Hype, but little glory for nets

Webs making claims backed by fuzzy math

Network hype is nothing new, but desperate webheads have taken the art of the boast to new levels this season.

Have you seen TV’s “No. 1 new comedy of the year”? Better hurry.

The show, Fox’s “Free Ride,” got off to a spectacular start March 1, attracting 13.5 million viewers with a special preview that aired after “American Idol.” Promo execs at Fox were so excited about the numbers that they quickly ordered up ads declaring the show the top new comedy of 2006.

Just one problem: When “Free Ride” moved to its regular timeslot on Sundays, its aud tumbled more than 50%. By the end of March, Fox had announced plans to test another show in place of “Free Ride” on Sundays.

ABC, anxious to persuade viewers to watch its critically hailed “Sons & Daughters,” sold the show as “Tuesday’s No. 1 comedy” after just a week on the air — even though there’s a grand total of four comedies on Tuesdays (three of them on the Alphabet).

NBC, meanwhile, got into the act on last season’s most popular network promo trick: the ever-rising audience tally. Using cume numbers, nets tout how many people have watched even a few minutes of a show since it debuted to make it seem as if it’s building momentum. At last count, Peacock’s “Deal or No Deal” had been declared a hit by no fewer than 85 million viewers.

But perhaps no net is more obsessed with touting its successes than CBS.

In almost every promo, the Eye reminds viewers of some superlative — even if said accolades seemingly contradict each other. Case in point: “CSI” has been branded TV’s most-watched show, while spinoff “CSI: Miami” is the most watched show on … the … planet!

Earlier this season, alert viewers noticed that CBS Friday dramas “Ghost Whisperer” and “Numbers” both were ranked as “Friday’s No. 1 drama.” It all depended on how the shows did the previous week.

And then there’s the case of frosh laffers “Out of Practice” and “Courting Alex.” They did OK-but-not-spectacular numbers as part of the Eye’s Monday comedy block. But that didn’t stop CBS from calling them “two of TV’s highest-rated comedies” in ads selling their move to Wednesdays.

Viewers weren’t impressed. After two flatline perfs, CBS last week yanked both from the air.