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James Hibberd

October 2007 Archives

Joss Whedon Returns to Fox With New Series 'Dollhouse'

October 31, 2007 7:00 PM

Joss WhedonJoss Whedon, the creator of acclaimed cult favorites “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and “Firefly,” is returning to Fox and reuniting with “Buffy” regular Eliza Dushku for a new action-drama called “Dollhouse.”

Fox has given a seven-episode commitment to the 20th Century Fox Television project for a planned debut next year.

“It deals with our darkest impulses and our best ones,” Whedon says. “It deals with all the things I like to deal with—strength, weakness, power and corruption.”

“Dollhouse” stars Dushku as Echo, one of a group of secret agents living in a futuristic dorm. Each has the ability to be imprinted with custom personalities and abilities for special assignments. When they return, their newly acquired memories are wiped. The show follows Echo as she takes on a variety of assignments—some romantic, some adventurous, some uplifting, some illegal—and gains awareness of her role and confinement.

The show represents a few reunions: Whedon with Fox, which aired the short-lived fan favorite “Firefly”; Whedon with Dushku, who starred in Fox’s “Nurses” pilot during the last development season as well as Fox’s 2003 series “Tru Calling”; and Whedon and Dushku with studio chairmen Gary Newman and Dana Walden, whose 20th Century Fox Television also produced his other shows.

Dushku will have a producer credit on the show. Sources say she was instrumental in helping bring Whedon back to television after his three-year absence as a prime-time showrunner. Dushku, who was keen to reunite with Whedon, met him for lunch and he came up with the “Dollhouse” concept. He sold the show to Fox one week later.

“The show was pretty much fully formed,” Whedon says. “I wrote a synopsis, treatment, pilot episode and six suggested future episodes. I made a poster in PhotoShop because I couldn’t sleep.”

Whedon discussed the show with TelevisionWeek Wednesday evening:

TVWeek: How did this idea come about?

Joss Whedon: Rather suddenly. It just sort of blurted forth. I was having lunch with Eliza and she was talking about wanting to do something and I made up the show. We went to Fox and they said, "Yeeeaeah!"

TVWeek: "Buffy" fans are sure to be excited, too.

Whedon: If they could only see what’s in my head right now.... They should be.

TVWeek: Every "Firefly" fan is going to wonder: Was there any reluctance to return to Fox?

Whedon: It’s a brand new day over there. It’s a completely new bunch of people and they seem really intelligent and supportive. Walking back into the building was a little strange. But no. It was absolutely the last thing I saw coming, but absolutely the right thing to do. It’s like one of those movies where you keep waiting for somebody to fall in love with the hot girl. It was sort of meant to be. ... I mean, a network is a network. They have an agenda and it is not yours. And that’s OK, as long as you work hard to make the agendas coincide.

TVWeek: So they’ll air the episodes in sequence this time?

Whedon [laughs]: One can almost guarantee.

TVWeek: The project sounds ambitious. Do you have the budget you’re going to need?

Whedon: That was part of the offer. The network said we want to do seven and it’s a grown-up show. It’s not going to be wasteful, but it has a certain production value. When they said yes, it rang out loud and clear.

TVWeek: Is there anything new with "Buffy" spinoff "Ripper"? [Whedon previously announced he’s trying to set up that show at the BBC.]

Whedon: There isn’t anything new. It might become too problematic. The rights issue with "Ripper" becomes complicated. There are other characters in the woods. We may have to do some fancy footwork. Obviously I’m committed to ["Dollhouse"], but that does not mean I’m not doing "Ripper."

TVWeek: Just recently you were disappointed that 20th shut down the "Buffy" sing-along screenings. Did that make things awkward while doing the "Dollhouse" deal?

Whedon: This is how it works. It’s a small town. The problem they ran up against was a genuine problem. It wasn’t the Disney lawyers telling preschoolers they couldn’t draw Mickey Mouse. They’re not trying to cheat anybody out of their fun. The fact of the matter is that I know they’re trying to make the musicals work.

TVWeek: "Heroes" recently added a character who’s sort of like Echo, in that she can instantly learn any ability. Did that give you an "uh-oh" moment?

Whedon: I didn’t actually know that. I was fine until now. Thanks a lot. One of the first rules of a pilot, you will see everything you are doing somewhere else the year before you do it. I saw "Bionic Woman" and I was like, "Oh, I better change my thing." I like to think that means you’re smack dab in the middle of the zeitgeist. The real thing that’s important is what do you have to say about that person. And what I have to say is never what somebody else has to say. On "Buffy," all the hoariest old tropes—the evil twin, the Monkey’s Paw—what’s important is what you have to say about it.

TVWeek: With "Firefly" star Nathan Fillion doing a lot of guest work right now, any chance of him being in the cast?

Whedon: My first instinct is to look in new places, especially since Eliza and I are already reuniting. It’s a series, not a party. That said, I do not rule anything out.

TVWeek: I was told the series would be for next spring or fall, depending on how fast you write.

Whedon: I can write for spring. There’s a hiccup in that process because of the [potential] writers strike. I will be good to go the moment we are in agreement with the studios. But I won’t pick up a pencil while we’re not.

TVWeek: Since it’s the topic of the hour, any thoughts on the possible strike?

Whedon: I don’t have any terribly original ones. I do know this: The studios are very entrenched and the issues are very crucial. I dislike the idea of the strike because it’s going to hurt a lot of people I love. But if it’s necessary, we’ll go all the way with it. Because we’re talking about the future of media that didn’t used to exist. And if we can’t get a fair deal on that, then it’s just not worth it. Next year, you’re going to see a lot of new novels.

‘Heroes’ Spinoff on Hold

October 31, 2007 4:44 PM

HeroesNBC has canceled plans for its six-episode “Heroes” spinoff, formerly called “Origins,” sources say.

“Everybody at the company is evaluating all their production commitments in light of the strike,” a source says. “It still might happen at a later date. If there’s a strike, they want to be prepared to reallocate resources in other ways.”

The show was scheduled to air in the "Heroes" slot as part of May sweeps. The project was announced earlier this year as a way of expanding the network's highest-rated drama and giving the series enough episodes to prevent the ratings erosion suffered by serialized dramas during a long hiatus.

NBC's flagship drama "Heroes" has fallen in the ratings since its sophomore debut this season, with the most recent episode earning a 4.9 rating among adults 18 to 49.

ABC Adds ‘Women’s Murder Club’ Scripts

October 31, 2007 2:49 PM

Women's Murder ClubABC has opted for three additional “Women’s Murder Club” scripts, showing confidence in its Friday night crime drama.

Although CBS' "Moonlight" bested "Club" last Friday in the 9 p.m. hour, "Club" consistently wins among total viewers and is ABC's highest-rated entry in its Friday lineup. The show has averaged a 2.3 rating among adults 18 to 49.

Now ABC just hopes the “Club” writers can finish at least one script by midnight.

'House’ Wins Night; ‘Cane’ Halts Descent

October 31, 2007 11:48 AM

CaneYou know that scene in action movies where the hero is trapped in a flooding room, the water has risen to his head, he’s up against the ceiling and straining to breathe inside that last couple inches of air?

That’s CBS’ “Cane,” which last night managed to stop the compartment from flooding after five consecutive weeks of ratings drops.

The show has a 2.0 preliminary Nielsen rating among adults 18 to 49, matching last week. Had the numbers sunk further, the rating would have gone from unacceptable-during-any-season-except-this-one to unacceptable-even-with-a-pending-writers-strike. CBS plans to wait another week to see if “Cane” can start bailing out and give itself some breathing room.

Otherwise, Fox won the night with “Bones” (3.2 and on par) and “House” (7.0, down 8 percent from last week).

ABC was second with perennial favorite “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” (3.8). Even after 41 years, the “Brown” special won the 8 p.m. hour, besting CBS’ “NCIS,” Fox’s “Bones” and NBC’s “The Singing Bee.” ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” results show followed and was down slightly (4.2). “Boston Legal” was average (3.1).

CBS and NBC tied for third. CBS offered “NCIS” (down 13 percent to a 3.3), “The Unit” (down 7 percent to a 2.8) and “Cane” (2.0). NBC had “Bee” (1.7), “The Biggest Loser” (down 10 percent to a 2.8) and a “Law & Order: SVU” repeat (3.0).

The CW aired a clip show for “Beauty and the Geek” (1.1), which didn’t help “Reaper” (1.1).

Notice: Blog Expands to AdAge; Adds RSS Feed

October 31, 2007 11:34 AM

Some business to announce: Crain Communications is now syndicating “Rated,” TelevisionWeek's daily ratings and programming blog, to AdvertisingAge, the leading publication covering the media marketplace. The blog lives on both sites, updated roughly at the same time. Check out the AdAge version here.

Also: RSS is (finally) functioning for all Web browsers. Get the latest headlines from this blog sent instantly to your Google, Yahoo or AOL homepage, or sent to your RSS feeder, by going here. (If you’ve tried to subscribe previously, you might need to clear your cache to see the proper subscription page).

Another option: Subscribe to TVWeek's daily email newsletter, which contains the latest major headlines from the entire site.

Next stop: Syndication to Crain's "Plastics News." (A sample headline from the actual "Plastics News" Web site: "Rexam Closing Ohio Injection Molding Plant" … but, then again, is a 6% ratings increase for "CSI: Miami" really more exciting at the end of the day?)

NBC’s ‘Office’ Expansion Plans

October 31, 2007 9:52 AM

The OfficeNBC is being quiet on TV Guide’s report that the network is planning a spinoff for “The Office.” Sources sought to downplay the project, saying the development is still in early stages (which might end up translating as “pilot order next week”). The network was on board, however, with discussing its other “Office” expansion—the four quasi-controversial hourlong episodes that opened the season. The programming effort caused some critical backlash, but generated impressive ratings.

“The viewers have spoken,” NBC scheduling chief Vince Manze says. “This is the most gratifying move we have made all year, and probably the riskiest. Creatively we didn’t think the show lost anything at all. If you look at the ratings, I don’t think the viewers felt the same way [as critics]. We were up against the No. 1 shows on ABC and CBS, and not only did it pay off, the show grew and helped us establish the night.”

In a season where most returning shows drained ratings, particularly due to increased DVR use, “The Office” made gains. The hourlong episodes were up 19 percent compared to their half-hour versions from last fall and boosted the 9 p.m. hour average by a steep 59 percent. And it’s not as if “Office” fans are using DVRs any less than fans of competing shows: “The Office” is one of the largest beneficiaries when DVR playback is factored in.

On whether the network will repeat the stunt, Manze says the decision is up to showrunner Greg Daniels and the rest of the “Office” team.

“[The show’s producers] have an open invitation to do as many [hourlongs] as they like,” Manze says. “It’s totally up to them if they want to do more. But there is a price. It’s tough physically and creatively to keep these going. I’m hoping the experience wasn’t so bad that they would dismiss the idea of more hours.”

Daniels, who just returned from the “Office” fan convention in Scranton, Pa., declined to comment on the spinoff. He praised the ratings generated by the hourlongs, but reserved his most enthusiastic comment for the half-hours.

"The hour specials did great for us in terms of ratings, and the half-hours that we have coming out now are classic episodes,” he said. “The crowds at the ‘Office’ convention in Scranton are clearly our biggest fans, but they went ape over the first act of 'Branch Wars,' which airs this Thursday.”

Whether NBC orders a spinoff or more hourlongs, the network seems to have a desire to capitalize on its best ratings story right now. Given the critics' reaction to the hourlongs and the success of ABC’s spinoff “Private Practice,” a spinoff probably makes more sense. Also, “The Office” is already sold to syndication as a half-hour show, and adding more one-hours (which are later split in two) muddles with the format.

Of course, the network could simply decide to leave the show alone and stick with 22 half-hours a year. But NBC Co-Chair and “Office” executive producer Ben Silverman keeps a Dwight Schrute bobblehead on his desk. And when it comes to expanding "The Office," Dwight likes to nod Yes.

Hulu’s Torrent Trouble: New Service Hoarding Sand in the Desert

October 30, 2007 12:41 PM

hulublog.jpgNBC/News Corp.’s Hulu is a significantly evolved step in the right direction for bringing television into the digital age: A user interface that’s winning early raves. No added software to install (except Flash, which most users already have). Custom viewing histories and playlists. Video clip sharing enabled. All good.

But, at least from the beta version details, Hulu is still too much of a broadcast product. Episodes are available for only five weeks. Advertisements wander the screen during video playback (how very TNT). Only two major network parents are on board, limiting the amount of product. Plus, it offers only ad-supported streaming, no download-to-own—which means you cannot watch shows offline and cannot use them on portable devices (so forget watching “Heroes” on the plane).

