By Adam Sandler
Special to TelevisionWeek
“The Ashlee Simpson Show” has struck a chord with viewers.
Ms. Simpson, the actress-turned-pop thrush once best known for playing Cecilia on “7th Heaven,” can lay claim to having one of MTV’s most successful series. Millions tuned in to the show’s debut season to watch the emerging pop star’s creative process, her record company relationships and the production, release and ultimate success of her first Geffen Records album.
From drama came good art. Viewers watched as Ms. Simpson crafted the CD aptly titled “Autobiography” from her real-life struggles. She turned a split from her boyfriend into a hit song and cried to a friend about worries that executives at her label were trying to turn her into a clone of her sister Jessica-or worse in her view, Britney Spears. The latter concern motivated Ms. Simpson to dye her hair black.
The show’s highly promoted June 16 premiere was watched by 2.9 million viewers, with 1.6 million in the 18 to 49 demographic. The overall total reflected only a small dropoff from the show’s smash-hit lead-in “Newlyweds,” starring Ms. Simpson’s sister and Nick Lachey.
Ms. Simpson attracted a loyal audience throughout the summer. The July 21 segment landed the series its best ratings by grabbing 3.35 million viewers, with 2.2 million in the 18 to 49 group, making it the top cable show that week in the demo. By comparison, the more established “Newlyweds” also attracted 3.35 million viewers.
The growing interest in “Ashlee” was undoubtedly helped by a hit single on radio, “Pieces of Me.” Similarly, the show’s popularity buoyed the release of Ms. Simpson’s debut album, which sold 398,000 copies in the week ended July 25, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
“Ashlee has inspired everyone with her energy, humility and amazing talent,” said Jordan Schur, co-president of Geffen Records.
“The show was a success because Ashlee came across as a real person and not as a glamorous star,” said Brian Graden, president of entertainment for MTV Networks Music Group. “The music she made was truly expressive of the kinds of things she was going through at that time, and that kind of connection with viewers made it much more powerful.”