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January 2008 Archives

‘Idol,’ New ‘House’ Give Fox a Tuesday Win

January 30, 2008 1:47 PM

Fox’s double punch of “American Idol” and an original episode of “House” readily dominated the Nielsen ratings Tuesday night.

“Idol” ruled the evening with an 11.0 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, slipping 7% from last week. With an 8.6 rating, “House” was up 23% since its last original airing three months ago, thanks to the “Idol” lead-in.

NBC was the runner-up, with “The Biggest Loser: Couples” down 11% because of heightened competition in the 9 p.m. hour from “House.” A repeat of “Law & Order: SVU” (2.9) won the 10 p.m. hour.

CBS came in third in the demo with repeats of “NCIS” (2.0) and “The Unit” (1.5) followed by “48 Hours Mystery” (2.4).

ABC came in fourth with two episodes of “Just for Laughs” (1.4 and 1.3), “According to Jim” (2.0), “Carpoolers” (1.3) and a repeat of “Boston Legal” (1.3).

The CW had a “Reaper” repeat (0.6) and “One Tree Hill” (1.3).

Zucker Tackles the Broadcast Delusion

January 29, 2008 5:30 PM

The conventioneers march into the Mandalay Bay exhibit hall, wide-eyed and excited.

They’re youthful, happy to be here and full of optimism about the future.

The conventioneers are, of course, not attending NATPE.

They’re going to the snow sports convention in the exhibit hall next door to the annual television trade show.

The snow sports event slogan is: “Poker … Strip Clubs … Snowboards … Is This Heaven?”

The NATPE slogan could be: “Media Consolidation … Writers Strike … DVR Penetration … Is This a Tax Writeoff?”

To lead off the proceedings, conference organizers choose NBC Universal President-CEO Jeff Zucker to give the keynote address.

This is sort of like choosing “The God Delusion” author Richard Dawkins to give your loved one’s eulogy. Sure, he might be right about everything … but kind of a downer, no?

“For many years, if there is one thing everyone could count on at an industry meeting like this, it was that if a head of a media company was up here, he or she would talk about how broadcast television has a strong and robust future in spite of all the challenges,” Mr. Zucker said. “It has been a great run. … I can’t come here with the usual cliches about the endurance of broadcasting in the form we have always known. We must acknowledge that a significant part of our industry is under incredible pressure and has to change.”

Here’s what was impressive about Zucker’s speech: By the conclusion of his tough-love rundown of the drastic changes required to overhaul broadcast television, you’re nearly convinced that the fourth-place network is actually ahead of its competitors in terms of bottom-line strategic thinking (which is, naturally, one reason Zucker gave it).

A key question asked of Zucker afterward is whether he would embrace such changes if NBC were not a perennial fourth-place finisher in recent years.

“Whether we’re in first place or fourth place, we have to change,” he said, which isn’t entirely the same as answering "yes."

Yet Zucker’s point is that the marketplace challenges exist regardless of NBC’s ratings. If the media can put aside its obsession with the broadcast network horse race for a second (always difficult for us to do), his call to re-examine the decades-old development and upfront processes is certainly reasonable.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with either process, mind you. They’re just byproducts of a wealthy industry that has long been able to drive the scenic route to its destination—a winding path that the industry finds increasingly cumbersome to take.

‘Gladiators’ Rule Despite Low

January 29, 2008 3:10 PM

NBC’s “American Gladiators” topped the Nielsen ratings despite hitting a new low on Monday night.

“Gladiators” had a 3.7 national Nielsen rating among adults 18 to 49, down from last week’s 4.3. NBC noted the show’s time period was shifted to 10 p.m. in West Coast markets due to President Bush’s State of the Union address, impacting viewership.

NBC still managed to win the night, edging out second-place CBS, which aired comedy repeats. Fox aired a repeat of “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (2.2) for third place. ABC was fourth with “Dance War” (2.5) and a repeat. The CW didn’t air the president’s address, but still came in fifth.

The ‘Baby’ Bumpers

January 28, 2008 4:22 PM

File this under “surprising yet makes sense.”

NBC has bumped its new reality series “The Baby Borrowers” a mere 22 days before its scheduled Feb. 18 premiere, despite recently airing ads touting the show and sending screeners to critics (surprising).

Instead, NBC will debut "My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad” in “Borrowers’” previously scheduled Monday 8 p.m. slot, since “American Gladiators” is currently ruling the time period. The network figures having another sporty competition series like “My Dad” once "Gladiators" runs out of new episodes could continue its Monday night ratings momentum (makes sense).

Still, the question invariably becomes: Does the move signal a lack of network confidence in “Borrowers”? NBC says it still loves the show and will schedule a premiere at a future date.

The network also announced that game show “Amne$ia,” hosted by Dennis Miller, will debut Friday, Feb. 22, at 9 p.m. following the season finale of “1 vs. 100,” then shift to 8 p.m. the next week.

ABC’s ‘Extreme Makeover’ Leads Sunday

January 28, 2008 10:26 AM

Broadcast networks aired a weekend lineup heavily populated by repeats and specials, as the impact of the writers strike on their primetime lineups becomes increasingly evident.

ABC easily won Sunday night, led by a two-hour “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (5.1 preliminary Nielsen rating among adults 18 to 49) and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (2.8).

Fox was second, led by a repeat of “Family Guy” (3.8), which outranked originals of “The Simpsons” (3.6) and “American Dad” (3.0) and its other repeats.

CBS came in third with “60 Minutes” (2.7), “Shark” (2.0) and the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie “The Russell Girl” (2.2).

NBC had “U.S. Men’s Championship Figure Skating” (0.8) and a “Guinness World Records: Top 100” special (2.2).

The CW aired “Life Is Wild” (0.4), “CW Now” (0.3) and repeats.

Fox won Saturday yet again with back-to-back episodes of “Cops” (1.9 and 2.3), followed by “America’s Most Wanted” (2.2). ABC edged out CBS for second place with its fifth airing of Julia Roberts starrer “Pretty Woman” (1.6). CBS was third with “Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials 2008” (1.8) and back-to-back episodes of “48 Hours Mystery” (1.1 and 1.6). Fourth-place NBC aired “U.S. Women’s Championship Figure Skating” (0.9).

On Friday, NBC scored a narrow victory with “1 vs. 100” (2.3), “Friday Night Lights” (1.9) and “Las Vegas” (2.1). Fox was second with repeats. CBS was third with repeats and “Garth Brooks: Live in L.A.” (2.1). The CW was fourth with “Friday Night Smackdown” (1.4). ABC came in fifth with repeats and “20/20” (1.9).

NBC Taps Cortese for ‘My Dad’

January 25, 2008 3:51 PM

Dan CorteseThe bandana is back.

Dan Cortese—best known from MTV Sports, “Melrose Place,” “Veronica’s Closet” and, now and forever, a series of 1990s Burger King commercials—is returning to prime time.

NBC has tapped the actor as host of its upcoming competition reality series “My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad.” The network notes that Cortese is a father and football coach, and therefore a perfect host for the show.

“My Dad,” from Mark Burnett Productions and Reveille, features fathers and their kids teaming up to complete stunt-driven challenges. Given that the similarly physically competitive “American Gladiators” is heating up NBC’s ratings, the network likely hopes to funnel some “Gladiator” interest into the new show.

The network is expected to announce a “My Dad” premiere date next week.

Fox's Darnell Relieved Critics Dislike ‘Moment’

January 24, 2008 3:26 PM

Mike Darnell"It's way beyond my expectations," Fox's president of alternative entertainment Mike Darnell says of the lofty premiere ratings for "Moment of Truth.” "I cannot imagine a better retention of 'Idol.'"

Darnell is basking in the day-after Nielsen glow—and inflamed critic responses—for his latest headline-grabbing unscripted effort.