In other words, the product makes the same mistake made by every network that launches a streaming video player: ignoring file-sharing services.

Although YouTube is repeatedly cited as Hulu’s most significant competitor, the low-resolution, user-generated content site (in its current form at least) is a different animal from Hulu’s polished provider of professionally produced, full-length episodes.

No, Hulu, along with every other network Web site, competes with peer-to-peer services. NBC has the most popular Web site among the major networks and says its streaming service clocked about 17 million unique users in October. According to a Digital Life America study, 32 million users downloaded television shows from peer-to-peer networks during its most recent survey during the month of May.

The reason viewers steal television on torrents is because pirates have an online product that’s arguably better than Hulu or anything else the industry has to offer.

Not just a cheaper product (well, free), which is the reason most people in the industry widely assume viewers steal content, but a better service: more portable, a greater variety of use and the best selection available.

Here’s what legions of torrent fans already know: If you want to watch TV online, you can go to a Fox.com or CBS.com to view ad-supported streams of the network’s most popular shows from the current season (assuming the show is available online in the first place—most are not, particularly cable programs). A fair-sized selection of current and popular shows also is available for download from services like iTunes or Amazon Unbox for a small fee.

Or you can go to a single torrent search engine and download-to-own almost any episode from almost any season of most popular series … for free.

As with the networks’ streaming players, you can watch pirated shows online. But, like iTunes downloads, you can watch pirated shows offline or on portable video players as well. And unlike legitimate services, pirate sites have many, many shows that are unavailable anywhere else online (hey look, complete seasons of “Tales of the Gold Monkey” and “The Larry Sanders Show”).

An example: You can find online the most recent season of “Hell’s Kitchen” on Fox’s media player or iTunes. Or you can unlawfully download-to-own the “Kitchen” season—plus the otherwise unavailable first and second seasons. You can also download all four seasons of the U.K. version of “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Boiling Point.”

Another example: On CBS.com, you can watch the most recent four episodes of “CSI,” or download the same episodes plus the most recent two seasons on iTunes. But on pirate sites, you can download all seven “CSI” seasons.

In other words, you can “own” the Ramsay or “CSI” libraries commercial-free and watch them—as network executives often say on stage at industry conferences—“anytime, anywhere.”

That’s how far behind the digital curve the television industry is right now. Networks and studios sweat every digital release, when most of their popular content is already available—they’re just not making money off it. They’re hoarding sand in a desert.

When Fox said it was pulling its “Family Guy” parody of “Star Wars” offline, one reaction from readers (as posted on this board and others) contained variations of, “I guess this is Fox’s way of telling us, ‘Please download this episode via BitTorrent.’” It’s a pouty and felonious response that reflects an extraordinary degree of viewer entitlement: Give us what we want or we’ll steal it. But, right or wrong, it also reflects the way an increasing number of young online viewers see the marketplace.

The biggest advantage of the network players (aside from their legality, of course) remains ease of use. You go to the site, point and click, streams start instantly. With torrents, users complain of having to sometimes wait hours for a download, while the availability of content is constantly shifting.

Hulu moves the network model forward by combining NBC and News Corp.’s efforts into a single site, and it likely will kickstart some of NBC Universal’s cable networks’ offering more online content. Right now, one of the biggest problems with streaming is that every network is so protective of its content that users have to surf to a half-dozen sites to watch TV shows on a half-dozen different media players.

Until the industry finds a way to shut down pirate sites, or offers a similarly fully stocked, one-stop-shopping product, they’re asking consumers to patronize a bunch of local boutique stores and avoid the pirate’s Wal-Mart. And that’s walking the plank.

ABC Picks Up ‘Samantha Who?’ as Ratings Growth Continues

October 30, 2007 10:29 AM

Samantha WhoABC has picked up a full season of its Christina Applegate sitcom “Samantha Who?,” the network confirmed, as last night’s ratings show continued growth for the series.

“Samantha” gained last night even though its top-rated lead-in “Dancing With the Stars” fell off a bit.

“Samantha” had a 4.9 rating—its highest number yet and up 9 percent from last week—among adults 18 to 49 in the preliminary Nielsen returns.

The growth shows the sitcom’s viewership isn’t strictly tied to “Dancing,” which was down a couple notches from last week to a 5.3. “Samantha” may have aided 10 p.m.’s “The Bachelor” as well, which leapt 15 percent from last week to a 3.8.

After ABC, which won the night in viewers and the demo, CBS had its second great week in a row for its comedy block. “How I Met Your Mother” had a season high with a 3.3, “The Big Bang Theory” had its best number since its premiere with a 3.6, “Two and a Half Men” had its best since February with a 5.1 and “Rules of Engagement” was up from last week to a 4.2. “CSI: Miami” also was up a couple notches to a 4.8.

For NBC, the song remained the same: “Chuck” (2.7), “Heroes” (4.9) and “Journeyman” (2.4) all matched their series lows. Fox had repeats. The CW’s comedy block was down slightly in some measures, with “Everybody Hates Chris” (1.0), “Aliens in America” (0.8), “Girlfriends” (1.0) and “The Game” (1.1).

UPDATE: Hold on, ABC's ratings changed more than usual in the national ratings. In the final tallies, "Samantha Who?" dropped to match last week's 4.5, "Dancing" dropped a notch to a 5.2 and "The Bachelor" fell to 3.6.

World Series Sweeps Weekend; ‘Moonlight’ Shines on Friday

October 29, 2007 12:17 PM

MoonlightThe World Series wrapped up Sunday, with the Red Sox’ sweep giving Fox a ratings victory.

Sunday’s Game 4 tied the highest-rated Series game in three years, since the Red Sox beat St. Louis in 2004. The game earned a 6.6 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen.

Over on ABC, the lineup was pretty much on par: “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (2.7), “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (5.1), “Desperate Housewives” (7.1) and “Brothers & Sisters” (5.1).

Third-place CBS ran “60 Minutes” (2.7), a repeat of “CSI” (2.2) while biding its time for next week’s “The Amazing Race” debut, “Cold Case” (3.0) and “Shark” (2.3).

In fourth place, NBC demonstrated why the networks don’t run movies anymore: The box office hit “The Bourne Supremacy” posted a 1.9 rating.

The CW had “CW Now” and “Aliens in America” (both a 0.3, and both down slightly from last week), “Life Is Wild” (down a notch to a 0.4) and an “America’s Next Top Model” repeat (0.6).
But hold on, Friday night was arguably more interesting.

On Friday:

CBS’ “Moonlight” grew 20 percent to a 2.4 to firmly win the 9 p.m. hour, helping CBS conquer the night along with “Ghost Whisperer” and “Numb3rs” (both 2.7). With “Moonlight” winning its hour and the ratings going in the right direction, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a pickup on the vampire detective drama soon.

NBC was second, with “Deal or No Deal” (2.2), “Friday Night Lights” (1.9) and “Las Vegas” (2.4) hanging steady.

ABC was third with a “Grey’s Anatomy” repeat (1.3), “Women’s Murder Club” (dropping a tick to a 2.0) and “Men in Trees” (steady with a 1.7).

Fox’s “The Next Great American Band” fell 20 percent from its week-ago debut to a 1.2 (a rating now called “the ‘Laughlin’”). Even though the show is from the producers of “American Idol,” it’s tough to see Fox being comfortable getting beat by The CW’s “Friday Night Smackdown” (1.4) week after week. Then again, “Nashville” fell to a 0.8 on Fridays before it got the hook.

Burn Off: '24' Trailer, 'Mars' Pilot Online

October 26, 2007 2:41 PM

Scrapped storylines, location changes, production delays, a DUI – you quickly forget all the recent “24” headlines when you check out the season seven trailer (despite Jack Bauer’s self-righteous torture defense) … The unaired “Veronica Mars”-goes-to-the-FBI pilot … The “Hell’s Kitchen” video game, because there’s nothing more entertaining than being verbally abused while cooking a virtual dinner … ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money” and The CW’s “Reaper” receive script orders.

World Series Continues Ratings Rule; NBC Comedies Build

October 26, 2007 11:03 AM

ScrubsFox’s World Series coverage continued to dominate the ratings Thursday night, but NBC still managed to post significant ratings gains for its comedy block.

Game 2 earned a 5.1 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen. With the Red Sox so readily dominating the Colorado Rockies, the game is down 12 percent from Wednesday night’s opener. The game is also off 10 percent from the second game last year, which aired on a less competitive Sunday night.

ABC came in second place, with “Ugly Betty” and “Grey’s Anatomy” on par with last week, posting a 3.2 and a 7.3, respectively. “Big Shots” at 10 p.m. was up 10 percent to a 3.3.

CBS was third, with “Survivor: China” down a couple pegs from last week to a 4.4. “CSI” was a repeat (3.8), providing a weak lead-in for “Without a Trace,” which was down 8 percent from its last telecast to a 3.3.

In fourth, NBC’s comedy block, including the return of “Scrubs,” had across the board gains despite the heavy baseball competition.

“My Name Is Earl” was up 33 percent to 3.6, “30 Rock” was up 19 percent to a 3.1, “The Office” was up 4 percent to a 4.7 versus its hour-long edition last week and “Scrubs” posted a 3.8, up 5 percent from its premiere last year. At 10 p.m., however, “ER” was down 7 percent from last week to a 3.7.

On The CW, “Smallville” was down slightly in adults 18 to 49 (1.8) and 18 to 34 (2.1). But “Supernatural” scored season highs in the major demos (a 1.3 for both).

The World Series Strikes Back

October 25, 2007 11:39 AM

Red SoxThe first game of the World Series on Fox posted its best rating in three years.

With the popular Boston Red Sox playing the Colorado Rockies, the game hit a 5.8 rating among adults 18 to 49 in the national Nielsens, up 61 percent from last year's Cardinals-Tigers match.

Among total viewers, the game was seen by 16.9 million, up 31 percent.

The figures reverse a World Series Game 1 downward trend in recent years, despite the match being a blowout, with the Sox winning 13 to 1.

Like any major sporting event, the game throws its competitors numbers off balance, making week-to-week comparisons suspect.

That said, ABC came in second place with “Pushing Daisies,” down 19 percent from last week to a 3.0, which is a rather steep drop even with the game, particularly since “Private Practice” was up a couple notches to a 4.5. At 10 p.m., “Dirty Sexy Money” also was up slightly to a 3.2.

CBS is up a peg for the second consecutive week, with “Kid Nation” earning a 2.5. “Criminal Minds” was down a tick to a 3.9 and “CSI: NY” was down 7 percent to a 3.8.

Coming in fourth, NBC premiered “Phenomenon” at 8 p.m. to a 2.9, besting the time-period debut of “Deal or No Deal” in the slot in September.

The live show featured “mentalists” performing their acts for judges Uri Geller and Criss Angel with the help of celebrities. The acts included one performer playing Russian roulette with a series of nailguns and another making Carmen Electra claim she felt his touch from several feet away.

Following “Phenomenon,” NBC had “Bionic Woman,” which was down a notch to a 3.3, and then “Life,” dropping 11 percent to a 2.5.

On The CW, “America’s Next Top Model” was down slightly to a 2.3, while “Gossip Girl” was steady with a 1.2. The story is the same in The CW’s target 18 to 34 demo.

Updated at 2:19 p.m.

Modest ‘Price’ Bump for Drew Carey

October 25, 2007 9:23 AM

Price is RightAnd the actual retail value of changing your morning game show host is …

About a 10 percent ratings bump.

Drew Carey’s debut week hosting CBS’ classic game show “The Price Is Right” resulted in slightly better numbers than last year with Bob Barker at the microphone.

“Price” averaged 5.4 million viewers for the week of Oct. 15-21, matching the “Price” average from Oct. 16-22 in 2006. Among adults 18 to 49, Carey garnered a modest bump—up 10 percent to a 1.1. For daytime shows, networks typically target women 25 to 54, which also saw a slight increase for Carey—up 7 percent to a 1.6 rating.

Because of the host changing of the guard, “Price” started about a month late this season. If Carey’s first week in October is compared to Barker’s first week in September '06, there are still gains for Carey—up 7 percent among women 25 to 54, 8 percent among total viewers and 22 percent among adults 18 to 49.

Fox Picks Up 'Back to You'

October 24, 2007 6:15 PM

Back to You (Fox)Fox has ordered a full season and then some of its Kelsey Grammer newsroom comedy “Back to You,” the network confirmed.

Fox picked up 11 episodes from 20th Century Fox Television, a couple more than the usual back nine, for a total of 24 shows this season.

