The sweeps creeps have finally arrived for at least a dozen syndicated shows on the bubble this year, owing to an extraordinarily weighty February sweeps in the wake of the election- and Olympics-affected November book.
This outcome of this month’s book will almost definitely solidify a series’ hold for next season or invoke the ax that finally puts it out of its misery.
Among the new series definitely moving forward for another year are Tribune Entertainment’s “Andromeda,” Twentieth Television’s “Power of Attorney,” Columbia TriStar Television Distribution’s “Judge Hatchett” and “Sheena,” Paramount Domestic Television’s “Maximum Exposure” and Pearson Television’s “To Tell the Truth.” But for the rest of the major first-run rookies as well as a few veterans, the future is more difficult to forecast.
Studios USA’s “Arrest and Trial” remains among the stronger series in jeopardy with a 1.9 rating; however, the household average has remained unchanged from its debut. A Studios USA spokesman confirms that the strip has a solid percentage of the country renewed, but the studio won’t make any official announcements until after the sweeps period. In an effort to entice stations and more viewers, the show is being reformatted with higher-profile stories, less narration and more action.
One staple of the courtroom genre is now in dire need of a boost to make it back next season. Paramount’s “Judge Mills Lane” was dropped by the Tribune stations and has yet to find suitable replacements in the major markets, according to sources. The strip most recently earned a 1.8 rating, off an unsettling 28 percent compared with the same period last year.
Telepictures Distribution has yet to announce any official renewals for rookie game show “Street Smarts.” The series is extremely solid in the key adult 18 to 49 demo, earning a 1.2, and should be back next season.
After inheriting the time slots of a downgraded “Dr. Laura” earlier this season, King World Productions’ “Curtis Court” is up 13 percent over its debut with a 1.7 household rating. But “Curtis” isn’t a lock for a return engagement, since it has yet to nail down renewals in Los Angeles and New York.
Paramount/Mercury Entertainment’s “Queen of Swords” and Buena Vista Television’s “Your Big Break” are a pair of weekly hours that could fall victim to the financing and ratings crunches that have already eliminated “Xena,” “Baywatch Hawaii,” “Battledome” and “The Cindy Margolis Show” from next season’s airwaves.
A source at the Chris-Craft Industries station group said it has yet to pick up the “Queen” hour for another go-round. The series had pulled some decent demo scores despite garnering a 1.3 household rating in the latest Nielsen numbers, off 19 percent from its debut. Sources say the series might have had a better chance if it had racked up stronger international clearances in countries such as Germany.
“Your Big Break” is in a similar boat. It most recently pulled a 1.7 rating, down 19 percent compared with last year. A spokesperson for the studio noted that the series’ future will be evaluated in March.
MGM Worldwide Television has two shows gasping for air and is expected to make a push on one of them to return for another season. According to sources, the favorite is newsmagazine “National Enquirer Uncovered,” which is averaging a 1.2 but is off a steep 40 percent compared with its ratings last year. Freshman game show “Sex Wars” is pulling about half that number at a 0.6 rating, off 25 percent from its debut.
The Fox owned-and-operated stations have yet to pick up Telepictures’ “Queen Latifah” for another year, and analysts doubt any moves to renew the series will be made by the station group soon. The talk show is flat year-to-year at a 1.2, making it the lowest rated among the veteran talk shows. The Fox station group surprised the syndication community at the National Association of Television Program Executives conference last year by renewing the show, which had been improving in the urban markets. But should the group not renew, the series can anticipate having difficulty finding time periods elsewhere.
The newly revamped Columbia TriStar strip “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” has yet to gain serious ground since dropping Cybill Shepherd as host and adding an ensemble cast. However, sources say the NBC station group remains high on the hour and could keep the strip in the game should a sudden ratings spike occur. Still, the talk show faces an uphill battle and most recently pulled a 0.7 rating, off 22 percent from its debut.