The show wasn’t sent to critics before the debut. It’s a tactic Darnell says he learned the hard way after sending out a preview copy of “Temptation Island” right before walking into the Television Critics Association press tour several years ago.

So now after every Fox reality premiere, Darnell gets the roller-coaster experience of reading his reviews and ratings on the same day.

“They thought ["Moment"] was everything from boring, to vile, to boring and vile,” he says. “But generally speaking, if you have a critically acclaimed reality show, it’s not a big hit. Then you have, like, ‘Amazing Race.’ Reviews have been great for ‘Kitchen Nightmares,’ and it does well, but it’s not a 25 [share]. I don’t think most critics would say they represent regular people. ["Moment"] did not get good reviews, and I would have thought I had done something wrong if it did.”

One common complaint from critics and viewers is that the show’s pace is too sluggish, particularly in the game’s early rounds.

“For every game show on television, somebody says it’s too slow,” Darnell says. “‘Deal or No Deal,’ for all its energy, can be slow. When opening those first 10 boxes, I feel like I’m gonna kill myself.”

That said, Darnell says the “Moment” pace will pick up.

“It’s always been a semi-issue with the show because you have the pauses between the revelation and [the lie detector result],” he says. “You gotta have that to watch the reaction of the friends and family. But we’re going to try to quicken the pace a little bit.”

The show’s promised “end of western civilization” drama will increase as well, Darnell says, particularly once the show shifts to the 8 p.m. hour in early March.

“We intentionally opened with a middle-of-the-road episode,” he says. “I didn’t want people from middle America to freak out coming out of ‘American Idol.’”

Darnell does not expect the show to retain its lofty premiere ratings height. But with a debut that strong, he figures there’s plenty of ratings acreage to burn.

“There’s no one who doesn’t think it will go down after ‘Idol,’” he says. “But if I lose 20% next week, great.”

No Lie: Fox’s 'Moment of Truth' Opens Huge

January 24, 2008 9:52 AM

Moment of Truth (Fox)For the third time this month, the season's highest-rated new series premiere record has been shattered: Fox’s provocative lie detector game show opened with a massive Nielsen rating thanks to an “American Idol” lead-in and plenty of viewer curiosity.

“Moment” was seen by 23 million viewers and scored a 10.2 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, retaining 94% of its “Idol” audience (10.8). That’s higher than previous record-setting freshman debuts this season by NBC’s “American Gladiators” (5.9) and Fox’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (7.6).

The "Moment" premiere is the largest retention ever of an “Idol” lead-in, and the highest-rated premiere on any network since last February's "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader" (11.2) -- Fox's previous game show to debut in a post-"Idol" slot. Drop off between the first and second half hour of "Moment" was 13%, which is nominal considering the large influx of “Idol” viewers. The "Moment" rating could shift slightly in the nationals later today since there’s one minute of “Idol” bleed into the program.

The show was not sent for review to critics, but TV Guide’s Matt Roush had an early critique this morning: “Who with a brain or a soul could do anything but despise Fox's new bottom-of-the-reality-barrel time-waster.” Viewers posting on the blog were more intrigued, though several said the show’s pace needed to speed up.

Once again, an NBC unscripted effort held up best against “Idol.” Continuing its “Million Dollar Mission,” last night’s “Deal or No Deal” hit a 15-month high in this time period (3.7). The “MDM” (where suitcases containing $1,000,000 keep being added to the board until a contestant finally wins the top prize) has played like a sweeps stunt, only placed in January. The play has given a more serialized nature to the show that has boosted tune-in, not unlike Ken Jennings’ famed winning streak on “Jeopardy.”

NBC also had “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (2.2) and “Law & Order” (3.0).

Other competitors didn’t fare nearly as well against Fox’s duo.

Third-place CBS’s entire lineup hit series lows, including “Power of 10” (0.9), “Criminal Minds” (3.2) and “CSI: NY” (3.3, winning the 10 p.m. hour).

ABC’s “Wife Swap” also hit a series low (1.9), followed by “Supernanny” (2.7) and a season low “Cashmere Mafia” (2.0).

The CW aired “Crowned” (0.7) and a “Gossip Girl” repeat (0.5).

UPDATE: Fox's Mike Darnell on "Moment of Truth" ratings and critic reviews. "They thought it was everything from boring, to vile, to boring and vile. But generally speaking, if you have a critically acclaimed reality show, it's not a big hit..." More ...

‘Idol,’ ‘House’ Lift Fox to Tuesday Win

January 23, 2008 11:40 AM

American Idol (Fox)Fox easily won Tuesday night across key measures in the preliminary Nielsen ratings, with “American Idol” (11.7 among adults 18 to 49) and a “House” repeat (5.1) scoring the highest returns.

“Idol” dipped 15% from last week’s two-hour premiere, which is a slightly better retention than last year.

NBC came in second place, with “The Biggest Loser: Couples” (3.7) rebounding 23% from last week thanks to having to face only an hour of “Idol” instead of two. At 10 p.m., “Law & Order: SVU” won the hour (4.6).

CBS placed third with repeats of “NCIS” (2.1) and “The Unit” (1.9) followed by “48 Hours Mystery” (2.0).

ABC was fourth with two “Just for Laughs” episodes (both 1.4), “According to Jim” (2.2), “Carpoolers” (1.7) and “Boston Legal” (2.2).

The CW aired a “Reaper” repeat (0.6) and “One Tree Hill” (1.3).

Holiday Weekend Ratings Roundup

January 22, 2008 12:06 PM

Sarah Connor (Fox)Monday: ‘Gladiators’ Ready?
NBC continued its Monday-night reign with unscripted power duo “American Gladiators” (4.3 preliminary Nielsen rating among adults 18 to 49) and “Deal or No Deal” (4.4, the highest-rated show of the night), followed by an original “Medium” (3.4). NBC also won in total viewers.

Despite dominating at 8 p.m., “Gladiators” was down another few ticks this week, which has to give NBC executives some pause. The series keeps winning hours, yet keeps losing (a slight number of) viewers. This is the third week for “Gladiators” in its Monday time period and you want to see ratings stabilization right … about … now. If the show holds its number next week, chances are “Gladiators” will at minimum enjoy a fair-sized run. If the show’s rating drops into the 3s, it’s worry time.

Speaking of which, second-place Fox’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (3.6) is in its second week in its 9 p.m. time period and continues to drop (down 14%). Fox points out that “Terminator” improved the slot by 70% compared to last year. Lead-in “Prison Break” was down slightly (3.1).

Fourth-place ABC’s “Dance War” (2.6) also continued to dip, followed by “Notes From the Underbelly” (1.6) and “October Road” (1.9).

In third place, CBS had comedy and “CSI: Miami” repeats, earning a 3.1 average for the night. In fifth, The CW had comedy repeats (0.7).

Sunday: You Know There’s a Writers Strike When…
CBS stocks its Sunday night schedule with a news special called “Global Warming: The Melting Polar Ice Caps” that in turn earns a mere 1.7 rating.

And you really know there’s a writers strike when that “Polar Ice Caps” special was the highest-rated non-sports programming for its time period.

“Ice Caps” beat everything at 7 p.m. except Fox’s presentation of the NFC Championship game, New York Giants at Green Bay Packers, which earned a massive 18.4 preliminary rating.

ABC was second for the evening with repeats and a two-hour “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (3.8). CBS was third with the news special, the season finale of “The Amazing Race” (3.1) and repeats. NBC was fourth with “Dateline” (1.2) and a movie. The CW had repeats, “CW Now” and an original “Life Is Wild” (0.2—and not canceled, remember?).

Saturday: Cops and Movies
Fox won easily with “Cops” (2.0 and 2.3) and “America’s Most Wanted” (2.4) over competing repeats and movies.