“Back to You” has stabilized in its Wednesday 8 p.m. slot and most recently earned a 2.4 rating among adults 18 to 49. Though the show hasn’t been a time-period titan, Fox expects “Back” will improve once the remainder of the network’s cylinders fire up in January with the return of “American Idol.” The show has proved to be an able lead-in for “Til Death,” which last week had its second-best performance ever without an “Idol” lead-in.

Burn Off: ‘Phenomenon’ Debuts Tonight; What Makes a Hit

October 24, 2007 5:26 PM

NBC hopes its new reality series “Phenomenon” will mesmerize viewers tonight. The first show announced by NBC Entertainment Co-Chair Ben Silverman to hit the air, “Phenomenon” has the high-wire distinction of being a live series premiere -- so nobody has, in effect, seen the show outside of rehearsals (there have been other instances of live prime-time series premieres, such as “Dancing With the Stars,” but it’s uncommon for a show to hit the air sight unseen).

Also: Network executives are talking about USA Today’s look at all the factors influencing what makes a hit this season … More free medical advice from experts who know nothing about you: “Dr. Phil” spinoff “The Doctors” cleared in half of U.S. markets … Ray Richmond’s take on NBC’s green programming initiative -- ex: “The 26 models of ‘Deal or No Deal’ will wear dresses made from Army surplus parachutes. (It would be best not to think about why those parachutes were declared surplus.)”

ABC Shuffles Fall Lineup

October 24, 2007 12:28 PM

Big ShotsABC is shuffling its fall schedule, scheduling midseason replacement "October Road."

"Road" will premiere Thursday, Nov. 22, at 10 p.m. in a one-time replacement for "Big Shots" after "Grey's Anatomy." After that date, "October" will run in its regular time period, Mondays at 10 p.m., filling a spot vacated by "The Bachelor."

Also, after the "Dancing With the Stars" finale on Monday, Nov. 26, sitcom "Notes From the Underbelly" will be paired with "Samantha Who"—which just received an order for six additional scripts.

Starting Friday, Nov. 2, "Men in Trees" and "20/20" will swap time periods, with "Trees" moving to 8 p.m. and "20/20" at 10 p.m.

‘House’ Returns; ABC Comedies Drop

October 24, 2007 9:56 AM

HouseFox’s “House” returned Tuesday night as strong as ever, putting pressure on competitors in the 9 p.m. hour with a rating that nearly matched its season premiere. ABC’s freshman comedies “Cavemen” and “Carpoolers,” along with CBS’ “Cane,” continued to suffer defections.

Winning the night, Fox had “Bones” (an on-par 3.1 rating among adults 18 to 49 in the preliminary Nielsens) and “House” (7.6, up a couple notches from its last airing Oct. 9).

NBC was second with “The Singing Bee” (an average 2.3), a 90-minute “The Biggest Loser” (a 3.0, up slightly from last week’s hourlong episode) and “Law & Order: SVU” (down a tick, but winning the 10 p.m. hour with a 4.7).

In third place, ABC’s “Cavemen” (2.2, down 21 percent) and “Carpoolers” (2.4, down 11 percent) endured ratings declines.

“Carpoolers” has been an ABC dark horse this season, surprising observers by keeping pace with, and sometimes slightly outperforming, the heavily hyped “Cavemen.” Yesterday ABC ordered a few more “Carpoolers” scripts, demonstrating some interest in keeping the show around. But the “Carpoolers” rating has been padlocked to its lead-in, and it’s unclear if the show has its own following or simply represents “Cavemen” viewers waiting around for “Dancing With the Stars” (an even 4.4). At 10 p.m., ABC had a “20/20” special on the California wildfires (2.8).

CBS was fourth, winning the 8 p.m. hour with “NCIS” (dropping 10 percent from last week’s bump to a 3.7) and “The Unit” (slumping 14 percent to a 3.0 now that the show has a full season order). At 10 p.m., “Cane” continues to drop each week (down 9 percent to a 2.0).

The CW’s “Beauty and the Geek” was down slightly (1.6), while “Reaper” lost last week’s bump to return to its prior average (1.2), but maintained last week’s gain in The CW’s 18 to 34 demo (1.7).

Burn Off: DVRs Boost 'Reaper'; California Fires Halt Shows

October 23, 2007 3:15 PM

More DVR data floating around. Comparing Live-Plus-Same day to Live-Plus-Seven for the second week of the season, the networks tend to receive overall similar boosts from the added viewing, ranging from 16 percent (Fox) to 19 percent (The CW).

Show by show, NBC touted five of the seven most-boosted shows, with “The Office” (up 19 percent), “Las Vegas” (up 18 percent), “Bionic Woman” (up 17 percent), “Friday Night Lights” (up 15 percent) and “Heroes” (up 15 percent). The CW also picked up some bragging rights, with “Gossip Girl” (up 15 percent) and, ranking as the biggest overall gainer of the week, “Reaper” (up a steep 27 percent).

Also: California fires disrupt filming of shows … The inside story of the rivalry between ABC’s “Cashmere Mafia” and NBC’s “Lipstick Jungle” … Trump’s syndicated talk show … SAG and AFTRA bickeringDebmar-Mercury’s “Trivial Pursuit” game show.

ABC and CBS Post Monday Gains

October 23, 2007 12:04 PM

ChuckWithout any competition from baseball this week, ABC and CBS showed some week-to-week gains on Monday night while NBC’s heroic dramas like “Chuck” and “Heroes” continue to take ratings body blows.

ABC topped the night and “Dancing With the Stars” was the highest-rated show (a 5.3 rating, up slightly from last week among adults 18 to 49 in the preliminary Nielsens). After, the second episode of “Samantha Who” was up a notch from last week’s already high-rated premiere (4.6), which should help earn the series a pickup. At 10 p.m. “The Bachelor” was even (3.4).

CBS came in second place, with most of its comedies gaining from last week, particularly the recently picked up freshman effort “Big Bang Theory.” There’s “How I Met Your Mother” (3.4, up 10 percent), “Big Bang” (3.5, up 13 percent), “Two and a Half Men” (up a notch to a 4.8) and “Rules of Engagement” (down a tenth to a 3.9). At 10 p.m., “CSI: Miami” was on par (4.5).

NBC’s drama lineup continues to fall. There’s “Chuck” (down 15 percent to a 2.8), “Heroes” (a series low 4.9) and “Journeyman” (down 7 percent to a 2.5).

On Fox, “Prison Break” (3.0) and “K-Ville” (2.0) returned to their time periods and were flat from their previous performance.

The CW’s lineup was mostly stable, with “Everybody Hates Chris” (1.0), “Aliens in America” (0.9), “Girlfriends” (0.9) and “The Game” (1.2).

ABC Picks Up 'Pushing Daisies'

October 23, 2007 11:20 AM

Pushing DaisiesABC has picked up a full season order of "Pushing Daisies," the network confirmed.

Although the whimsical Bryan Fuller-created drama has dropped off a bit from its impressive premiere rating, the series continues to dominate its Wednesday 8 p.m. time period and to provide a strong lead-in for ABC’s top-rated “Private Practice” (which ABC picked up last week). The most recent episode of “Daisies” earned a 3.7 among adults 18 to 49.

Also, some have noted the show has managed to maintain the high standards set by its acclaimed pilot episode in a fall season where other series have creatively fumbled in subsequent weeks.

Meanwhile, in Hell

October 23, 2007 10:18 AM

Hell's KitchenOn Fox’s hit summer series “Hell’s Kitchen,” viewers are told that having dinner at the show’s set/eatery is “the hottest ticket in town.” This always sounded like reality show hyperbole until it took a month of inquiries to land an invite, and then half of the available dates were snatched up within a day. Waiting hours for risotto on the set of a reality show, it seems, has become an in-demand event.

For guests, the draw is twofold: The chance to enjoy the cuisine of “Hell’s” star Gordon Ramsay for free (the chef doesn’t have a Los Angeles restaurant, though he’s set to launch one in West Hollywood next year) and the opportunity to see Ramsay’s characteristic shouting at underlings in person. Because such tirades often precipitate the chef shutting down dinner service before guests have been served, enjoying both dinner and the floor show can be tricky. Dining in Hell is not an event for the impatient or hypoglycemic.

“This is just like a regular restaurant,” guests are told before entering. “You order whatever you want from the menu – one starter, one entrée and one dessert. If the producer comes to your table, talk about the dining experience amongst yourselves and don’t look into the camera. After you’re done, fill out the comment cards about each dish.”

Yup, just like at Olive Garden.

Given the show’s studio-district warehouse location and producer preamble, you assume a visit to Hell’s Kitchen will reveal a clunky, manufactured affair. The name’s very usage in this dining context causes grammatical and punctuation identity conflict: Should “Hell’s Kitchen” be in quotes like a show title, or not? Is one entering a Fox reality program or a functioning restaurant?

The first impression is that the production takes pains to make the dining room feel like a restaurant instead of a set, mood lighting and all. The open kitchen where the show’s action largely takes place is devoid of producers or crew. Ramsay and his fledging chefs are monitored by petite mounted cameras, operated from an unseen control room supervised by Fox reality guru Mike Darnell (who distinguishes himself as a network executive who carries a president title yet personally oversees day-to-day production on his shows). A roving camera crew stops at guests’ tables, but otherwise the kitchen and dining service are uninterrupted. For veterans of reality show set visits, where “spontaneous” scenes often require laborious crew positioning and retakes, this sort of documentary-style unobtrusiveness is unusual.

As for Ramsay, he is very loud and constantly in motion: barking orders, tasting, encouraging, dressing plates, blaming. His gestures are camera-friendly dramatic, his movements perhaps exaggerated. But his performance is unceasing. The chef rages nonstop -- for hours. The reason contestants are so prone to on-camera nervous breakdowns on “Hell’s” becomes clear. When Ramsay finally orders a cook out of his kitchen -- “Hey! Hey! Get out!” -- one thinks: “Yes! Run!”

Once your food arrives, concern about getting fed turns into something else. You realize, somewhat sadly, that this is probably the most secure restaurant experience you will ever have – food prepared by rival cooks under the scrutiny of a three-Michelin-starred chef as the entire operation is monitored by cameras. This is why viewers appreciate Ramsay, despite his tyrannical abusiveness. We wish somebody with his standards ran our local bistro, the movie theater, the gas station, the cable company. There’s something guiltily satisfying about having a person in charge who screams and makes things work.

As for the food itself, it is excellent, except for one thing: A member of our party doesn’t like her heavily salted risotto. We expect the waiter to leap at the chance to return the item to Ramsay, a scenario that fuels drama on the show. But no.

“The risotto is a little salty, but that’s how it's prepared,” the waiter patiently explains. The maitre d', Jean-Phillipe, chimes in: “I sent back a salty risotto to the chef the other day, I don’t want to do it again.”

Our group is stunned. They don’t want conflict on a Fox reality show?

In the kitchen, Ramsay is howling about a raw scallop. Hell’s Kitchen -- no quotes -- it is.

CBS Orders Four 'Moonlight' Scripts

October 22, 2007 1:32 PM

On the heels of canceling “Viva Laughlin,” CBS has ordered four additional scripts for its vampire detective drama “Moonlight,” sources say.

As part of CBS’ top-rated Friday night block, “Moonlight” hasn’t performed as strongly as lead-in “Ghost Whisperer” or lead-out “Numb3rs.” But the show has largely managed to defend its time period. Plus, last Friday it was up a tick week-to-week.

Fox Sports Wins Sunday; 'Laughlin' Falls

October 22, 2007 11:57 AM

Sports coverage gave Fox a rare Sunday night victory. In the preliminary Nielsens, Fox won the night by a wide margin due to an NFL overrun (7.9 rating among adults 18 to 49), some post-and pre-game coverage (5.2 and 5.5) and its presentation of Game 7 of the ALCS playoffs (6.5). Fox also led in total viewers.

That left usual Sunday winner ABC in second, holding steady against the sports competition with “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (on-par 2.6), “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (up 13 percent to a 5.0), “Desperate Housewives” (down slightly to a 7.1) and “Brothers and Sisters” (up a tick to a 4.8).

NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Denver Broncos (4.8) put the network in third place.

CBS was fourth with the second episode of “Viva Laughlin” (1.2) making its time-period debut and dropping a precarious 47 percent from its Thursday premiere.

“Jericho” fans have been pining for the completed second season of the cult favorite to take the “Laughlin” slot. With the possibility of a writers strike heating up, the network is contemplating saving the scripted show until spring in favor of running “The Amazing Race” or “Power of 10.” The X-factor in the equation is Tuesday night’s “Cane,” which has been on the ratings bubble in recent weeks.

CBS also had “60 Minutes” (2.2), “Cold Case” (down 23 percent to a 2.6) and “Shark” (down slightly to a 2.4).

