HBO Hot For ‘Cathouse’

Sep 5, 2005  •  Post A Comment

HBO is negotiating an order for an 11-episode second season of sleeper hit “Cathouse,” the half-hour docu-soap reality series set in a Nevada brothel, sources said.

While “Entourage” gained fans, “The Comeback” drained fans and the premiere of “Rome” conquered a moderate audience with its premiere this summer, HBO’s least-publicized summer series was an under-the-radar success.

“Cathouse,” produced through HBO’s documentary unit, started out as a series of documentary specials. Since its debut as a regular series, with episodes premiering Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. and repeating Fridays at midnight, the show has posted strong ratings. The primary run of “Cathouse’s” finale was seen by 1.5 million viewers, a record for the series, according to Nielsen Media Research, and a strong number for a relatively inexpensive show in the later hours of prime time.

“Cathouse” is HBO’s first full-season adult series, complete with recurring characters. The network typically runs adult material as stand-alone documentaries, such as “Taxicab Confessions,” or as six-episode miniseries, such as the 2002 title “G-String Divas.” HBO’s “Real Sex” airs sporadically, averaging about three installments a year.

Despite receiving no promotion, “Cathouse” drew more viewers than “Entourage” or “The Comeback” during its first few weeks. That changed about midseason, when the “Entourage” audience grew considerably. The three episodes of “Entourage” leading up to the finale averaged about 2.5 million viewers. HBO renewed “Entourage” last month for a third season.

The summer has not been as kind to “Entourage” lead-out “The Comeback.” The Hollywood reality show spoof starring Lisa Kudrow premiered to 1.5 million viewers, then fizzled to 900,000 last week. As for whether “The Comeback” is, well, coming back, HBO had no comment. Chances of renewal are slim, insiders said.

Critics were mixed on HBO’s new historical drama “Rome,” but the Aug. 28 debut was seen by 3.8 million total viewers. The figures do not come close to toppling the first-season premieres of “Deadwood” (5.8 million) or “Carnivàle” (5.3 million), but the episode drew more viewers than any program to appear on the channel since last year’s fourth-season premiere of “Six Feet Under.”

The relative softness of HBO’s recent ratings has prompted stacks of critical press, but cable consultant Ray Solley said being held to high standards is not necessarily a bad thing.

“Even if the press and reviews are off or not as good as they used to be, at the end of the process the fact everybody is still talking about them is probably more of a sign of HBO’s influence and impact than [of] its imminent decline,” he said.

HBO’s next debut, the half-hour Ricky Gervais comedy “Extras,” will premiere Sept. 25 along with the fifth season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”