Friday: Immortal CBS Dramas
This deep into the writers strike, how is it CBS still manages to still have originals of its entire Friday night scripted lineup? The alternative crime dramas were the three highest-rated shows of the night: “Ghost Whisperer” (2.7), “Moonlight” (2.4) and “Numb3rs” (2.6).

Fox was second with repeats. NBC was third with “1 vs. 100” (1.8), “Friday Night Lights” (1.8) and “Las Vegas” (2.0). The CW was fourth with “Friday Night Smackdown” (1.5). ABC was fifth with repeats and “20/20” (1.8).

How the DGA Helped Striking Writers

January 18, 2008 5:21 PM

Striking ShowrunnersThere are a couple of predictable takes floating around regarding the Directors Guild of America’s new contract agreement with studios.

The DGA accomplished in a few days what writers haven’t been able to do in months, goes one.

By being so stubborn, goes another, the writers have blown it because now the DGA has established the template for a new guild contract.

Here’s why both miss the point: The DGA negotiating team didn't simply breeze into talks and make a groundbreaking deal in a context-free vacuum. The directors stood on the shoulders of the WGA’s previous negotiating efforts and benefited from the strike. Directors are receiving a superior new-media deal to what they ever could have made before the Writers Guild of America chipped away at the studios’ enormous initial resistance to give talent meaningful slices of the digital market.

Yet writers will benefit from the DGA’s negotiating efforts, too—even if the current contract terms are not considered ideal.

The new-media contract talks have been like digging a ditch. The WGA dug out plenty of earth these past months, making gains into the studio’s stony positioning. Then the DGA took over the effort from where the writers left off and dug deeper. Now the WGA will go back in.

For the guilds, the only thing that matters is changing the studios’ list of what are considered acceptable terms. Whether that’s accomplished by a writer waving a picket sign or another guild haggling makes little difference.

For example: The WGA talks collapsed Dec. 7 after the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers demanded the writers take six deal points off the table. The most important of those points, according to a WGA statement at the time, was that payments for paid Internet downloads be based on a distributor’s gross revenue rather than the producer's claimed gross.

AMPTP president Nick Counter declared in December that these points were unacceptable and represented a “quixotic pursuit of radical demands” that betrayed “a fundamental misunderstanding of the economics of new media.”

Well, Internet downloads based on distributor's gross is in the DGA contract.

Another item among the WGA’s six rejected demands involved employing a third party to establish a fair market value for studio new-media deals. But the directors’ contract includes unprecedented access to studios’ deal data and the ability to challenge suspected sweetheart agreements, which sources say effectively addresses the WGA’s point.

So will writers readily accept the DGA contract?

Some already have. “ER” showrunner John Wells declares on ArtfulWriter today that the DGA agreement is “a good deal … a historic deal. We’ve won. The strike was necessary to win it and I can only assume our negotiating committee will be sitting down with the AMPTP by early next week to resolve these last, final issues.”

The WGA leadership will likely respond with less enthusiasm. They’ll wisely try to shovel out a little more, just as directors wisely refused to accept where the writers left off in December.

But thanks to the DGA, writers are firmly closer to a good deal now than they were a week ago.

Fox Tops Thursday With ‘5th Grader’ and ‘Lyrics’

January 18, 2008 11:20 AM

Fifth Grader (Fox)Fox won its first in-season Thursday with regular series programming in 15 years last night, thanks to decreased competition and the promotional power of “American Idol.”

Fox’s regular Thursday night lineup of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” (3.7 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49) and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” (3.4) hit season highs. The shows were promoted earlier this week during “Idol” and benefited from airing against mostly repeat programming.

NBC was second, starting with comedy repeats of “My Name Is Earl” (2.4) and “The Office” (2.2). At 9 p.m., “Celebrity Apprentice” (3.9) was the highest-rated show of the night, and at 10 p.m. the final original episode of “ER” (3.5) won the hour.

CBS had repeats of “Without a Trace” (1.8) and “CSI” (3.5) leading into an original “Without a Trace” (3.3).

On ABC, an original “Ugly Betty” (3.0) was followed by a repeat of “Grey’s Anatomy” (2.5) and an original “Big Shots” (a series-low 1.8).

The CW aired repeats of “Smallville” (1.1) and “Supernatural” (0.9).

'Nashville Star’ Moves to NBC

January 17, 2008 12:39 PM

Nashville Star (USA)

The sixth season of USA Network’s country music competition series “Nashville Star” is moving to NBC for a summer run.

“Nashville” will air as part of an “All-American Summer” promotion, which includes the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and the second season of “American Gladiators.” As previously reported, NBC plans to use the Americana theme to help unify its summer programming.

"These exciting new reality shows will be a vital part of 'NBC's All-American Summer' building up to the drama of the Beijing Olympics," said Craig Plestis, executive VP of alternative programming at NBC. "We are thrilled to feature the powerhouse 'Gladiators' this summer and it's a real coup to bring 'Nashville Star' to NBC."

With the writers strike shutting down production of scripted programming, USA Network series “Monk” and “Psych” also will get a run on NBC. The difference is that NBC will air originals of “Nashville,” but repeats of the other shows, which were produced earlier this season. Whether the NBC version of “Nashville” will receive a second airing on USA Network has yet to be determined.

NBC plans some changes for “Nashville.” A two-hour audition special will show the best and worst from the show’s casting process, as “American Idol” does. Duets and singing groups will be allowed to compete for the first time, and the audition age has been lowered to 16.

The series’ hosts have included Jewel, Wynonna Judd and LeAnn Rimes. For this round, a new host and judges will be announced.

The series joins “The Biggest Loser” and “The Office” as NBC titles affiliated with NBC Entertainment Co-Chair Ben Silverman, who is an executive producer on “Nashville” along with his former Reveille partners Howard T. Owens and Mark Koops, as well as Sallyann Salsano.

Fox in First Place for Season

January 17, 2008 10:10 AM

American Idol (Fox)That was fast.

After only two nights of “American Idol,” Fox has moved into first place for the season.

Fox typically comes from behind to win the network ratings race sometime after “Idol” gets underway. But compared to the last three seasons, this is the earliest Fox has slipped into the lead. Fox leapt to a 3.4 average rating today among adults 18 to 49, with the other three major broadcast networks tied at 3.3.

Once Fox gets into an “Idol”-fueled lead, they’re considered almost impossible to overthrow. This year, with scripted-heavy competitors hindered by the writers strike and Fox airing the Super Bowl next month, the network’s eventual victory has been considered a foregone conclusion.

Earlier this season, Fox launched a reality-heavy fall lineup with fewer schedule-disrupting Major League Baseball games. Combined with the highest-rated World Series in three years, the schedule put the network in a better position to take the lead once "Idol" returned.

Fox pulled their current season-to-date victory numbers from the middle of the Nielsen week, and therefore the network standings could shift over the next few days. But claiming a first-place lead is still considered a safe bet at this point given the amount of "Idol" to come.

Last night, the second episode of “Idol” had a 12.6 rating, down slightly from Tuesday’s premiere, and off 19% from the second performance last year. The network nonetheless managed to outperform all its broadcast competitors combined by 27%.

For the second night in a row, NBC held up best under the “Idol” fire. “Deal or No Deal” (3.1) was down 14% compared to last week, yet up 41% compared to its run against “Idol” last year. “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (2.4) and “Law & Order” (3.6) were on par.

ABC came in third with “Wife Swap” (2.0) and “Supernanny (2.5), both taking about 30% hits from “Idol.” At 10 p.m., “Cashmere Mafia” continued to struggle (2.2).

CBS aired a series-low “Power of 10” (1.1) and part three of “Comanche Moon” (2.4).

The CW had “Crowned” (0.7) and a repeat of the “Gossip Girl” pilot (0.4).

Update: Fox Pleased Despite 'Idol' Ratings Dip

January 16, 2008 8:40 AM

American Idol (Fox)The seventh-season premiere of Fox’s “American Idol” may have been its lowest-rated in four years, but Fox executives say they are pleased with its performance.