Without its freshly canceled “Online Nation” lead-in, The CW’s “CW Now” doubled its number from last week (0.4), then led into an “Aliens in America” repeat (0.5). At 8 p.m., “Life Is Wild” had its best number yet, up 66 percent (0.5).

UPDATE: CBS has canceled "Viva Laughlin" after two episodes. Next week the network will repeat "CSI" in its slot. Starting Nov. 4, CBS will bring back "The Amazing Race."

Fox’s ‘Band’ Strikes Out

October 22, 2007 10:48 AM

The Next Great American BandThe two-hour premiere of “The Next Great American Band” debuted in fourth place Friday night, becoming the second Fox musical reality series (after “Nashville”) to struggle in the time period this season.

“Band” opened to a preliminary 1.5 rating among adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen, about on par with Fox’s previous efforts “Nanny 911” and “Trading Spouses” in the slot. Like “Nashville,” network expectations were never all that high for the show (which anybody could have figured given its time period).

That left CBS to once again win the night, with “Ghost Whisperer” (down slightly to a 2.4), “Moonlight” (sagging in the lineup, though it was up a tick from last week to a 2.1) and “Numb3rs” (building on last week to a 2.7).

NBC came in third with “Deal or No Deal” (2.0), “Friday Night Lights” (up two ticks to a 1.9) and “Las Vegas” (2.1).

Fourth-place ABC had “20/20” (1.7), “Women’s Murder Club” (2.0, down 20 percent from its premiere) and “Men in Trees” (1.7, down 10 percent from its premiere). ABC may be struggling on Fridays, but with “Murder” providing a tentpole for an otherwise difficult night, the network has been considering giving the show a shot earlier in the week.

The CW had “Friday Night Smackdown” (1.4).

'Viva Laughlin' Craps Out

October 19, 2007 11:02 AM

Viva LaughlinLet’s dispense with all the gambling, musical and Elvis puns and get right to it: There has rarely been a show that’s been more anticipated to perform poorly than CBS’s “Viva Laughlin” and in this singular respect the show exceeded expectations.

"Laughlin" is the lowest-rated new scripted series premiere of the season among the big four broadcast networks. The show fell 63 percent from lead-in "CSI" to post a 2.4 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49. Moreover, "Laughlin" lost 31 percent of its demo rating in its second half hour and was the night's lowest-rated program on the major nets. Among total viewers, the song remains the same-8.8 million, down 58 percent from "CSI."

CBS is going to wait until after Sunday night’s “Laughlin” airing in the show’s regular time slot before making any decisions about its fate. But if you’re working on the show, you might want to stop payment on the boat.

Not that anybody is bragging too much this morning. ABC won the night by a hair, but “Ugly Betty” (3.1), “Grey’s Anatomy” (a series low 7.1) and “Big Shots” (3.3) are all down between 12 and 15 percent from last week.

CBS was second in the demo but first in total viewers, with an on par "Survivor: China" (4.5), "CSI" (6.4) and "Laughlin."

NBC came in third with “My Name Is Earl” (a series low 2.7), “30 Rock” (down 13 percent to a 2.6), “The Office” (down slightly to 4.4). At 10 p.m., “ER” finally reversed its downward trend, bouncing 8 percent to a 4.0.

Fox’s presentation of Major League Baseball’s ALCS Game 5 (3.6) put the network in fourth place, though Fox once again urged waiting until the national ratings are released before putting too much stock in the number.

On The CW, “Smallville” was down a tick (2.0) while “Supernatural” gained a notch (1.3).

ABC Picks Up ‘Private Practice’

October 18, 2007 5:24 PM

Private PracticeIn a move that should come as no surprise, ABC has picked up a full season order of its “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff “Private Practice.”

Since its second week, "Practice" has been the highest-rated show on Wednesday nights, dominating what's been considered the most competitive time period this fall. Primary competitor, NBC's "Bionic Woman," bested "Practice" during premiere week, but has since dropped in every subsequent outing.

The most recent “Practice” episode earned a 4.3 rating among adults 18 to 49. The show marks ABC’s first full-season pickup of the fall season.

CBS Picks Up 'Big Bang' and 'The Unit'

October 18, 2007 4:54 PM

Big Bang TheoryCBS has ordered full-season pickups for freshman comedy “The Big Bang Theory” and returning drama “The Unit,” the network confirmed.

Since its debut, "Big Bang" has maintained and built slightly on its "How I Met Your Mother" lead-in to become a solidly performing member of the CBS Monday comedy block. The most recent episode garnered a 3.1 rating, placing second in the half hour behind ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." Its pickup makes "Big Bang" the first comedy of the fall season to receive a full order.

"The Unit" only received a partial season order earlier this year. On Tuesday the show bounced 17 percent to a 3.5 rating—its best since February.

‘Private Practice’ and ‘CSI: NY’ Top Wednesday

October 18, 2007 12:05 PM

Private PracticeABC’s “Private Practice” and CBS’s “CSI: NY” were the highest-rated shows Wednesday night, with several other titles showing intriguing growth or erosion.

ABC’s drama lineup won the night for the network, but all three of the shows endured mild ratings decreases from last week. “Pushing Daisies” continued to dominate the 8 p.m. hour, but dropped a notch to a 3.6 rating among adults 18 to 49 in the preliminary Nielsens. At 9 p.m., “Private Practice” was down 12 percent to a 4.3. “Dirty Sexy Money” dropped 6 percent to a 3.1.

In second place, CBS’s “Kid Nation” showed ratings growth for the first time since its premiere. The reality show went from a danger-zone 2.1 last week to bounce 14 percent to a 2.4. That’s still last place for the hour, behind The CW’s “America’s Next Top Model” (2.5), but finally heading in the right direction. “Criminal Minds” (3.9) and “CSI: NY” (4.1) were even.

Third-place NBC had an on- par “Deal or No Deal” (3.1). At 9 p.m., the “Bionic Woman” parachute still hasn’t opened (down 15 percent to a 3.3), while “Life” has seemingly stabilized in last place for the 10 p.m. hour (2.8).

Fox’s “Back to You” held steady (2.3), while “Til Death” climbed a few rungs (2.7). “Kitchen Nightmares,” which just received a full season pickup, continues to build, up two bits this week (3.2).

The CW’s “Top Model” continues to be strong and “Gossip Girl” was down a notch in the demo (1.2) but held even among adults 18 to 49 (1.7).

CW Cancels ‘Online Nation’

October 17, 2007 7:04 PM

Online NatiomFour weeks into the fall season, the first casualty finally drops: The CW has pulled its user-generated video clip show “Online Nation” from its Sunday night slot. The CW will replace “Nation” with repeats of sitcom “Aliens in America.”

The most recent episode of “Nation” earned a 0.2 rating among adults 18 to 49. That number matched its lead-in, magazine show “CW Now.” But “Now” was pre-sold under a unique commercial-free sponsorship arrangement with Mediavest that has helped protect the show.

“Aliens” got off to a rough start in The CW’s Monday night comedy block, but this week showed some ratings growth in key demos.

Networks have been cautious this season about canceling shows due to the possibility of a writers strike. Fox has also pulled a show from its schedule -- the docu-soap reality series “Nashville" -- but the network says the series may return in November, especially if there's a strike.

The CW was the first network this season to pickup a full season of a freshman series when it ordered the back nine episodes of "Gossip Girl."

UPDATE: "Online Nation" hosts respond to cancellation ("Are you sure they said 'cancellation' and not 'celebration'?").

Burn Off

October 17, 2007 5:51 PM

George Lucas talks about his live action “Star Wars” series … Kristin Bell bravely declares her willingness to continue working on a hit show … Fox’s “Kitchen Nightmares” gets a pickup … The New York Post’s take on how “Guiding Light” producers are going to use the CBS budget cuts to turn a 55-year-old soap into “The Hills” … Lastly, it’s not as if “Monday Night Football” sets the bar very high for jokes to be funny.

66 Broadcast Premieres Beat 'The Closer'

October 17, 2007 3:58 PM

The CloserThere have been a cluster of recent stories in the media claiming the biggest new hits are all on cable—USA’s “Burn Notice,” TNT’s “Saving Grace,” Lifetime’s “Army Wives,” FX’s “Damages” and others.

Such comparisons are only convincing until they’re spoiled by Nielsen. Since the start of the season, 66 of the 87 broadcast premieres outperformed the highest-rated scripted cable season premiere in recent memory—the June opening of “The Closer.”

“The Ghost Whisperer” premiere (a 2.4 rating) beat “The Closer” (2.2). So did Fox’s “Til Death” (2.8), NBC’s “Las Vegas” (2.5) and ABC’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (2.6).

And that’s comparing cable’s highest-rated scripted show (tying with USA miniseries “The Starter Wife”) to all of broadcast. Cable hits “Burn Notice” and “Saving Grace” (1.5) are bested by broadcast shows as modest as The CW’s “Smallville” (1.9). The CW’s 78th-ranked “Girlfriends” premiere rated the same as “Army Wives” and “Monk” (all 1.2). Looking at the second week of the broadcast season, only four cable shows (all sports and pro wrestling) cracked the top 100 programs.

“There seems to be confusion between media buzz and public perception,” said one frustrated broadcast network executive. “The press writes about these huge hits, and they’re not even close.”

Now to muddy things: “Closer,” “Notice,” “Grace,” “Monk,” “Dexter,” “Wives” and others are successful for their networks. They are, in their network’s universe, “hits.” In some cases, they are more profitable than broadcast shows.

But when comparing what shows most people actually sit down and watch, it does help to have a little ratings perspective.

Wading into this issue carries the high risk of starting a cable vs. broadcast battle—a tired, periodic story that every entertainment publication is guilty of reporting and that’s increasingly meaningless as the ownership and distribution of networks become intermingled. Teen viewers with a cable box, analysts note, have no clue there’s any difference between NBC and the Sci Fi Channel (okay, so that’s a bad example, especially this fall).

“You can cherry-pick a show here or there, but people are spending more time on cable than broadcast,” reminds Turner research guru and cable vs. broadcast frontline general Jack Wakshlag.

Wakshlag issues periodic reports showing the cable audience growing at the expense of broadcast. Broadcasters note their five networks are competing for attention with a rapidly expanding cable universe— 403 networks, 137 sports channel and 154 pay networks, by one recent count. Wakshlag counters that he only includes about 100 channels in his reports.

“It's like having two armies,” says Wakshlag, conveniently continuing the battlefield metaphor. “One has taller fighters. The other has many, many more. Who will win?”

On the other hand, you also have to factor—wait. This has become yet another cable vs. broadcast story hasn’t it? Damn…

CBS and CW Enjoy Tuesday Gains

October 17, 2007 10:34 AM

The UnitAlthough Fox likely won Tuesday night with its presentation of Major League Baseball playoffs, CBS and The CW posted week-to-week gains for key shows.

CBS’ “NCIS” and “The Unit” attained season highs, while The CW’s “Reaper” and “Beauty and the Geek” saw ratings bumps. ABC and NBC also showed some stabilization and slight gains for a few shows.

Fox typically dominates Tuesdays with “House,” which this week was preempted by the network’s presentation of the American League Championship Series Game 4, featuring the Boston Red Sox at the Cleveland Indians. Fox is warning the game’s preliminary 3.7 rating among adults 18 to 49 will shift in the nationals, but as of now the network leads the night by 0.4 of a rating point.

CBS and ABC tied for second, with CBS’ “NCIS” (4.1) and “The Unit” (3.5) up a sharp 21 percent and 17 percent, respectively. The pattern is pretty much what CBS executives predicted would happen after the first few weeks of the season: Viewers would sample new shows on its competitors, then return to its stable lineup.

That said, despite having a larger lead-in, freshman series “Cane” at 10 p.m. continued to drop, this time by a tenth of a point to a 2.2.

ABC’s “Cavemen” and “Carpoolers” (both 2.7) stabilized in their third week, followed by “Dancing With the Stars” (up 5 percent to a 4.3) and “Boston Legal” (up a tick to a 2.8).

In third place, NBC had a “Matt Lauer Reports” special (1.7) that came in last among the major networks for the hour, followed by “The Biggest Loser” (up 11 percent to a 3.0) and “Law & Order: SVU” (down a notch to a 4.8).

For The CW, “Beauty and the Geek” gained a notch to match its season high (1.7), while “Reaper” posted a head-turning 25 percent gain (1.5), matching its premiere.

HRTS Smackdown: Network Chiefs on Best Behavior

October 16, 2007 4:57 PM

HRTSThe Beverly Hilton ballroom was packed with more than 1,000 attendees for the HRTS luncheon, a record-setting turnout. Many were hoping for sparks between the panelists, whose recent professional history reads like a potboiler of corporate intrigue.

