‘Jericho’ gets a jolt

Low-rated show popular with DVR owners

You can’t always judge a television show’s popularity by its Nielsen ratings. Just ask CBS.

The Eye canceled its first-year serialized drama “Jericho” a few weeks ago but then reversed course last week, after being deluged by angry emails, phones calls and letters — as well as more than 20 tons of peanuts .

Jericho” was something of an odd duck on CBS, whose lineup — while the most-watched on TV — consists primarily of meat-and-potatoes crime dramas and a mix of reality and comedy series that don’t create much watercooler or Internet buzz.

At times it seemed the Eye didn’t know how to handle a show like “Jericho,” which was the only scripted program on the net to emphasize continuing storylines. CBS was hoping that it could become its “Lost” or “24,” but became frustrated when it lost ratings steam down the stretch.

After averaging about 10.5 million viewers last fall, “Jericho” dipped below 8 million when it returned from a lengthy hiatus in February. Its finale settled for 7.2 million.

But judging by the roughly 45,000 pounds of peanuts that “Jericho” fans sent to CBS offices — a play on the phrase “Nuts” that was key to the finale — its audience was fiercely loyal and not ready to give up the show about a small Kansas town coping with the aftermath of a nuclear attack.

Despite its smaller audience, “Jericho” certainly garnered more press coverage than other new CBS shows. It was also the only scripted CBS skein to have its own recap page on popular chat site Television Without Pity.

“Jericho” was very popular with DVR owners, consistently ranking as the CBS scripted program whose aud grew by the largest percentage when DVR playback was included. Such a stat indicates a sizable aud went out of its way to make sure it didn’t miss an episode.

Its finale audience, for example, jumped 13% (to 8.1 million viewers) when DVR playback was counted.

CBS says it wants to create more buzz with its programming, and giving “Jericho” a second shot with a seven-episode order for next winter would seem to be a step in the right direction.

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