“I woke up thrilled this morning,” said Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment at Fox. “It’s unbelievable how big this show is in its seventh season. If you had told me in season two this would be the biggest thing in television by 12 million viewers in its seventh year, I would have said you were crazy.”

“Idol” fell from last year’s series-high premiere perch, yet once again was a ratings titan that easily blew away the competition Tuesday night, as well as all other network premieres from earlier this season.

“Idol” received a 13.8 rating among adults 18 to 49, according to national Nielsen data. That’s down 13% from last year’s 15.8 and down 10% from 2006’s 15.3. Among total viewers, “Idol” was seen by an average of 33.2 million, down 11% from last year.

Both the demo and the total-viewer figures are the lowest Tuesday-night "Idol" premiere standings since 2004.

“In the history of American television there has never been a show this dominant that the disparity between it and the next show is like 55%,” Darnell said. “I honestly believe this is the last of its kind. I don’t believe with DVRs and Internet and video games that you will ever see another show like this.”

Fox has devoted just as many resources to promoting “Idol” this season as in recent years, said Joe Earley, senior VP of marketing and communications at Fox. In fact, “Idol” received more on-air promotion than usual, since “24” was postponed due to the writers strike.

“The media spend was the same as it has been and we had more on-air weight,” Earley said. “That ‘24’ time was divided between ‘Idol’ and ‘Sarah Connor.’”

“Idol” is expected to dip slightly in its second airing tonight, as is the usual “Idol” pattern.

Contrary to last season, when the judges took critical knocks for some vicious mocking of the contestants in the opening rounds, this time Simon Cowell was on his best behavior. One rejected contestant was even given a group hug by the judges.

“The King of Mean was replaced by the Prince of Nice,” the NY Post declared.

"Why are the judges so well behaved?” asked the Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes.

Other early reviews:

Daily News: “If last night's 'Idol' kickoff wasn't a show for the memory book, it did nothing to discourage tens of millions of fans from signing up for the new ride.”

EW: “A more balanced talent-to-train-wreck ratio in the audition rounds.”

Among last night’s network competitors, Fox’s “Death Star” zapped about 30% week-to-week from NBC’s “The Biggest Loser: Couples.” (3.0).

NBC came in second place for the evening, averaging a 3.5 rating compared to Fox’s 13.8. At 10 p.m., NBC's “Law & Order: SVU” (4.6) won the hour.

In third place, CBS’ “NCIS” also held up solidly (3.0), though part two of its movie “Comanche Moon” dropped sharply from Sunday night’s premiere (2.4).

Fourth-place ABC scheduled two episodes of “Just for Laughs” (both 1.2), “According to Jim” (1.2), a “Carpoolers” repeat (0.9) and “Boston Legal” (2.0).

The CW had a "Reaper" repeat (0.6) and "One Tree Hill" (1.3), the latter down 19% against "Idol," yet besting ABC for the hour.

(Updated 4:15)

‘Deal,’ ‘Gladiators’ Top Monday

January 15, 2008 10:26 AM

Deal or No Deal (NBC)NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” and “American Gladiators” topped the Nielsen returns for Monday night, with “Gladiators” largely maintaining its rating from last week’s time-period premiere.

The Monday debut of Fox’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” delivered a solid rating, although it took a significant hit compared to its NFL-fueled Sunday night premiere.

The third episode of “Gladiators,” which earned a 4.6 preliminary Nielsen rating among adults 18 to 49, should help NBC feel confident about its quick renewal of the series. “Gladiators” ruled the 8 p.m. hour, but was down a couple of tenths from last week.

NBC’s “Million Dollar Mission” stunt for “Deal,” where the number of $1 million suitcases increases each episode until a contestant finally takes home the top prize, continued to boost the show’s viewership. “Deal” had a 5.0, up significantly from last week. At 10 p.m., “Medium” was on par with a 3.3. Overall, NBC won in the demo and total viewers.

Fox was second, with “Prison Break” returning from hiatus with an average number (3.3). Lacking a massive NFL lead in this time, “Terminator” (4.2) had been expected to drop, although its 45% decline is fairly steep. Still, the scores gave Fox its best Monday night of the season.

CBS was third with comedy repeats “How I Met Your Mother” (2.7), “The Big Bang Theory” (3.2), “Two and a Half Men” (3.8) and “Rules of Engagement” (2.7). At 10 p.m., an original “CSI: Miami” (4.2) won the hour.

ABC’s “Dance War” came in fourth place in its time period (2.9), about on par with last week. “Notes From the Underbelly” was up (1.7) and “October Road” (2.0) was on par.

The CW averaged a 0.7 with repeats.

Burn Off: Globes & ‘Gladiators’ Edition

January 14, 2008 4:40 PM

NBC's decision to choose Billy Bush and Nancy O'Dell to host the Golden Globes after losing the event's celebrities and broadcast exclusivity to the writers strike was like running into a burning house and then soaking yourself with gasoline … Now NBC is offering some money back to Globes advertisers … Thankfully swag has not been impacted … Far more important to NBC is how “Gladiators” performs tonight. Armed with “Gladiators” premiere numbers, the New York Times says viewers are embracing reality and shrugging off the lack of scripted, though the ratings for “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” could belie that notion if that show holds up as well … The Gladiators have tested negative for steroid use (well, at least since they’ve been with the show).

Sunday Ratings: Fox’s ‘Terminator’ Hits, NBC’s Globes Tanks

January 14, 2008 10:53 AM

Terminator (Fox)Aided by an enormous NFL lead-in, the premiere of Fox’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” had a powerful debut Sunday night, but NBC’s airing of the actor-boycotted Golden Globes hit rock-bottom.

“Terminator” earned a 7.6 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, overthrowing NBC’s “American Gladiators” as the highest-rated new series premiere this season. In fact, according to Fox, the show is the highest-rated scripted broadcast debut in three years.

With Fox’s presentation of the NFC playoff game garnering a 14.5 overrun in the 7 p.m. hour, “Terminator” was properly set up to blow away the competition at 8 p.m. Fox’s “Family Guy” (5.6) and “American Dad” (4.1) likewise performed well.

The premiere gives Fox a jumpstart on its usual late-winter domination, which typically begins with the launch of “American Idol,” scheduled for Tuesday.

On the other end of the Sunday night ratings spectrum, NBC’s presentation of the 65th annual Golden Globe Awards as a one-hour “Access Hollywood”-inspired gabfest came in a distant fourth place among the major networks for the 9 p.m. hour (1.7). Critics have been merciless in their appraisals, and the show’s rating was on par with last week’s prerecorded “People’s Choice Awards” on CBS. A two-hour Globes-related “Dateline” (1.1) at 7 p.m. fared even worse. NBC also had an “American Gladiators” repeat at 10 p.m. (1.9).

Occupying the middle ground, ABC came in second with “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (2.2), two repeats of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (3.8 and 5.5) and a new “Brothers & Sisters” (4.2).

In third, CBS aired “60 Minutes” (1.8), “The Amazing Race” (3.7) and part one of its miniseries “Comanche Moon” (3.3). Although the demo rating was modest, CBS noted 15.75 million viewers watched “Comanche,” the largest audience for any movie on any network in more than two years.

The CW aired “CW Now” (0.2) and repeats.

‘Gladiators’ Tour, Silverman’s Reality and Sweeps

January 13, 2008 10:22 PM

Some stories from this week’s TVWeek print edition …


Exclu: “American Gladiators” is only a week out of the gate, but MGM, Reveille and NBC are moving forward with an array of brand extensions: They’re planning a nationwide tour to find new contestants, a Web site honoring the original syndicated series stacked with classic and new video clips, developing an animated series and might relocate the production to Las Vegas. Includes interview with original series creator Johnny Ferraro who declares that “Gladiators” “created reality television.”

silvermansquare.jpg Interview: NBC Co-Chair Ben Silverman details how he engineered
NBC’s recent reality ratings rise
, and keeps the ABC rivalry
alive (“Cashmere Mafia’ feels dead. We’re going to have a wide
open space for ‘Lipstick [Jungle]’”).