The network programming chiefs on hand included ABC’s Steve McPherson, NBC’s Ben Silverman and Fox’s Kevin Reilly -- all feet from the marble hallway where McPherson made his instantly famous “be a man” throwdown against Silverman in July for usurping Reilly’s job at NBC. Also there were CBS’ Nina Tassler and The CW’s Dawn Ostroff (one of whom was jokingly advised to try telling the other to “be a woman”).

But, alas, no fisticuffs or tumbling over ballroom chairs. There was some on-stage tension, but mostly of the murky body-language variety (such as Reilly not applauding when Silverman was introduced).

Director Barry Sonnenfeld, serving as moderator, helped diffuse tension by making jokes, but also diffused the possibility of gaining fresh insight from a group of high-profile executives who rarely are corralled together.

Sonnenfeld started the session by making comments about his penis size (unfunny), then jokingly asked whether Silverman got more sex as an independent producer or as a network executive (funny, and too bad he didn’t wait for an answer).

Even by softball HRTS standards, Sonnenfeld seemed mainly interested in his own personal musings -- such as asking why his pitch meetings take so long, and how many hours executives spend reading scripts instead of spending time at home.

HRTSActually, that latter question did prompt one exchange that for some was worth the price of admission. Silverman tried to gamely poke fun at his partygoer image by saying that, instead of spending time with his family like the other network executives, he’s busy “dating their kids.” Reilly leaned over and said, “I have two boys,” and the audience hooted.

Sonnenfeld did hit home regarding the potential writers strike, taking the stance that networks should agree to pay writers residuals on new media. When Tassler and others tried to explain that nobody knows how the new-media business model is going to shake out, Sonnenfeld shot back, “When you get hired as the head of CBS, we don’t know if you’re going to do a good job or a bad job, but we pay you a salary nonetheless.”

One subject of universal agreement: The current programming season, where all the networks roll out their top shows during the same few weeks in the fall, is an antiquated model. Reilly said breaking up the typical season schedule is one good thing that could come out of a writers strike.

“Everything gets locked into this dance,” Reilly said. “No other business is manufacturing things the exact same way for 50 years. We’re changing this and getting off the cycle. The strike could give us an excuse to shake things up.”

Silverman agreed, saying they should look to the film industry as an example of a medium where releases are staggered throughout the year to help maximize industry success. “We load our guns with our biggest weapons and shoot at each other,” he said. “(Theatricals) clear out of each other’s way.”

Viewers Discover 'Samantha Who?'

October 16, 2007 11:25 AM

Sam WhoThe premiere of ABC’s “Samantha Who?” overcame mixed reviews and a clunky title to become the highest-rated freshman comedy debut of the fall.

Given a strong “Dancing With the Stars” lead-in (4.6 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49), “Samantha” garnered a 4.5 rating. That number contains two minutes of “Dancing” overrun, but the show should remain highest-rated among the new comedies once adjusted in the nationals. Among total viewers, “Samantha” was the most-watched premiere of any comedy this fall.

ABC won the night with “Dancing,” “Samantha” and “The Bachelor” (up from last week to a 3.2).
CBS was a very close second. Its comedy block was on par with the exception of freshman comedy “Big Bang Theory” (3.2), whose ratings are trending closer to lead-in “How I Met Your Mother” (3.1) than lead-out “Two and a Half Men” (4.8). CBS’s lineup continued with “Rules of Engagement” (4.0) and “CSI: Miami” (4.7).

NBC was third, with “Chuck” bouncing a surprising 18 percent to a 3.2 rating. “Heroes” maintained last week’s series-low (5.1) and “Journeyman” was likewise on par (2.9).
Fox’s presentation of the baseball’s ALCS Game 3, Boston Red Sox at Cleveland Indians, drew a preliminary 3.0 to land the network in fourth place.

The CW’s comedy block was about average, though “Aliens in America” gained a much-needed 12 percent bump to a 0.9 rating, while “The Game” continues to top the lineup with a 1.1.

Changes Planned to Save 'Turns' and 'Light'

October 15, 2007 5:24 PM

Guiding LightCBS is readying plans to cut costs and modernize the production process of two of the longest-running shows on television, “Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns.”

The low-rated vintage soaps are on the bubble for renewal in July and CBS is taking dramatic steps to try to keep the classic series on the air.

Plans include ditching their traditional soap opera production sets—which use three cameras shooting simultaneously into an expansive series of three-wall sets—in favor of using smaller crews shooting with nimble digital cameras inside enclosed four-wall sets. "Light" is considering using multiple crews to shoot scenes simultaneously, reducing the number of production hours. All exterior scenes will be shot on location—a rarity on daytime soaps—on permanent sets built in a small town outside New York City. (On-location shots are typically more expensive, but the reduced crews and digital production process will offset the extra costs.)

For viewers, the effect is supposed to add some realism to the staging, as rooms will not lack a fourth wall and shooting can be done in a more cinematic style. The outside location shots will give the shows a more natural sense of setting.

But the bottom-line benefit to CBS is finding a way to reduce the shows’ cost. Daytime soaps typically run more than $1 million a week and shoot nearly year-round, compared with syndicated daytime fare like court shows (about $10 million a year) or talk shows (about $20 million for 26 to 33 weeks a year).

CBS met with “Light” and “Turns” producers two weeks ago and gave them a mandate to “evolve” their production process.

“We all agree now is the time to really challenge the form,” says Barbara Bloom, senior VP of daytime for CBS. “We know what the audience loves about this form. But are we still doing that in a way that’s relevant to our audience, in a way that’s the best business and production model? I have partners rising to the challenge in terms of evaluating that. How can we do it different, better, faster and more impactfully.”

The shows are not going to change cast members as part of the revamp, Bloom says.

“Light” has been on the air for 55 years and is the longest-running drama on television. “Turns” has been on for 51 years. But both have become a ratings drag on the ticket amid CBS’ daytime lineup. The shows typically rank as two of the three lowest-rated daytime soaps.

Here’s a look at a typical lineup on CBS-owned stations during the first two full weeks of originals this season, excluding news shows: “Judge Judy” (4.6 average household rating), “The Dr. Phil Show” (4.5), “The Young and the Restless” (4.0), “The Price Is Right” (3.0, but these are repeats), “The Bold and the Beautiful” (2.8), “As the World Turns” (2.2), “Guiding Light” (1.9) and “Rachael Ray” (1.8).

The new production model launches in January. CBS sees the changes as part of a larger effort to overhaul daytime, which started this morning with the relaunch of veteran game show “The Price Is Right” with new host Drew Carey.

“This is not just about the space of CBS daytime, this is about the evolution of a daypart,” Bloom says.

Chris Pursell contributed to this report.

NFL Shakeup: CBS Tops Sunday

October 15, 2007 12:30 PM

NFLNBC’s “Sunday Night Football” dropped to its lowest rating ever, allowing CBS to pick up a Sunday night victory by airing an hour of highly rated NFL overrun.

The football reversal of fortune was due to low viewer interest in NBC’s presentation of the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Seattle Seahawks (a 3.9 rating among adults 18 to 49 in the preliminary ratings, which could shift in the nationals, due later today), and a chart-topping rating from CBS’ 7-8 p.m. overrun from the New England Patriots vs. Dallas Cowboys game (9.3).

CBS’ “60 Minutes” benefited from the strong lead-in (4.1), followed by “Cold Case” (3.3) and “Shark” (2.5).

The lack of heavy NFL competition in the latter hours helped ABC, which came in second and posted gains for a couple shows: “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (2.1, down 19 percent from its premiere last week), “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (an on-par 4.3), “Desperate Housewives” (7.3, up 7 percent) and “Brothers & Sisters” (4.8, up 12 percent).

Fox also showed some growth among its originals, airing “The Simpsons” (4.2, up 14 percent), “King of the Hill” (3.5, up 21 percent), a “Family Guy” repeat (3.5) and “American Dad” (3.1)

On The CW, “CW Now” and “Online Nation” continued to struggle (0.2 for both) and “Life Is Wild” was flat (0.3).

On Friday, the premiere of ABC’s “Women’s Murder Club” tied with CBS’ “Numb3rs” as the evening’s top-rated show with a 2.5, but the return of “Men in Trees” fell from last fall’s season premiere to a 1.9, coming in last for the 10 p.m. hour.

Fox and CBS tied to win the night, with Fox airing the American League Championship’ Series Game 1 (2.3) and CBS running its drama block of “Ghost Whisperer” (2.4), “Moonlight” (2.0) and “Numb3rs” (2.5).

NBC and ABC tied for second, with NBC airing “Deal or No Deal” (2.4), “Friday Night Lights” (1.7, dropping a steep 19 percent from last week’s premiere and matching its series low) and “Las Vegas” (2.1).

The CW had “Friday Night Smackdown” (1.4).

'Babylon Fields'—CBS’ Buried Zombie Necrophilia Pilot Unearthed

October 15, 2007 9:28 AM

Babylon FieldsZombie sex on CBS.

That is what we missed this fall.

During the development season, CBS’ “Babylon Fields” was considered an early front-runner for greenlight. Granted, “apocalyptic zombie drama” may have sounded like a strange premise for a TV series, but no more so than the rest of CBS’ slate of vampire detectives, kids in ghost towns, musical gamblers and swinger couples.

“Babylon” starred Ray Stevenson, Kathy Baker and Amber Tamblyn. Stevenson was one of a trio of actors from HBO’s stellar “Rome” to land plum roles in fall pilots (the others were Kevin McKidd, the star of NBC’s “Journeyman,” and Polly Walker, who has a supporting role in CBS’ “Cane”).

Even after announcing its “Babylon”-less fall lineup at upfronts, CBS executives held out the possibility of a midseason order. Sadly, “Babylon” missed the final cut. Had the show received a pickup, “Babylon” would have taken CBS’ fall 2007 experimentation phase to a whole new level. “Babylon” just might be the weirdest pilot you have never seen.

The show explores the emotional and societal ramification of loved ones coming back from the dead. You know, like in “Pet Sematary.” But by the end of the episode, the zombie thriller is crossed with a crime procedural. So small-town police detective Stevenson is given a murder to solve while zombies wander the streets. It's “ZSI.”

The “Babylon” brand of zombies are not all moany-stumbly like in most films about the living dead. But they remain, quite clearly, deceased—autopsy scars, open wounds, bad skin, worms, etc. The zombies walk back to their former homes. They talk to their former loved ones. And have sex with them.

We proudly present an all-too-brief look at “Babylon Fields.”

NOTE: If you see a notice saying a clip will not play due to low bandwidth, just click "OK," wait a moment, then try clicking "PLAY."

Clip 1: Zombie returns home to his wife.

Clip 2: Post-coital zombie brags about the erectile enhancing benefits of being dead.

Clip 3: But wait! It’s also a crime drama.

ABC Tops Thursday as Lineup Grows

October 12, 2007 11:02 AM

Big ShotsABC’s Thursday night lineup once again won the night for the network, but this time “Ugly Betty,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Big Shots” all enjoyed slight week-to-week increases.

“Ugly Betty” (3.5) and “Grey’s Anatomy” (7.7) were both up a notch in preliminary Nielsen ratings among adults 18 to 49. “Big Shots” was the biggest gainer of the night, up 8 percent to a 3.9.

For the other networks, however, growth was scarce amid continued third-week settling.

CBS came in second with “Survivor: China” holding steady with a 4.5, “CSI” down slightly to a 6.0 and “Without a Trace” hitting a series-low 3.6.

NBC’s comedy block came in third, with “My Name Is Earl” down a bit to a 3.1 and the second week of “30 Rock” dropping 12 percent to a 3.0. “The Office” was up a tick to a 4.7. At 10 p.m., “ER” continues to fall, down another 8 percent to a 3.4.

Fox was fourth with “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” down a notch to a 2.3 and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” holding steady with a 1.8.

On The CW, “Smallville” and “Supernatural” matched last week’s rating of 1.9 and 1.2, respectively.

The Other ‘Knight Rider’ Project

October 12, 2007 10:08 AM

Knight RiderNBC’s “Knight Rider” revamp has some competition, sort of. As first reported by AintItCoolNews, NBC has the “Knight” series rights and creator Glen Larson has the film rights.

Larson has been trying to get his theatrical version off the ground for years, touting the idea at a fan convention called (and you must love this) KnightCon.

The network’s official stance on this issue: NBC is unconcerned that any potential theatrical version will impact its series brand, a representative says.

That said, NBC’s business affairs department is currently in talks with Larson about the show (cough-consulting producer credit-cough).

If they come to terms, this isn’t the first time NBC Universal and Larson have worked out a deal to cooperate on a reimagined version of one of his classic series. Larson is the creator of the original “Battlestar Galactica” and holds a credit on the Sci Fi Channel version.

