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Jun 22, 2001  •  Post A Comment

‘Spy TV’ earns high marks for NBC

Dating back to last April’s introduction of “Weakest Link,” NBC appears to be batting three-for-three as a new entrant in the alternative programming genre this season. The latest bit of good news came from Thursday night’s premiere of “Spy TV,” which earned an evening-high 6.4 rating/21 share in the adults 18 to 49 demographic, marking a 94 percent improvement over the previous week’s repeat of “Three Sisters” (3.3/11) in the 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) Thursday time slot.

Even though it had little competition from largely repeat programming airing in the time slot, “Spy TV’s” key demo score also offered a promising 19 percent improvement over lead-in “Friends” (5.4/19), according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate ratings.

Despite being blasted by some TV critics as being a “cruel” version of “Candid Camera,” “Spy TV” scored across-the-board wins in all key demographics, households and total viewers. It hit a high mark in adults 18 to 34 (7.6/21), posting a whopping 124 percent increase over “Three Sisters” (3.4/13).

Overall, “Spy TV” held 58 percent and 73 percent margins of victory over a first-run episode of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” on ABC in households (8.2/15 vs. 5.2/9) and total viewers (12.8 million vs. 7.4 million), respectively. In a night otherwise filled with repeats on NBC, the Peacock Network won Thursday with a 4.6/14 in adults 18 to 49, scoring an 18 percent improvement week to week.

The strong initial opening of “Spy TV” comes on the heels of NBC solidifying its 8 p.m.-to-9 p.m. Monday night lineup with the strong ratings launch of its “Fear Factor” reality series two weeks ago. During the week of June 11, “Fear Factor” and 9 p.m. Monday lead-out “Weakest Link” were the top rated entertainment series after games three and four of the NBA Finals on NBC.

Fox moves back “Small Town X” premiere: Fox is moving back the premiere date for the new mystery/reality series, “Murder in Small Town X,” one week to at 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. (ET) Tuesday, July 24. A spokesman for Fox said the producers of “Small Town X” requested additional time to go through the post-production of unanticipated additional footage shot on the hybrid reality/drama series.

The semi-scripted series features 10 “ordinary” people who compete to track down a fictitious killer in a remote New England town. After its special 90-minute premiere on July 24, “Small Town X” will then move to its regular 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. Tuesday time slot on July 31.

“This series faces one of the quickest turnarounds we have ever attempted,” said George Verschoor, executive producer of “Murder in Small Town X,” in a statement. “We just wrapped production on May 9, and with thousands of hours of footage to cull through, we’re grateful to Fox for giving us an extra week to produce the best show possible.”

“By pushing ‘Murder in Small Town X’ back a week, we will be able to more fully execute our promotional plan, which includes using the Television Critics Association (TCA) Summer Press Tour as a platform,” added Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman.

“Murder in Small Town X” is created and executive-produced by Mr. Verschoor, Robert Fisher, Jr., and Gordon Cassidy for Final Stretch Productions in association with Fox Television Studios.

Lifetime reorders another ‘Division’ season: “The Division,” Lifetime Television’s top-rated original dramatic series, has gotten a 22-episode second-season order. The ensemble series is about female inspectors in the San Francisco Police Department, and its cast includes Bonnie Bedelia and Nancy McKeon. “The Division,” from Viacom Productions, begins its new season in January 2002.

New deal makes Grammer highest paid actor in television: Kelsey Grammer, who plays arguably one of TV’s most snobbish characters in the lead of NBC’s hit “Frasier,” is about to get a payday to match his alter-ego’s expensive tastes. According to several reports, Mr. Grammer, who has played the sherry-swilling Seattle shrink Frasier Crane for the last eight seasons, is reportedly near a deal with series producer Paramount Network Television to pay him an estimated $1.6 million per episode, or about $75 million over the term of a two-year pact with the Viacom-owned Hollywood studio.

The deal would make Mr. Grammer, 46, the highest paid actor in TV history, potentially surpassing past television stars Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen and “Mad About You” co-stars Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt, all of whom earned just $1 million per episode in the final seasons of their shows. The six stars of NBC’s “Friends” each earn about $750,000 per episode.

“Frasier” co-star David Hyde Pierce is also to be negotiating a new deal, but Paramount representatives were unreachable for comment on the status of those negotiations (including Mr. Grammer’s pending deal).

At $1.6 million per episode, Mr. Grammer’s salary would account for roughly 30 percent of the $5.3 million per-episode license fee Paramount secured from NBC in a three-season renewal deal struck last March. It is the highest per-episode comedy fee NBC pays outside of its “Friends” hit, which garners about $5.8 million per episode for series producer Warner Bros. Television.

In other news, ABC sealed a new two-year deal worth $152 million with Warner Bros. Television to keep “The Drew Carey Show” on the network through at least 2004. The studio has also reached a new contract with Mr. Carey, reportedly paying him between $600,000 to $750,000 per episode.

Under the new series deal, ABC will pay around $3 million an episode for “Drew Carey’s” eighth (2002-03) and ninth (2003-04) seasons. That’s up from between $2.2 million and $2.5 million per episode, which ABC currently pays under a two-year pact signed in 1999 and set to expire next spring.

(c) Copyright 2001 by Crain Communications