Feature: Due to the writers strike, industry experts say the February
sweeps ratings data could be useless
(well, even moreso this time). Includes what each network has planned next month.

CBS Orders Reality Trio

January 13, 2008 9:40 PM

doggyblog.jpgCBS is set to announce three unscripted series orders for debut sometime later this year as the networks continue to ramp up their strike-filling reality fare.

Notably absent from the list: A renewal for “Kid Nation,” though a network representative declined to characterize the show as canceled.

Here are some official descriptions from an upcoming press release (with exclamation points deleted). Air dates and episode counts are not yet available.

— “Secret Talents of the Stars”: Biweekly celebrity talent show will uncover some of the most fascinating and unique secret talents of your favorite film and television stars, whether it be singing, dancing, magic or even acrobatics. Celebrities will compete in a tournament-structured format to determine who has the best hidden talent. Each performance will include a lineup of professional judges to provide their point of view, but it’s the viewers who get to vote for which celebrity impressed them the most. (Executive producers Robyn Nash and Don Weiner)

— “Game Show in My Head”: A half-hour series from executive producer Ashton Kutcher (“Punk’d,” “Beauty and the Geek”), is a hidden-camera game show in which contestants wear an earpiece as they go about their daily lives. As instructed by the host back in the studio, if the contestants can perform crazy, outrageous and oftentimes embarrassing tasks in public, they can go home with big money. (Executive producers Jimmy Mulville & Leon Wilde and Ashton Kutcher, Jason Goldberg & Karey Burke)

— “America’s Top Dog” (working title): Hourlong series where “man’s best friend” can help its owner win big money. Owners and their pets—from “pageant dogs” to those simply trained at home—will live together and battle it out in a dog competition that tests the dog’s relationship with the person who has raised and trained it. (Executive producers R.J. Cutler, Stu Schreiberg and Stephen Kroopnick)

The Golden Globes Mess

January 11, 2008 6:48 PM

What a disaster.

Here’s the announcement from Dick Clark Productions on why the Golden Globes is suddenly a free-for-all media event:

“NBC wanted to have an exclusive three-hour broadcast special disguised as a news conference that would bar all other media, and yet was unwilling to pay a nominal license fee to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and Dick Clark Productions. The HFPA and Dick Clark Productions felt this arrangement was unfair and unacceptable and therefore opened up the event to all media.”

Now what on earth does that mean?

NBC’s answer is complicated, but get-able.

A high-ranking NBC source emphasizes that the network’s Globes agreement is with Dick Clark Productions, not HFPA. When the regular Globes ceremony went pear-shaped because of the writers strike, NBC wanted to invoke a clause in their contract with DCP that permitted postponing the awards altogether should the production company be unable to deliver the usual show.

The only problem: DCP lacked a similar clause in its agreement with HFPA and couldn’t actually move the date.

Therefore, NBC was locked into Jan. 13 and stuck with having to air the awards as a news conference.

“We’re all taking a huge bath on this,” the NBC source says. “We would trade the losses we are taking on this with anybody. We’ve sunk millions into preparing for the event alone.”

Rather than politely taking a soak along with it, NBC claims, DCP turned around this week and demanded a “north of seven figures” license fee to offset its losses.

“Seven figures,” added the NBC source, “is not ‘nominal.’”

NBC refused to pay. DCP retaliated by—and this part is still fuzzy—somehow convincing the HFPA to open the event to all media.

“It’s a nice little kiss from our friends at Dick Clark—here’s a wound, let’s pour salt in it,” the NBC source says.

Now NBC is threatening legal action against DCP: “We have a strong legal claim against Dick Clark Productions and we’re going to pursue it.”

The claim is not so much for losing NBC News’ Globes night exclusivity, but for DCP not having a matching postponement clause in its HFPA contract—and everybody having to go through with this lame half news-half awards, no red carpet and no party endeavor in the first place.

“If [the Globes press conference is] going to be as low-rated as we think it’s going to be,” the NBC source says, “we hope other networks carry it, too.”

Last 'Grey’s' Original Rules Thursday

January 11, 2008 12:49 PM

Grey's Anatomy (ABC)The last original episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” until the writers strike is resolved led ABC to a clear victory Thursday night and gave NBC’s “The Apprentice” a run for its money.

An on-par “Grey’s” earned a 7.0 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, helping 10 p.m.’s “Big Shot” (2.6) improve on its prior performance. At 8 p.m., “Ugly Betty” (3.1) was average.

Coming in second place, CBS had a “CSI: NY” repeat (2.1) that gave a weak lead-in for “CSI” (5.0, its lowest Thursday delivery to date). “Without a Trace” at 10 p.m. (3.4) was edged out by “ER” for the time period win.

NBC opened with comedy originals “My Name Is Earl” (3.4) and “30 Rock” (2.8), followed by the second episode of “Celebrity Apprentice” (3.5, down a sharp 22 percent from last week’s competition-free premiere) and “ER” (3.5).

In fourth place, Fox aired “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” (2.9) and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” (2.3). The CW had repeats.

Wednesday Night’s Ratings Valley

January 10, 2008 10:56 AM

Cashmere Mafia (ABC)Wednesday night’s ratings were all valley, no peaks, as the second week of several midseason shows posted middle-of-the-road returns.

ABC, NBC and CBS had practically a three-way tie for first place, with NBC’s 3.1 preliminary average rating among adults 18 to 49 barely edging out the other networks’ 3.0. NBC also led among total viewers.

NBC won the 8 p.m. hour with “Deal or No Deal” (3.6, the network’s best in that time period in more than a year), followed by the broadcast premiere of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (2.5). “CI,” now a repeat of the USA Network airings, was down 38% from its premiere last year to place third in the hour. At 10 p.m., the “Law & Order” flagship (3.1) fell 18% from its premiere last week.

The second week of ABC’s “Wife Swap” (3.0) dipped slightly from its premiere, while “Supernanny” (3.6) maintained its heading. At 10 p.m., “Cashmere Mafia” (2.3) declined 39% from its already meager Sunday preview.

CBS aired “Power of 10” (1.7) and originals of “Criminal Minds” (3.9 and the highest-rated show of the night) and “CSI: NY” (3.5).

Fox aired repeats of “Back to You” (1.5 and 1.4) and “Til Death” (both 1.4).

The CW’s “Crowned” (0.7) continued to struggle, while “Gossip Girl” was on par (1.1).

The People’s Choice Is NBC

January 9, 2008 11:34 AM

People<br />
s Choice AwardsPerhaps the Golden Globes got off easy.

The return of the People’s Choice Awards was down 54% from last year. CBS’ presentation of the annual event garnered a weak 1.6 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen.

CBS scaled back the production to avoid complications with the Writers Guild of America (no red carpet, no live audience), yet kept the show’s length at two hours. One critic said the awards “had the look and feel of a cable-access retrospective.”

For those morbidly curious, "House" won for favorite drama, "Two and a Half Men" for comedy, "Stargate Atlantis" for sci fi show (beating "Battlestar Galactica"), "Dancing With the Stars" for reality, "The Simpsons" for animated, "Deal or No Deal" for game show and Katherine Heigl and Patrick Dempsey were the favorite female and male performers.

Meanwhile, NBC’s good news continued.

Not only did the network win the night, but it topped every half-hour of prime time, starting with a two-hour edition of “The Biggest Loser: Couples” (4.3, off just a tick from its premiere last week) followed by “Law & Order: SVU” (5.1). The lineup marked the highest-rated non-Olympics Tuesday for the network in more than two years. Yup, nothing can possibly stop NBC from dominating Tuesdays for the rest of the … oh, wait.