AxWatch: PEZ Dispensed for Six Shows

October 11, 2007 1:40 PM

“Around here, we think of scripts like PEZ,” said a network executive today, shrugging off reports of additional script orders for several fall shows.

But who doesn’t like a sugar fix now and then? Pending writers strike or no, throwing new money at a freshman series does demonstrate at least an inkling of continued interest in a project, does it not?

So, for what it’s worth, here’s the latest: Three more scripts ordered for NBC’s “Bionic Woman,” “Life,” “Journeyman” and “Chuck” and CBS’ “Cane.”

Also, confirmed moments ago, The CW has ordered three for “Aliens in America.”

ABC Wins Wednesday as ‘Practice’ Grows

October 11, 2007 10:59 AM

Private PractiveThird-week growing pains continued as most freshman shows settled deeper into their time periods and a few posted promising gains.

ABC won the night led by “Private Practice,” which grew 7 percent in its time period to a 4.8 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49. “Practice” was the highest-rated show of the evening and is one of a scant few freshman series to exhibit third-week growth (expect ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson to order a full season pickup in five, four, three…).

The second week of “Pushing Daisies” dropped 16 percent in the preliminary ratings in adults 18 to 49 to a 3.6. Given last week’s strong premiere rating and critics’ concerns that the quirky drama would alienate mainstream audiences, the modest second-week drop makes “Daisies” a fairly good-news story for the network. At 10 p.m., “Dirty Sexy Money” dropped a notch to a 3.4.

CBS’ lineup took a hit in the 8 p.m. hour as “Kid Nation” fell yet again to a 2.0, down 17 percent. At this point, the only thing controversial about the show is its dropping Nielsens. But “Criminal Minds” held steady at 9 p.m. with a 3.8 and “CSI: NY” improved a tick to a 4.0.

NBC was a close runner-up for third place, with “Deal or No Deal” growing to a 3.1, followed by a still-sinking “Bionic Woman,” down 7 percent to a 3.8, tying with “Criminal Minds.” “Life” also slipped a couple of notches, down about 7 percent to a 2.8.

Fox came in fourth, with “Back to You” and “Til Death” slipping slightly to a 2.2 and 2.4, respectively. At 9 p.m., “Kitchen Nightmares” joined the gainers, growing for the second week in a row, up a tenth to a 3.0.

On The CW, “America’s Next Top Model” bounced back up to match its premiere 2.5 rating. The full-season order of “Gossip Girl” shouldn’t cause any second-guessing at the network this morning, with the show gaining a notch to a 1.3.

AxWatch: ‘Cane’ vs. ‘Reaper’

October 10, 2007 5:27 PM

caneblog.jpgLast night’s two lowest-rated scripted shows were CBS’ family drama “Cane” (a slight 2.3 rating among adults 18 to 49) and The CW’s supernatural dramedy “Reaper” (an even slighter 1.3). Yet odds are more favorable that “Reaper” will earn a pickup than “Cane”—mainly because CBS sets a higher bar for series performance than the niche-targeting CW. “Power is sweet,” but low expectations are sweeter.

Also, “Cane” has sunk three weeks in a row while “Reaper” has seemingly stabilized. Last night’s “Reaper” bested the third-week performance of The CW’s “Gossip Girl,” which garnered a pickup Tuesday. The show still trails “Gossip” in The CW’s core demo of 18 to 34, however (a 1.7 for “Gossip,” a 1.4 for “Reaper”).

CBS was the first network to fire a show last year, axing “Smith,” which had the same troubled time period as “Cane.” “Smith” averaged a higher rating, but it fell off faster than “Cane” week by week.

Plus, all sorts of other factors drift into the equation, such as whether the network has anything better to punch in a slot, a show’s cost and even executive pride. In all three cases, things tilt toward “Reaper” outliving “Cane.” The CW doesn’t want to lose a quality show; CBS doesn’t want to support a show that isn’t competitive in its time period.

For now, network executives are playing a cautious game of wait-and-see, thrown off balance by this season’s X factor of significantly increased DVR viewing (set at 20 percent penetration and counting). The general consensus on factoring in DVR viewership is that hit shows are still hits, flops are still flops, but middle-ground/borderline cases could shift due to the additional measurement.

With both “Reaper” and “Cane” arguably borderline, upcoming DVR viewership figures may decide the fates of both.

HBO: ‘Deadwood’ Not Quite Dead; Milch Cop Drama Update

October 10, 2007 1:22 PM

Deadwood (HBO)“Deadwood” fans: It’s not quite over. But, once again, it’s not looking good.

HBO broke its silence on recent reports that the “Deadwood” sets have been dismantled with a statement that gives a slim ray of hope for fans of the acclaimed series, while shedding some new light on showrunner David Milch’s next project.

“There are no current plans to make the movies,” an HBO representative told TelevisionWeek, adding that Milch says the dismantling of the sets makes little difference to the fate of the project. The pair of two-hour movies take place after the town of Deadwood is destroyed by fire and floods, thus the sets are unnecessary.

However: Milch is developing a new drama for HBO set in the New York Police Department (a reunion of sorts for the showrunner, who got his start working on "Hill Street Blues").

HBO gave some fresh detail about the project: The drama is set in the 1970s and involves the Knapp Commission investigations. The Knapp-era gave rise to the story of patrolman Frank Serpico, whose revelations about corruption within the department were made into a popular book and film.

As with the short-lived “John From Cincinnati,” HBO expects Milch to focus on one project at a time. So if the NYPD drama gets a series order, there’s very little chance the “Deadwood” films will be made. Even if the NYPD drama fizzles out, Milch could, as he did after “Cincinnati,” turn his attention to a new project.

So: Very little chance either way, but neither HBO nor Milch will rule out the movies.

‘Deal or No Deal’ Has Highest Web Traffic

October 10, 2007 12:51 PM

Deal or No DealBy one measure, the biggest hit of premiere week was NBC’s “Deal or No Deal.”

The game show’s Web site had more traffic than any other broadcast network show, followed by ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” NBC’s “Heroes” and ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” The list of most-visited series Web sites for the week ending Sept. 29 was released this morning by measurement service Hitwise, which is tracking the Web sites for 120 series.

The “Deal” site gives viewers a chance of winning prize money, while “Dancing” encourages online voting. The site for Fox’s modestly rated “America’s Most Wanted,” where viewers can report tips on missing fugitives, also made the top 10.

Among scripted shows, younger-skewing and serialized programs were more likely to get traffic. In addition to “Heroes,” there’s ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” NBC’s “The Office” and “Bionic Woman.” The CW’s “Gossip Girl” broke into the Top 10 despite being one of the lowest-rated shows on broadcast. ABC’s “Lost,” which has interactive elements to engage fans until the show returns next year, was ranked No. 8 even though the program isn’t currently airing.

Missing from the list: Top Nielsen-rated shows like CBS’ “CSI” and “Without a Trace,” ABC's “Desperate Housewives” and Fox's “House.”

By network, NBC.com received the most traffic, followed by ABC, CBS, Fox and The CW. Fox and The CW were nearly tied.

Here's the Top 10 sites during premiere week, according to Hitwise:

Hitwise Custom Report for Top Visited U.S. Broadcast Network TV Show Web sites (Week ending September 29, 2007)
Rank Network Website Market Share
1 NBC Deal or No Deal 15.46%
2 ABC Dancing With The Stars 11.23%
3 NBC Heroes 9.71%
4 ABC Grey’s Anatomy 3.51%
5 FOX America's Most Wanted 2.70%
6 NBC The Office 2.26%
7 ABC The Bachelor 2.25%
8 ABC Lost 2.07%
9 NBC Bionic Woman 1.82%
10 The CW Gossip Girl 1.76%
Source: Rankings are based on custom category of television network websites among the six major broadcast networks for the week ending September 29, 2007 (Sunday – Saturday) from the Hitwise sample of 10 million U.S. Internet users.
Source: Hitwise

Custom Category of Top Visited U.S.Broadcast Network Web sites During Season Premiere Week
Network Website Week Ending 9/29/2007 Week Ending 9/23/2006
NBC www.nbc.com 36.70% 48.10%
ABC www.abc.com 30.41% 23.40%
CBS www.cbs.com 19.08% 17.13%
Fox* www.fox.com 7.07% 4.59%
The CW www.cwtv.com 6.64% 6.53%
MyNetworkTV www.mynetworktv.com 0.10% 0.26%
Source: Rankings are based on custom category of television network websites among the six major broadcast networks for the week ending September 29, 2007 (Sunday – Saturday) from the Hitwise sample of 10 million U.S. Internet users.

*Does not include traffic from related stand alone websites such as American Idol, The Simpsons, Family Guy and America’s Most Wanted.

Source: Hitwise

'Cavemen' Ratings Devolve in Second Week

October 10, 2007 10:26 AM

CavemenThey came, they saw, and nearly a third didn’t come back.

That’s the ratings story for ABC’s “Cavemen” so far, with the show’s 18-to-49 tally dropping 29 percent to a 2.5 in its second week. High viewer curiosity from the unique sitcom concept based on the popular Geico commercials likely fueled initial tune-in, but how many viewers would stick around after getting a gander at the show was always a key question. “Cavemen” companion “Carpoolers” fared better—dropping 20 percent to a 2.8.

Fox easily won the night with “Bones” (3.1) and “House” (7.3) improving slightly this week.

NBC was second with “The Singing Bee” (2.1) followed by “The Biggest Loser” (2.7) and the highest-rated “Law & Order: SVU” since February (4.9).

ABC was third with its aforementioned comedies, “Dancing With the Stars” results show (4.0) and “Boston Legal” (2.8).

Coming in fourth place, CBS was down slightly this week with “NCIS” (3.4), “The Unit” (3.0) and “Cane” (2.3, falling for the third week in a row).

The CW had another night of modest third-week gains, with “Beauty and the Geek” up a notch this week in the demo (1.5) and adults 18 to 34 (1.7). “Reaper” stabilized in the demo (1.3) and was up slightly in 18 to 34 (1.4).

ABC Conquers Monday; NBC Hits New Lows

October 9, 2007 12:31 PM

Dancing With the StarsLot of ground to cover regarding Monday night’s shows: ABC conquered. The CW and CBS made some gains. NBC’s heroic dramas fell. And, most crucially, the “Heroes” Nissan Rogue has returned.

First, ABC won the night with “Dancing With the Stars” (a 4.9 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49) and “The Bachelor” (3.3), both down slightly.

CBS was a close second, with all of its comedies (except an on-par “Two and a Half Men”) up slightly from the prior week. It aired “How I Met Your Mother” (3.2), “The Big Bang Theory” (3.4), “Men” (4.4) and “Rules of Engagement” (3.8). At 10 p.m., “CSI: Miami” had a series low (4.3).

Then there’s NBC, whose first Monday of the season nearly toppled ABC, but this week is in third with all three of its dramas showing weekly declines.

Three weeks of drops is not unusual at the start of a season, since shows tend to settle from their premiere in their third week. But in the case of NBC’s Monday block, the recent succession of falls is sharp enough to cause some concern: “Chuck” is in last place among the major networks at 8 p.m. (2.6, down 19 percent from last week). “Heroes,” while still the highest-rated show of the night, hit a series low (5.0, down 9 percent). “Journeyman” came in last in its hour (3.0, down 9 percent).

Nissan RogueAs for Claire’s stolen Nissan Rogue, the product placement-mobile has returned. Now a Rogue—which may or may not be Claire’s—is in a Latin American country and owned by a young jailed American, setting up a possible “Where In the World Is Claire’s Rogue?” global adventure game for the rest of the season.

Fox came in fourth with “Prison Break” (steady with a 3.0) and “K-Ville” (up a notch to a 2.0).

The CW got a slight breeze of good ratings news last night, with its comedy block improving on some of the network’s key demos. It aired “Everybody Hates Chris” (1.1), “Aliens in America” (0.8), “Girlfriends” (1.2) and “The Game” (1.4).

The CW Picks Up ‘Gossip Girl’

October 9, 2007 12:22 PM

Gossip GirlClaiming the first pickup of the fall, The CW has ordered a full season of its drama “Gossip Girl.”

Though the show debuted to average ratings in a competitive Wednesday time period and fell in its second week, "Gossip" grew a notch last week to a 1.2 rating among adults 18 to 49 (and a 1.7 in the network's target 18 to 34 demographic). The network has picked up the back nine episodes for a total series order of 22 shows.

Moreover, the network said its initial wave of DVR ratings show “Gossip” is picking up some significant non-live viewing. For the premiere, the drama is up 20 percent in adults 18 to 34 and 18 percent among 18 to 49.

