Along with champagne hangovers and bowl games, 2005 also brought a spate of debuting network shows.
From paranormal informants to hip-hop hopefuls, the networks rolled out more than a half-dozen series or season premieres last week, shaking up their original fall schedules. For the most part, audiences gave the new offerings initial thumbs up.
The week started off well for NBC, when the premiere of its new 10 p.m. (ET) Monday mystery drama “Medium” outperformed the canceled “LAX,” with “Medium” almost doubling “LAX’s” time period average in the adults 18 to 49 demographic.
“Medium,” which stars Patricia Arquette as a psychic who juggles police work and family life, scored a 6.3 rating in the demo, a 91 percent increase over “LAX’s” average of 3.3, according to Nielsen Media Research. The show also grew 26 percent in the demo over its “Las Vegas” lead-in (5.0). That still wasn’t enough, however, to beat time period competitor “CSI: Miami,” which scored a 6.7. But in a few female demos “Medium” was either neck-and-neck with or outperformed the CBS franchise.
“Medium” edged past “CSI” in women 18 to 34 (5.9 versus 5.7) at 10 p.m., while in the 10:30 p.m. half-hour “Medium” beat”CSI: Miami” in women 18 to 49 (8.4 versus 8.2), women 25 to 54 (9.8 versus 9.7) and females 12 to 34 (5.3 versus 4.9).
“We regard this as a great start, but we are cognizant of the need to perform over the long haul,” said Tom Bierbaum, VP of ratings and program information for NBC Universal Television Group. “We can end up doing two-thirds of this number over the long haul and still have a very successful show.”
Fox didn’t fare so well. The network’s controversial reality show “Who’s Your Daddy?” failed to perform in its 90-minute, 8 p.m. Monday debut, scoring a 2.3, down 21 percent from the previous four-week average for the time period. The show, in which a woman who was adopted as a baby deduced the identity of her birth father for a cash prize, drew criticism from adoption groups and spurred at least one affiliate pre-emption. A Fox spokesman said it is not likely that the network will air additional episodes of “Daddy” anytime in the near future.
On Tuesday, with help from the second-to-last episode of “Biggest Loser” and a “Dateline” featuring an interview with Amber Frey, the former girlfriend of convicted murderer Scott Peterson, NBC’s new comedy “Committed” did better in adults 18 to 49 than former time-period resident “Scrubs.”
At 9:30 p.m., “Committed” scored a 4.5 rating. That was 29 percent higher than “Scrubs”‘ average.
“We felt like it was a good, solid start,” Mr. Bierbaum said. “It’s up to what we’re used to doing in that half-hour.”
On Wednesday NBC launched reality offering “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search” at 8 p.m. “Swimsuit Model” scored a 2.8 in the demo, outperforming “LAX’s” average in the time period by 33 percent. The show also came in second in the time period in key women demos, which grew over the hour: “Sports” scored a 3.3 in women 18 to 49, but grew from a 2.9 in its first half-hour to a 3.7 for its second half-hour, a 28 percent increase.
“The real key is how effectively it counterprograms against what’s a very strong show on ABC (`Lost’),” Mr. Bierbaum said.
Not all of last week’s premieres were for new shows. On Wednesday, after weeks of promotion culminating with on-air promos during the college football bowl games, ABC debuted the two-hour season premiere of its action drama “Alias.” The show scored a 6.6 rating in the demo, coming in second for the night after its lead-in, “Lost” (both shows are from executive producer J.J. Abrams).
“The general reaction is that we’re thrilled,” said Jeff Bader, executive VP of ABC Entertainment. “We really didn’t know what to expect. That’s its highest prime-time rating ever.”
In the 9 p.m. hour, “Alias” clocked its closest competition in the demo, Fox’s “Nanny 911,” by 85 percent (7.2 versus 3.9). And in the 10 p.m. hour, “Alias” scored a 6.1, beating second-place finisher “Law & Order’s” 4.5.
The night also marked “CSI: NY’s” lowest rating for an original episode for the season, giving the newest CBS franchise a rare third-place finish.
“Alias” was unable to hold on to its “Lost” lead-in, however, dropping from a 7.5 in adults 18 to 49 in its first half-hour to a 6.0 in its fourth.
“We obviously expected a dropoff from `Lost’ to `Alias,”‘ Mr. Bader said. “There was some dropoff in that 9 o’clock hour, but by 10 o’clock we had our audience. To beat both `CSI [:NY]’ and `Law & Order’ is phenomenal.”
Wednesday night also marked the premiere of UPN’s “The Road to Stardom With Missy Elliott” at 8 p.m., which garnered a 1.2 rating in the demo. “Missy” came in sixth in the hour among adults 18 to 49, and was off former time-period-occupant “America’s Next Top Model’s” Sept. 22 season premiere by 33 percent.
Eric Cardinal, senior VP of research for UPN, said “Missy” should be looked at in context.
“We’ve improved the time period versus a year ago in demos, and we’ve improved the time period compared with `Enterprise,”‘ he said. “`Top Model’ generated record female ratings. We don’t expect every time we put a show on to break records.”
Among female teens, “Missy” came in second in the time period after “Lost” with a 2.9.
“Any time UPN is second in a time period we’ll take it,” he said. “Clearly that was something `Top Model’ was doing on a regular basis. We’re happy that at least in a couple categories `Missy’ is holding up that standard.”
On Thursday CBS premiered its new reality series “Wickedly Perfect” at 8 p.m., taking over “Survivor’s” time period spot. “Perfect” scored a 2.9 in the demo, down 61 percent from “Survivor’s” average for the season in the hour. According to CBS, the network was satisfied with the show’s “modest” performance, calling the show “time period filler” for “Survivor,” which is currently without a premiere date but is expected to return in February.
On NBC, a repeat episode of “Committed” scored a 5.0 in the demo, up 11 percent from its Tuesday premiere. A 10 p.m. repeat of “Medium” was down 33 percent in the demo from its Monday premiere.
Over the weekend, two more premieres were expected. CBS was scheduled to launch the reality show “The Will” on Saturday, and Fox was scheduled to bring back the hit action series “24” on Sunday.