Fox was second with repeats of “Bones” (2.0) and “House” (3.6).

CBS was third with an “NCIS” repeat (2.4) and the award show.

The CW edged out ABC for fourth place thanks to the premiere and second episodes of “One Tree Hill” (1.5 and 1.6). “Tree” was down slightly from its last premiere in September 2006, yet it still delivered The CW’s best Tuesday of the season in its target demo of adults 18 to 34.

ABC finished last with the season premiere and a repeat of “Just for Laughs” (1.8 and 1.6), “According to Jim” (1.2), the time-period premiere of “Carpoolers” (1.1) and an encore of the “Cashmere Mafia” pilot (1.0).

Silverman Considers Ordering More ‘Gladiators’

January 8, 2008 1:07 PM

 American Gladiator (NBC)NBC Universal Entertainment Co-Chair Ben Silverman wants to order more “American Gladiators.”

“We’re going to figure out the smartest way to market, schedule and promote them,” Silverman says. “The whole group will discuss it. We don’t want to order 60 of them. Another thought is this summer we got ‘America’s Got Talent,’ ‘American Gladiators’ and the Olympics, so we’re going to be celebrating our Americana all summer.”

Nothing is final, but Silverman’s intention to order more episodes is hardly a surprise given “Gladiators’” whopping Sunday-night premiere rating and last night’s debut performance in its regular time period.

Silverman is especially heartened that the show held its own against college football on Fox. “It feels optimistic that there’s nothing really that can be programmed against it,” he says.

The executive also is plotting a special two-hour "Gladiators" finale to lead into the premiere of NBC's "Knight Rider" remake on Sunday, Feb. 17. He predicts the evening could be NBC's biggest night of the season.

“I can’t tell you [what we’re doing for the finale],” he says. “If I did, Wolf and Hulk would show up at your door.”

The next round of "Gladiators" will include a greater variety of games for contestants to compete in, among other fine-tuning format tweaks, he says.

NBC has enjoyed a series of reality series ratings victories since the start of the new year. By adding celebrities to “The Apprentice” and couples to “The Biggest Loser,” the veteran shows have garnered strong openings.

NBC’s press headlines, however, have been dominated by the writers strike shutting down the network’s presentation of the Golden Globe Awards.

“So disappointed,” says Silverman, who’s a nominee this year for Showtime’s “The Tudors.” “I just can’t understand saying you have an interim agreement with one company but not accepting one with another company on the same exact terms. That whole thing feels disheartening.”

UPDATE: NBC plans to shortly announce it will offer its owned and affiliated stations a second run of the first three episodes of "American Gladiators" during non-prime-time hours on the weekends of Jan. 19-20, Jan. 26-27 and Feb. 2-3.

The move is particularly apt for "Gladiators," as the show ran in syndication for years during its original incarnation.

"We're extremely excited by the response to 'American Gladiators,'" said John Wallace, president of the NBC local media division. "By adding the show to our weekend afternoon lineup, we can expose the program to a new audience and benefit from the local ad opportunities. It's a win-win for all involved."

‘Gladiators’ Stomps ‘Dance War’ Despite Dip

January 8, 2008 11:43 AM

The premiere of NBC’s “American Gladiators” endured a ratings dip compared to its Sunday night debut, yet it still managed to soundly beat the premiere of ABC’s “Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann.”

The one-hour “Gladiators” fell 19% to a 4.8 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49 on Monday night, making the show the highest non-sports program of the evening. The two-hour premiere of the “Dancing With the Stars” spinoff “Dance Wars” posted a 3.0 rating, down 53% from the “Stars” premiere last March.

The spandex vs. leotard faceoff marks the second major clash of new winter strike-schedule programming on NBC and ABC. On Sunday, “Gladiators” bested the preview for “Cashmere Mafia” (although it was beat by an original “Desperate Housewives” during its first hour).

Yet none of the reality competitions compared to Fox’s presentation of the college football BCS Championship game between LSU and Ohio State (7.9). The Bowl Championship Series game helped the network win the night among all key measures, despite being down 25% from last year’s matchup between Ohio State and Florida.

NBC was second, with “Deal or No Deal” (3.6) retaining a sizable amount of its “Gladiators” lead in. At 10 p.m., NBC aired the season premiere of “Medium,” which was down a slight 6% to hit its lowest premiere rating to date, but it came in second place for the hour after Fox’s football game.

CBS was third with comedy repeats and a repeat of “CSI: Miami” (2.8).

ABC was fourth with “Dance Wars” and an original “October Road” (1.8).

The CW was fifth with repeats.

Golden Globes: A Press Conference is Plenty

January 7, 2008 5:27 PM

Golden GlobesIf the brisk recitation of names is good enough for announcing the Golden Globe nominees each year, what’s so bad about using the press conference format for the awards themselves?

As reported, the Writers Guild of America strike has succeeded in shutting down the main ceremony after actors supported their union brethren and vowed not to cross a picket line to attend. Instead, NBC News will air an hour-long press conference at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Recent entertainment industry award shows are so frequently accompanied by critic complaints and sagging ratings—so much pomp for so little circumstance—that it’s tough not to see the strike-induced format as a liberation from overstuffed tradition.

The aside-from-the-obvious bummer for NBC: For the third time in a row this season, the network’s scant premiere good-news ratings have been overshadowed. First, a strong premiere number for “Heroes” was drowned out by a silly Nielsen processing controversy. Then the steep “Bionic Woman” premiere ratings victory lap quickly stumbled when viewership crashed in subsequent episodes. Today, NBC is touting record-setting premiere ratings for “American Gladiators,” but all eyes are on the statues and sequins.

‘American Gladiators’ Shows Ratings Muscle

January 7, 2008 12:07 PM

American Gladiators (NBC)NBC’s revamp of the campy competition classic “American Gladiators” scored the highest new series premiere rating of the season.

“Gladiators” earned a 5.9 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49 and was seen by 12 million viewers. The demo rating gives "Gladiators" the best score for an NBC debut since “Heroes." Previously, the highest premiere tally this season was held by "Bionic Woman" (5.7), NBC's other action-filled primetime remake.

The two-hour premiere came in second during the 9 p.m. hour behind an original episode of “Desperate Housewives” (7.2), but it handily won the 10 p.m. hour. What’s more, “Gladiators’” final half-hour was its highest-rated, with a 6.1, which bodes well for the true test of the show’s strength when the show airs tonight in its regular time period.

MSNBC called the program “an awkward start,” but still “a thrilling television event.” BuddyTV said it’s “cheesy fun.” The Onion wrote, “After two grueling hours, I want my brain cells back.”

A two-hour “Deal or No Deal” (3.0) led into the program.

Despite “Gladiators’” showing, NBC’s 4.4 overall put it in second place in the preliminary ratings, with ABC and CBS tied for first with a 4.5 (CBS also won among total viewers). ABC had “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (2.4), “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (4.7) and “Housewives” (7.2), all roughly on par. At 10 p.m., a preview of “Cashmere Mafia” earned a 3.8, down about 19% from the “Brothers & Sisters” average in the time period.

CBS was boosted by some sports overrun, which bled into “60 Minutes” (4.9). Then the network aired “The Amazing Race” (3.4) and “Cold Case” (2.5).

In third place, Fox aired “The Simpsons” (3.9), “King of the Hill” (3.3), an encore “Family Guy” (2.9) and “American Dad” (2.4). The CW aired repeats.

Clarified: The WGA’s Leno Monologue Position

January 4, 2008 6:18 PM

Jeff Hermanson, the WGA West's assistant executive director, phoned to clarify the guild’s position moving forward regarding this whole Jay Leno monologue feud.

