blue.”

WHAT DIDN’T: Everything NBC (and the media) hyped over the summer. New must-see laffer “Coupling”? Peacock prexy Jeff Zucker calls it “a disaster.” The big Rob Lowe legal drama “Lyon’s Den”? Gone. Alicia Silverstone’s starry-eyed “Miss Match”? Not a flop, but certainly not the big hit most expected.

As a result, NBC suffered significant declines among young adult viewers (along with most nets) and even suffered a setback on Thursdays, where for the first time, CBS actually beat the Peacock in key demos (at least for a week). If ABC and Fox can fix some problem spots, they’ll be in the game, too.

“The network now has three networks nipping at its heels for the 18-49 audience,” says Steve Sternberg, Magna Global exec VP and director of audience analysis.

The move of “SVU” to Tuesdays — along with disappointing returns for “Boomtown” — caused NBC to stumble badly on Fridays during the early part of the fall. A few timeslot shifts, and the move of “Third Watch” to 10 p.m., put the net back in the game.

WHAT’S AHEAD: NBC’s hoping for midseason momentum from a trio of reality skeins: Mark Burnett’s “The Apprentice” and second cycles of “Average Joe” and “The Restaurant.”

Peacock wisely taped “Joe 2” months ago, allowing it to duplicate the format of the original — and hopefully avoid a “Joe Millionaire 2”-like disappointment.

Look for NBC to bring back “Crossing Jordan” in February and give “Miss Match” a chance in a new timeslot in March or April (depending on how close the ratings race is). Lone new laffer is “Come to Papa,” which feels like a family-friendly version of “Seinfeld.”

Key sked shifts include moving “Ed” to Fridays, where it performed well in the spring. And NBC will cap off the season in May by saying farewell to “Friends” and hello to some huge Nielsen numbers.

Sternberg says NBC should be OK for the remainder of this season but that the network does need new series scripted success.

” ‘Law & Order’ and reality are masking weaknesses in the rest of its lineup, which won’t impact NBC much this season, but will next year as ‘Friends’ and ‘Frasier’ go off the air.”

Top 3 Shows:
E.R. – 8.9
Friends – 8.8
Will & Grace – 7.4

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