“People everywhere are talking about ‘Gossip Girl,’ and we believe this show will continue to build audience as it builds buzz,” said Dawn Ostroff, president of entertainment at The CW. “Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage have created an incredibly heightened-reality world that viewers are locking into while advertisers, affiliates and press have also embraced the show. The series has earned its early pick-up and we look forward to a long run on The CW.”

As previously reported, “Gossip” also gained viewers from hefty amounts of iTunes downloading. The two most recent episodes rank among the top five shows downloaded with the service, according to The CW.

Updated at 4:35 p.m.

FX's Sunset Strip

October 8, 2007 1:36 PM

Nip/Tuck PosterAfter ribbing FX for its oddly creepy succession of posters for marketing non-creepy programming, let’s take a moment to appreciate the cable channel’s latest ambitious key art for “Nip/Tuck.”

Promoting the fifth season’s Oct. 30 premiere, the poster features a desert sunset over Los Angeles, indicating the story’s relocation from Miami to L.A. In the foreground, surgeons Sean and Christian find a fallen angel with surgically clipped wings. Gaudy? Sure. But also sexy and epic. The poster is like an oversaturated impression of the show’s mood, which is why the image works.

Fellow amateur TV poster art critics, feel free to weigh in below.

'Life' Debut Draws Mild Ratings

October 8, 2007 12:06 PM

Life Is Wild (CW)For its sophomore season, The CW can’t catch a break.

First the network rolls out a trio of demographic-savvy, buzz-getting new shows (“Gossip Girl,” “Reaper” and “Aliens in America”) to very average numbers. Now its family drama “Life Is Wild,” the most conservative and traditional of the lot, opens to the lowest scripted rating of the fall season.

The premiere earned a 0.4 on Sunday night among adults 18 to 49 in the preliminary ratings, down 67 percent from the premiere of “7th Heaven” in the time period last year. Among the 18 to 34 demo, the show was down 75 percent. A glimmer of good news for The CW’s Sunday night: “Wild” lead-in “CW Now” and “Online Nation” popped up a notch from last week, to a 0.4 and a 0.3, respectively.

For the night, NBC overturned last week’s winner, ABC, thanks to “Football Night in America” (3.7) and “Sunday Night Football” (6.7) jumping in the Nielsens.

ABC’s block saw some settling in its second week. The Alphabet network aired the premiere of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (an on-par 2.6) along with “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (4.1, down 15 percent from last week), “Desperate Housewives” (6.6, down 12 percent) and “Brothers & Sisters” (4.5, down 8 percent).

Fox was third with its comedy block, featuring originals of “The Simpsons” (3.6, down 14 percent), “King of the Hill” (2.9, down 19 percent), “Family Guy” (4.0, down 7 percent) and “American Dad” (3.0, down 3 percent).

CBS came in fourth with a 90-minute “60 Minutes” (an on-par 2.1), “Cold Case” (2.9, down 15 percent) and “Shark” (2.5, down 4 percent).

'Friday Night Lights' Kicks Off

October 8, 2007 11:04 AM

fridaynightblog.jpg“’Friday Night Lights’—finally on Fridays!” goes NBC’s on-air promo for the return of the critically acclaimed series, as if viewers have been clamoring for the schedule change.

Judging from the premiere’s ratings, the show’s fans from last season had no trouble finding “Lights” in its new slot, but only a few new viewers came to watch the game.

“Lights” opened to a 2.2 rating among adults 18 to 49 in the preliminary Nielsens, tying the second week of CBS’s “Moonlight” for the 9 p.m. time period. That’s down 19 percent from “Lights” October debut on Tuesdays at 8 p.m., but up a tick from last April’s Wednesday night debut.

Given that the ratings bar is set lower for Fridays, gaining versus the show’s mid-week time period is a good sign. NBC is calling the ratings “a very promising start,” but they also don’t leave much room for the usual ratings settling in a second and third week. With critics warning that an attention-getting over-the-top plot twist in Friday’s premiere might turn off viewers, should be interesting to see how “Lights” plays out.

Overall, NBC came in second place for the night to CBS’s “Ghost Whisperer” (steady with 2.4), “Moonlight” (in its second, week down a fairly standard 12 percent to a 2.2) and “Numbers” (up a notch to a 2.7).

NBC was second with “Deal” (2.0), “Lights” (2.2) and “Las Vegas” (a series-low 2.1). ABC repeated “Pushing Daisies” (1.4) and “Private Practice” (1.6) and aired “20/20” (2.4). Fox had “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” (1.5) and a “K-Ville” repeat (1.2). The CW had “Friday Night Smackdown” (1.4).

Yet Another Nerd-Sized Ratings Controversy

October 6, 2007 2:45 PM

Phone calls from networks were flying into Nielsen late Friday about the measurement company's plan to issue network performance data next week using the start of the season date last year (Sept. 18) compared to the start of the season this year (Sept. 24).

What's wrong with that? About a week, which at some point needs to be folded into year-to-year comparisons. Right now, this is no big deal. But things get screwy once the low-rated holidays kick in for measuring how shows performed compared to the same week last year. In other words: Come Thanksgiving, ratings are no longer cranberry-to-cranberry.

More to the point for networks: The early season story is sunnier for ABC under Nielsen's current measurement intentions (so they’re wholly in favor of the plan), but would benefit Fox's seasonal comparisons if the extra week is added in now (so they’re disgruntled). CBS is cheering on the Fox camp, while NBC’s ratings department -- especially after the whole “Heroes” CumeGate scandal – is basically willing to just go along with whatever.

Adding to the fun: PBS drew fire last week for reporting their ratings for “The War” as 18.7 million people that tuned in at some point (a rarely used measurement) rather than the more accurate measurement of 7.3 million average total viewers who actually watched (the standard measurement).

Though this was considered as a nefarious move that, like with “Heroes,” derailed a network’s good-news story, let’s give PBS the benefit of the doubt. It could have been an over-eager misstep rather than nefarious manipulation. After all, how much experience does PBS have in bragging about their ratings?

Guest Star Seinfeld Gooses ‘30 Rock’ Season Premiere

October 5, 2007 12:02 PM

30RockNBC’s “30 Rock” returned last night, featuring a much-ballyhooed guest appearance by Jerry Seinfeld that gave the series a wholly respectable Nielsen bump.

“Rock” earned a series-high 3.4 rating among adults 18 to 49 in preliminary ratings, maintaining its “My Name Is Earl” lead-in. The show was up 17 percent from its Wednesday night premiere last fall.

For the night, CBS once again edged out ABC, whose “Grey’s Anatomy” was the highest-rated program with a 7.4. However, that’s its lowest-ever original Thursday score.

Networks are pointing to baseball playoff games as having dented viewership across the board and, sure enough, nearly everybody is down from last week.

Winning the night, CBS had “Survivor: China” (4.4, down 4 percent), “CSI” (6.3, down 23 percent) and “Without a Trace” (3.8, down 19 percent). ABC pointed out that the gap between “Grey’s” and “CSI” went back to its usual width last season, after the procedural closed in on “Grey’s” last week.

ABC, placing a very close second, had “Ugly Betty,” down 13 percent (3.4); “Grey’s,” off 16 percent; and the second episode of “Big Shots” (3.7), down 18 percent from its debut.

In third place, NBC had “My Name Is Earl” (3.4); “30 Rock” (3.4); “The Office” (4.5), down 12 percent; and “ER” (3.7), down 10 percent.

The CW’s “Smallville” held roughly steady (1.8) while the premiere of “Supernatural” was down 29 percent from last year (1.2).

Fox was fourth with "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader" (2.3) and "Don't Forget the Lyrics" (1.8).

ABC Triumph: 'Private Practice' Overthrows 'Bionic Woman'

October 4, 2007 9:54 AM

Private PracticeAfter a recent series of caveated ratings victories, ABC enjoyed a pure triumph last night when critically adored new drama “Pushing Daisies” got off to a rousing start and the second episode of “Private Practice” overthrew NBC’s plummeting “Bionic Woman.”

The lyrical “Daisies,” long considered the best pilot of the fall season, opened to a 4.2 rating among adults 18 to 49 in the preliminary ratings, crushing competitors in its 8 p.m. slot.

In the battleground 9 p.m. hour, where ABC came in second place last week amid heavy competition, “Private” maintained 88 percent of its premiere rating to post a 4.5 and win the slot. At 10 p.m., “Dirty Sexy Money” came in second place, but pulled off the rare trick of holding 100 percent of its premiere’s 3.6, despite having a slightly lower lead-in this week.

CBS was second for the night, with “Kid Nation” dropping for the third week in a row to come in last among the major networks with a 2.4 rating. But CBS’s “Criminal Minds” and “CSI: NY” both improved this round, to a 3.7 and 3.9, respectively. Even though it was the third highest-rated show of the night, “Minds” was the No. 1 show in total viewers.

In third place, NBC has a grim morning. “Deal or No Deal” was up a bit to a 2.8. But “Bionic” fell 30 percent during its second episode to a 4.0. “Life” dropped 25 percent to a 3.0.

Moreover, this morning the industry is buzzing that the pivotal second “Bionic” episode, the result of extensive behind-the-scenes retooling, was a creative disaster—cliché-packed dialogue, a nonsensical villain, one-note characters. The much-heralded arrival of Isaiah Washington (who in a New York Post story Wednesday proved yet again you don’t need bionics to be a tool) was a non-event; just another performer trying to inject humanity into a clunky show whose most arresting visual is Miguel Ferrer’s neck jowls.

Fox had relatively positive news. “Back to You” was down 14 percent to a 2.4, “Til Death” was up 4 percent to a 2.5. But their underrated reality show “Kitchen Nightmares” benefited most from the “Bionic” drop, leaping 16 percent in its third week to a 2.9.

The CW's "America's Next Top Model" dropped slightly to a 2.2, while "Gossip Girl" climbed a notch to a 1.3. The network points out that "Gossip" was up in all key demos this week, perhaps benefitting from "Private" vs. "Bionic" drainage.

Interesting “Gossip” factoid: Though the show has been a ratings struggle, the pilot has regularly topped the Top 10 most-downloaded shows on iTunes this past week. Sure, the download is free, but so is watching The CW.

ABC's 'Cavemen,' 'Carpoolers' Make Solid Start

October 3, 2007 12:57 PM

CavemenThe debut of ABC’s much-discussed “Cavemen” sitcom got off to a stronger-than-expected start last night, tying to win its time period and providing a solid lead-in for fellow freshman debut “Carpoolers.”

“Cavemen,” which was not screened for critics, earned a 3.3 rating among adults 18 to 49 in the preliminary Nielsens, matching the first half of CBS’ “NCIS.”

Though “Cavemen” likely will get the headlines, in the halls of ABC the real shock is the performance of “Carpoolers,” a series with weak buzz that improved on “Cavemen” with an even better 3.4. The comedies led into “Dancing With the Stars” (4.3) and a resurgent “Boston Legal” (3.1).

ABC came in second place behind Fox, which had “Bones” (2.9) and “House” (7.1), slipping 13 percent and 9 percent, respectively, from last week’s premieres.

NBC was third with the season premiere of “The Singing Bee” (a series-low 2.3), “The Biggest Loser” (up 10 percent to a 3.3) and “Law & Order: SVU” (an on-par 4.5).

CBS was fourth with “NCIS” (3.6) and “The Unit” (3.2) building from last week’s premieres (by 13 percent and 14 percent, respectively), while freshman series “Cane” (2.5) slipped 17 percent (just don’t tell “Jericho” fans).

The CW’s “Beauty and the Geek” (1.3) and “Reaper” (1.3) each fell 13 percent from last week.

CBS’s ‘Jericho’ Could Return Next Month—Or Next Year

October 3, 2007 12:12 PM

Jericho“Jericho” fans, get ready to go nuts.

There’s a slim chance the CBS cult favorite could return to the air next month.

The seven-episode second season has wrapped production and the network is eyeing the show as a potential replacement for one of several time periods that might open up in the coming weeks. In other words, if freshman efforts “Kid Nation,” “Cane,” “Moonlight” or the upcoming “Viva Laughlin” tank in the ratings, CBS is considering firing out “Jericho.”

CBS’ other midseason drama, "Swingtown," is not going to be ready until next year, though network also has “The Amazing Race” and game show “Power of 10” available to fill one-hour slots. CBS scheduling head Kelly Kahl cautioned that the new freshman lineup is performing solidly and that no show is guaranteed the next opening.

“The best thing going for ‘Jericho’ is it’s done and ready to go,” Kahl says. “But it’s too early to tell what time period is going to be available.”