“Our position is that we have strike rules,” he says. “When there’s an allegation strike rules were broken by a member, the strike rules compliance committee investigates and makes a recommendation. If there’s a recommendation of disciplinary action … a trial committee is set up to hear evidence. It’s a formal process with all the elements of due processes that are required by law.”

Ah. So the WGA is launching an investigation on Leno’s alleged monologue violation. Got it.

“I’m not saying this process is going to go anywhere with regards to Jay Leno,” he continues, “but that we have a process and we have strike rules and they apply to everyone equally.”

Uh, okay. But if the WGA’s public stance has been that Leno broke the rules, shouldn’t that process happen?

“It would be premature to say complaints were made,” he says. “We know he did monologues. We don’t know he wrote the monologues. The first step would be to find out whether those monologues were written by him. If they were ad libbed, there is no violation.”


The accusation that Leno violated strike rules by doing a monologue has been by the WGA itself. And the biggest proponent of the theory that Leno wrote his own monologue has been Leno himself, who mentioned he composed it during his first night back. So aren’t those the two facts – that Leno wrote his monologue and the WGA says he violated their rules – the only two things that have been clear and agreed upon in this whole business?

“The first night he said that,” Hermanson says. “The next day [WGA president Patric Verrone] spoke with him. Leno said he wasn’t aware it was a violation, he didn’t think it was a violation. We clarified. We don’t carry this process out in the public eye. We act with discretion and try to give the person the benefit of the doubt. You’re always innocent until proven guilty. If somebody breaks a rule through a misunderstanding, that’s an extenuating circumstance and we take that into account. We’re not going to start making accusations and allegations against him publicly.”

But… but …

The CW Shakes Up Schedule

January 4, 2008 5:07 PM

Gossip GirlAfter watching the major networks plot their strike schedules, The CW is making some moves of its own. Significant shifts include moving its comedy block back to Sunday nights, trying out supernatural dramedy “Reaper” with “Smallville” on Thursdays and teaming “Gossip Girl” repeats with the return of the “Pussycat Dolls” reality series on Mondays.

Some notes on this: Low-performing family drama “Life Is Wild” is gone, but the network continues to insist the show is not canceled. “Supernatural” also isn’t listed, but assurances that the series is still alive are more convincing here; the network mainly wants to try the similarly supernatural "Reaper" in its slot (unfortunately for "Reaper," that time period is also shared by ABC's "Lost"). On Mondays, “Gossip” will restart from its premiere episode to repeat its first season.

Although the CW took a ratings hit moving its comedy block to Sundays last year, the time period was a bit different. This time the shows run from 8 to 10 p.m. rather than 7 to 9. Among the comedy block, “Everybody Hates Chris” and several episodes of “Aliens in America” are originals, while the rest are repeats.

8-9 p.m.: “Gossip Girl” (Jan. 28)
9-10 p.m.: “Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious” (Feb. 18)

8-9 p.m.: “Reaper” (Jan. 15)/“Beauty and the Geek” (March 11)
9-10 p.m.: “One Tree Hill” (Jan. 8)

Wednesday (Feb. 20)
8-10 p.m.: “America’s Next Top Model”
9-10 p.m.: “Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious” encores

8-9 p.m.: “Smallville”
9-10 p.m.: “Reaper” (Feb. 28)

Sunday (Feb. 10)
7-7:30 p.m.: “CW Now”
7:30-8 p.m.: “Everybody Hates Chris” encores
8-8:30 p.m.: “Everybody Hates Chris”
8:30-9 p.m.: “Aliens in America”
9-9:30 p.m.: “Girlfriends”
9:30-10 p.m.: “The Game”

SAG President: Actors Won't Attend Golden Globes

January 4, 2008 2:55 PM

Screen Actors Guild president Alan Rosenberg has just released a statement driving home the point that most actors will indeed refuse to cross a writers picket line to attend the Golden Globes: "After considerable outreach to Golden Globe actor nominees and their representatives over the past several weeks, there appears to be unanimous agreement that these actors will not cross WGA picket lines to appear on the Golden Globe Awards as acceptors or presenters. We applaud our members for this remarkable show of solidarity for striking Writers Guild of America writers.

"We have also been asked about our position regarding network talk shows," Mr. Rosenberg added. "We urge our members to appear on the two programs that have independent agreements with the WGA, 'The Late Show With David Letterman' and 'The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson.' However, actors who are asked to appear on the struck network talk shows will have to cross WGA picket lines, creating the same situation that has led to the consensus among actors to skip the Golden Globes."

Warner Backs Blu-ray

January 4, 2008 12:57 PM

Blu ray DiscWarner Bros. has swung into the Sony Blu-ray camp.

The company announced that “in response to consumer demand,” it will release its high-definition home video titles exclusively in the Blu-ray format starting later this year.

“Warner Bros.’ move to exclusively release in the Blu-ray disc format is a strategic decision focused on the long term and the most direct way to give consumers what they want,” said Barry Meyer, chairman-CEO, Warner Bros. “The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger. We believe that exclusively distributing in Blu-ray will further the potential for mass-market success and ultimately benefit retailers, producers and, most importantly, consumers.”

Blu-ray outsold the Toshiba-backed rival HD DVD format by more than a 2-to-1 margin during most of 2007. Warner Bros. currently issues titles in both formats.

“A two-format landscape has led to consumer confusion and indifference toward high definition, which has kept the technology from reaching mass adoption and becoming the important revenue stream that it can be for the industry,” Kevin Tsujihara, president of the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group, said.

“Consumers have clearly chosen Blu-ray, and we believe that recognizing this preference is the right step in making this great home entertainment experience accessible to the widest possible audience,” he added. “Warner Bros. has worked very closely with the Toshiba Corp. in promoting high-definition media and we have enormous respect for their efforts. We look forward to working with them on other projects in the future.”

In short: If you received an HD DVD player for Christmas, you might want to ask for a receipt.

UPDATE: Warner Bros. responds: "Toshiba is quite surprised by Warner Bros.' decision to abandon HD DVD in favor of Blu-ray ... We were particularly disappointed that this decision was made in spite of the significant momentum HD DVD has gained in the US market as well as other regions in 2007. HD DVD players and PCs have outsold Blu-ray in the US market in 2007.We will assess the potential impact of this announcement with the other HD DVD partner companies and evaluate potential next steps."

UPDATE 2: Toshiba cancels HD DVD press conference at CES.

‘Celebrity Apprentice’ Wins Thursday

January 4, 2008 11:56 AM

Celebrity Apprentice (NBC)Thursday night’s premiere of “Celebrity Apprentice” on NBC garnered the show’s highest rating in more than two years.

The seventh season of the “Apprentice” franchise was shifted back to its former Thursday night time period after a low-rated run last year on Sunday. This edition—staffed by lower-tier celebrity personalities such as Trace Adkins, Marilu Henner, Vincent Pastore and Stephen Baldwin playing for charity—scored a 4.5 rating among adults 18 to 49 in preliminary Nielsen ratings, winning the night.

NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” (3.7) at 8 p.m. and lead-out “ER” (3.6) came in second in their respective hours, behind college football on Fox.

NBC managed to tie Fox overall to win in the preliminary ratings, with Fox’s Orange Bowl, Kansas vs. Virginia Tech (4.1), up slightly over last year’s match.

In second place, CBS aired a rerun of “CSI” (3.3) bracketed by repeats of “Without a Trace” (1.8 and 2.6).

Third-place ABC had repeats of “Ugly Betty” (1.5), “Grey’s Anatomy” (2.0) and “Desperate Housewives” (1.8).

The CW had repeats of “Smallville” (0.9) and “Supernatural” (0.8).

Also: NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" (4.3 household rating) continued to best CBS's "The Late Show With David Letterman" (3.8) during their second night back in originals, though overall viewing levels dropped after Wednesday's initial bump.

WGA, Leno Battle Over Monologue Rule

January 3, 2008 4:55 PM

Jay LenoThe Writers Guild of America and NBC issued conflicting statements Thursday about whether late-night host Jay Leno violated union strike rules by performing a monologue Wednesday night.

The WGA said Leno’s self-penned opening violated the guild’s policy: “A discussion took place today between Jay Leno and the Writers Guild to clarify to him that writing for ‘The Tonight Show’ constitutes a violation of the guild’s strike rules,” the WGA said in a statement.

NBC responded to the WGA’s complaint with a statement suggesting Leno will continue to perform a monologue: “The WGA agreement permits Jay Leno to write his own monologue for ‘The Tonight Show.’ The WGA is not permitted to implement rules that conflict with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the studios and the WGA.”

Countered one insider at a competing network, referring to the WGA agreement that expired when the guild went on strike two months ago: “How can you violate a contract when there is no contract?”

NBC’s “The Tonight Show” returned to the air Wednesday night along with CBS’ “The Late Show With David Letterman” and other late-night talk shows after an eight-week strike-induced hiatus.

Letterman’s show is owned by his production company, Worldwide Pants, which brokered an interim agreement with the guild that allowed him to return to the air with WGA writers. NBC Universal-owned “The Tonight Show” resumed without writers.

During Leno’s monologue, the host admitted writing the opening himself, but suggested that by doing so he was following union guidelines (even though the WGA has made it clear it considers monologues a violation of its rules).

“I’m doing what I did the day I started,” he said. “I write jokes and wake my wife up in the middle of the night and say, ‘Honey, is this funny?’ So if this monologue doesn’t work, it’s my wife’s fault. … We are not using outside guys. We are following the guild thing. We can write for ourselves.”

Leno’s monologue largely drew praise from critics for supporting his writers while staying true to the host’s traditional late-night comedy style. Letterman’s performance, while firmly beating the WGA drum, struck viewers as less than inspired. “Jay got a lot of laughs, Dave got a lot of claps,” observed one industry insider.

Although “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson wrote his own monologues when he returned to the air during the last WGA strike in 1988, he was not a WGA member. The guild rules state that violating strike policy can result in fines and expulsion from the union.

So the real question becomes: How far does the WGA want to press the issue? According to one report, not very far. Also, NBC sources say WGA president Patric Verrone met with Leno on Monday and shrugged off the host’s plans to pen a monologue.

Other open questions include whether Comedy Central’s heavily scripted “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show” will pass union muster when they return Monday.

A source close to those productions said the dueling WGA-NBC press releases will not impact their new strike-friendly shows, the format for which has been a closely guarded secret.

But if Leno continues to perform monologues without any guild consequences, it’s tough to imagine other late-night hosts won’t similarly write monologue content.

7:40 p.m.: Updated throughout

‘Law & Order’ Return Posts Average Ratings

January 3, 2008 12:34 PM

Law and Order (NBC)While all eyes were on the return of the late-night hosts, let’s take a moment to run down Wednesday night’s prime-time figures.

Veteran crime drama “Law & Order” returned for its 18th season, with its premiere up only slightly from its 2006 opener.

The two-hour “Order” posted a 3.8 preliminary Nielsen rating among adults 18 to 49—up 6% from its last round, when it aired on Friday nights. “Order” tied for second place in the time period with the return of ABC’s “Supernanny.”

Although NBC was third in the 18-49 demo, the combination of “Order” and a new “Deal or No Deal” (3.4) gave the network a win among total viewers.

Fox was first in the demo with the Fiesta Bowl, featuring Oklahoma vs. West Virginia (4.3), and a pre-game (3.3).

ABC was second, with the season premiere of “Wife Swap” (3.3) leading into two new hours of “Supernanny” (3.6 and 4.0), all roughly in line with last season.

CBS came in fourth with the premiere of “Power of 10” (1.7 and down 17% from its out-of-season debut in August), and repeats of “Criminal Minds” (2.1) and “CSI: NY” (1.8).

The CW had its ongoing dismal-performing reality show “Crowned” (0.8) and “Gossip Girl” (1.0).

Later, the return of writerless Jay Leno (5.3 household rating) still managed to best David Letterman (4.3). TVTattle.com has a detailed list of links of critical takes and Defamer.com has video from all the late night hosts. Here's a clip from Letterman's monologue:

Holiday Ratings Highlights: ‘Pirates,’ ‘Kranks’ and Dick Clark

January 2, 2008 5:08 PM

Dick Clark and Ryan SeacrestSince faithful readers surely ignored all other ratings news sources while this blog was on vacation, let's run through some semi-recent non-sports highlights. If you’ve heard any of this before, just make like you’re opening a holiday present when you already know what’s inside and politely pretend to be entertained:

Dec 19: CBS got away with airing “Frosty the Snowman” (2.4) and “Frosty Returns” (2.0) for the second time in two weeks.

Dec. 20: After their neck-and-neck debuts, NBC’s “Clash of the Choirs” managed to best ABC’s “Duel” for four consecutive nights. But both shows posted series lows during their finales (1.9 for “Duel” and 2.1 for “Clash”), making a rematch next year less likely.

Dec 24: The 31st reported airing of “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1.5) on NBC readily trounced Fox’s “Cheaper by the Dozen” (0.8) on Christmas Eve, but both were trumped by ABC’s premiere of the animated comedy feature film “Madagascar” (1.7).

Dec. 25: There’s arguably something dispiriting about a game show—NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” (2.6)—being the highest-rated program on Christmas night. Also, ABC aired the three-hour presentation of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” (2.0) for the fifth time.

Dec. 26: If “Deal” winning Christmas was only potentially dispiriting, this definitely is: Fox’s presentation of the movie “Christmas With the Kranks” (2.4)—a title that ranks among the worst-reviewed holiday movies of all time—tied a “Law & Order: SVU” repeat to win the next night. The same night: CBS’ airing of “The Kennedy Center Honors” (1.2) posted its lowest-rated performance since 2002 (when it aired on a Friday), down 37% from last year.

Dec. 29: ABC aired a Saturday night “Samantha Who” marathon to counter-program NFL games on CBS and NBC. Though ABC placed fourth, the show picked up some additional sampling to average about a 1.3 rating.

Dec. 31: “Dick Clark’s New Year's Rockin’ Eve” was up 11% from last year to rank as the top program Monday night (3.1), helping ABC win the night. Viewers were divided on whether the stroke-impaired Clark was “valiant” for continuing to do the show or “ghoulish.”

Overall: From Dec. 1 through Tuesday night, CBS won 12 nights (including two ties), NBC won 10 (including two ties), ABC and Fox won six each.

‘Loser’ Scores Record Premiere

January 2, 2008 12:12 PM

The Biggest Loser (NBC)NBC took a calculated risk premiering the fifth season of “The Biggest Loser” on New Year’s Day, when viewership levels are still stumbling out of their holiday funk. By launching the show Jan. 1, the network hoped to establish a two-week foothold with viewers before “American Idol” returns.

The gambit worked. The couples-edition of “Loser” netted a 4.3 preliminary rating among adults 18 to 49 in its premiere. That was the highest launch ever for the show, up 39% from last fall’s debut.

Overall, however, Fox is expected to win the night with its presentation of the college football Sugar Bowl, pitting Georgia vs. Hawaii, which registered a 4.9 preliminary rating.

NBC was second with “Loser” and one of the few remaining new episodes of “Law & Order: SVU” (4.2).

ABC was a distant third, with half-hour of Rose Bowl overrun topping its lineup (3.9), followed by the season premieres of “Just for Laughs” (2.6) and “According to Jim” (1.7). An additional episode of “Jim” (1.7) followed, then a repeat of “Boston Legal” (1.8).

CBS was fourth with repeats of “NCIS” (2.3), “The Unit” (1.7) and “48 Hours Mystery” (1.6).

The CW was fifth with repeats.