Last season "Jericho" aired Wednesdays at 8 p.m., the time period now held by "Nation." Though the slots occupied by "Nation," "Cane," "Laughlin" and "Moonlight" all have their pros and cons as potential "Jericho" homes, sources said "Jericho" is considered a viable alternate for any of them. (Just what controversy-weary "Nation" producer Tom Forman needs -- nut-flinging "Jericho" fans assailing him to get out of their time slot).

If the current CBS schedule holds through November, “Jericho” will likely return in January.

Jericho PartyLast night at the “Jericho” DVD release party at Crimson nightclub in Hollywood, “Jericho” executive producer Carol Barbee said she hopes the show will return soon. The producers and the network are conscious of making fans wait too long to resolve last May’s cliffhanger after watching the precarious ratings drops endured by serialized shows that took long hiatuses last winter.

“There’s definite concern [about viewer interest waning], which is why we hope to get on the air as soon as possible,” she says.

The unique seven-episode “Jericho” order was prompted by fan outrage when CBS moved to cancel the struggling series. “Jericho” ended on a tantalizing cliffhanger, with the show’s heroes on the brink of war with neighboring town New Bern. A fan campaign that included sending tens of thousands of pounds of peanuts to CBS famously helped sway network executives to give the show another shot.

Behind the scenes, sources say some competitive leverage was applied as well. While CBS was on the fence, “Jericho” producers met with the Sci Fi Channel, which expressed interest in picking up the series as a potential companion and successor for “Battlestar Galactica.” CBS renewed “Jericho” shortly after, though network sources say any cable network interest had nothing to do with their decision.

The season premiere will open after the Jericho vs. New Bern war, but includes flashbacks to the battle itself. For the finale, Barbee has shot multiple endings this time to ensure fans are not left in cliffhanger lurch should CBS axe the show. There’s also nothing scripted in the finale like last season’s never-surrender “nuts” battle cry that might haunt CBS executives.

“They sort of they let us get away with the cliffhanger last time,” Barbee says. “We joked that have to get another food product in new finale. CBS probably combed through the script looking for anything that fans could send to them.”

Regardless of which ending is used, she says the short season will satisfy fans.

“We have a story broken so it tells a complete story,” she says. “By episode seven you are going to be very satisfied. We packed an entire 22-episode season into seven shows, there’s a lot of mythology answered.”

Though Barbee wouldn’t comment on any past or future cable network interest, she wouldn’t rule out shopping around the series if CBS doesn’t renew the show.

“There’s still going to be a lot more story to tell,” Barbee says. “If the fans keep it up, we’ll tell it somewhere.”

‘Heroes’ Nissan Rogue Goes Rogue

October 2, 2007 2:24 PM

RogueAn awkward bit of product placement from NBC’s “Heroes” season premiere took an odd twist during last night's episode when a shiny new Nissan Rogue went, well, rogue.

“Heroes” teen heroine Claire (the Cheerleader) was thrilled to receive a brand-new Nissan Rogue as a birthday gift from her father in the opening minutes of last week’s high-rated premiere. But the car was stolen by persons unknown during Monday’s second episode from Claire’s high school parking lot.

The plot point didn’t progress during the episode beyond a disappointed Claire revealing the theft to her father, leaving some viewers to wonder if the car’s disappearance was for commercial or creative reasons – and whether the car is coming back.

“Claire's new car didn't last very long, did it?” posted a viewer on AintItCoolNews.com. “Guess Nissan only forked over enough loot for one episode worth of product placement.”

An NBC rival joked, “Maybe Nissan stole it back considering the clunky way it was introduced.”

According to a Universal Media Studios representative, however, the Rogue will return.

The car will be in future episodes, the rep said, but would not elaborate.

The episode also took pains to suggest the Rogue was stolen because Claire left the car door unlocked. In the NBC 2.0 world, it's probably better to let viewers think your lead heroine is none too bright than to make your sponsor's product seem easy to snatch.

Hulk Hogan Finalizing Deal to Host NBC’s 'American Gladiators'

October 2, 2007 12:40 PM

Hulk HoganProfessional wrestler and VH1 reality show star Hulk Hogan has signed on to host NBC’s upcoming remake of “American Gladiators,” sources say.

Hogan made the rounds at NBC’s Burbank offices last week and has accepted the job. The deal is still being finalized, but sources say both parties are committed.

NBC sees Hogan as “the perfect fit” for the “Gladiators” revival, sources say. In addition to his experience as a physical performer during his years with the World Wrestling Federation, Hogan has proved he can draw viewers with sheer force of personality in his successful VH1 reality series “Hogan Knows Best.”

The network plans to showcase “Gladiators” sometime in midseason.

Like the early-1990s original, the new “Gladiators” will have everyday weekend warriors competing against the show’s cast of athletes. The remake will add special effects, water skills and high-tech stunts.

Also, the show will chronicle the backstory of each competitor as they train for their match.

Producers are still in talks with professional and retired athletes from various disciplines, particularly ultimate fighting, to play the show's brigade of Gladiators.

The network is partnering with MGM Television and Reveille on the project, and sources say that Reveille partner Howard Owens and his team were instrumental in landing Hogan.

NBC had no comment.

UPDATE: NBC announces The Hulk. From the press release:

Craig Plestis, NBC's executive VP, alternative programming, development and specials: "Hulk Hogan is an American icon. For over twenty years he has been a symbol of strength and toughness in all facets of entertainment. His electrifying personality will no doubt inspire Herculean efforts from our everyday challengers. There is no one more qualified to host this program."

"American Gladiators" executive producer and Reveille Managing Director Howard T. Owens: "Hulk Hogan is going to rock the American viewing public as the host of 'American Gladiators. This is the ultimate television vehicle for the ultimate action television star, The Hulk!"

Hogan: "Gladiator-mania is gonna be running wild, brother."

The Hogan deal was brokered by newly formed Sovereign Talent Group.

Updated at 11:02 a.m.

Ratings for 'Heroes,' 'Dancing' Settle In Second Week

October 2, 2007 11:36 AM

Dancing With the StarsAfter last week’s season premiere dust-up, ratings for most shows settled during the second Monday night of the season, with NBC’s “Heroes” and ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” continuing to lead the night. The premiere of The CW’s “Aliens in America” continued the network’s run of rough-start debuts.

ABC finished first with a two-hour “Dancing” posting a 5.2 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, down 10 percent from last week. At 10 p.m., “The Bachelor” held steady with a 3.6.

CBS’ comedy block and NBC’s hero-driven dramas tied for second place. CBS’ comedies were all down slightly from last week, with freshman effort “The Big Bang Theory” continuing to provide a ratings bridge between its lowest-rated effort, “How I Met Your Mother,” and top-rated “Two and a Half Men.” “Mother” did a 3.0, “Bang” had a 3.4, “Men” a 4.6 and “Rules of Engagement” a 3.9. At 10 p.m., “CSI: Miami” held even with last week’s series-low-rated premiere of 4.6.

NBC’s lineup unevenly sagged, though not necessarily where one might expect. “Heroes” dropped the most, falling 15 percent from last week to a 5.5 (one competitor, gamely taking up NBC’s insistence on issuing a combined rating for last week’s “Heroes” premiere based on two airings, noted the show fell 25 percent from its cume). At 8 p.m., "Chuck" declined 14 percent from last week to a 3.1. At 10 p.m., "Journeyman" saw the smallest decline of the NBC pack - 6 percent - to a 3.3, but came in last place for the hour.

In third place, Fox’s “Prison Break” held at a 3.0, but “K-Ville” took another hit at 9 p.m., falling 13 percent to a 2.0 after falling 30 percent from its premiere two weeks ago.

On The CW, another critically well-received new show stumbled out of the gate, with “Aliens in America” posting a 0.8 rating, the lowest-ranked program of the night. Returning comedies “Everybody Hates Chris” (1.0) and “Girlfriends” (1.2) were on par, with “The Game” spiking 20 percent from last year’s debut to a 1.4.

Fall Ratings Surprises: What the ‘Chuck’?

October 1, 2007 12:18 PM

ChuckA select crop of heavily buzzed fall shows have premiered to merely average ratings in recent weeks, prompting industry head-scratching. The titles had fair-to-great press coverage and several had strong research tracking numbers to indicate significant pre-air viewer interest. Keep in mind this is very early in the season, all are considered viable and have the potential to gain in the coming weeks. Still, it’s worth asking: What happened?

  • NBC’s “Chuck"
    Prior Consensus: All the geeks at Comic-Con loved it.
    In Retrospect: Need more than just geeks to watch it. Still, it did pretty decent, and Saturday’s encore picked up some healthy sampling that could pay off tonight.
  • CBS’ “Kid Nation”
    Prior Consensus: With all those headlines, everybody’s gotta be curious, right?
    In Retrospect: Do viewers really want to watch kids learning to cook macaroni?
  • The CW’s “Reaper”
    Prior Consensus: A clever and funny pilot that critics loved.
    In Retrospect: Like “Chuck,” the geek factor may be at play, and this time the show is on a network targeting young females. In other words, “Reaper” is a show for guys who get rejected by “America’s Next Top Model” fans. But, also like “Chuck,” its well-received repeat might help this week.
  • Fox’s “Kitchen Nightmares”
    Prior Consensus: A popular U.K. import format starring a proven Fox reality star.
    In Retrospect: Some critics say the Fox version is a tad overcooked, and that time period is a killer.
  • The CW’s “Gossip Girl”
    Prior Consensus: A demographic bull’s-eye for The CW’s target audience from proven showrunner Josh Schwartz.
    In Retrospect: This one really is puzzling. As one reader wailed on this blog’s comments section, “Leave ‘Gossip Girl’ alone!”

  • ABC: Winning Yet Down With ‘Desperate Housewives’

    October 1, 2007 10:40 AM

    Desperate HousewivesIn what’s becoming a trend this season, a network conquered a heavily contested night in the ratings while sustaining heavy casualties.

    ABC had the three highest-rated non-sports shows Sunday night in the 18-49 demographic, with the season premieres of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (4.7), “Desperate Housewives” (7.4) and “Brothers & Sisters” (5.1). But each fell compared to last season’s premieres, with “Extreme” down 26 percent, “Desperate” off 27 percent and “Brothers” down 15 percent, based on preliminary Nielsen numbers.

    ABC won the night in the demo and in total viewers, and “Desperate” topped NBC’s second-place presentation of “Sunday Night Football,” featuring the Philadelphia Eagles at the New York Giants (a very preliminary 5.6, down from last week’s 7.8).

    CBS and Fox are tied for third place, with CBS presenting “60 Minutes” (2.8), “Cold Case” (3.4) and “Shark” (2.7). Despite the increased competition from ABC’s premieres, all of the CBS shows grew from last week’s numbers, which had likely taken a knock due to the premiere of PBS’ “The War” and stronger NBC football returns.

    Conversely, Fox’s comedy lineup fell from last week, when the network aired its “Family Guy” “Star Wars” special. Shows include “The Simpsons” (4.2), “King of the Hill” (3.5), “Family Guy” (4.2) and “American Dad” (3.1).

    The CW’s “CW Now” (0.3) and “Online Nation” (0.3) continue to founder, followed by repeats.

    Friday Night Bites: CBS’s ‘Moonlight’ Rises

    October 1, 2007 9:51 AM

    MoonlightCBS’s vampire detective drama “Moonlight” premiered Friday night and helped the network win the evening alongside returning series “Ghost Whisperer” and “Numb3rs.”

    The downside: across-the-board viewership declines resulted in lower-rated time-period returns compared to last year.

    “Ghost Whisperer” came back to a 2.4 rating (down 25 percent among adults 18 to 49 in the preliminary Nielsens), “Moonlight” had a 2.5 (down 25 percent from the premier of “Close to Home” in the time period a year ago) and “Numb3rs” also had a 2.5 (down 19 percent). CBS notes that DVR penetration continues to increase and that Fridays are the most time-shifted night.

    NBC came in second with the two-hour premiere of Tom Selleck-infused "Las Vegas" (2.4, down 23 percent from last season's one-hour October premiere)

    ABC was third with repeats and “20/20” (1.8). Fox was fourth with “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” (1.4) and a repeat. The CW’s “Friday Night Smackdown” (1.6) had its best rating since March.

    Also: Hoping to gain some additional sampling, networks posted some encore presentations of its key freshman and returning premieres this weekend.

    NBC’s “Chuck” drew the highest number on Saturday night, picking up a 1.5 rating among adults 18 to 49. CBS’s “Moonlight”—repeating a mere day after its premiere—got the biggest percentage compared to its original number with a 1.3. NBC’s controversial “Heroes” repeat got a 1.0. Fox’s “K-Ville” had a 0.9 on Friday. CBS’s “Cane” pulled a 0.8 on Saturday.