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Network Scorecards

Oct 3, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Some initial performances in prime time this fall-such as CBS’s tightening grip on Thursdays, the drawing power of ABC sophomores and UPN’s newfound ratings spark-appear to be indicative of the overall picture of the broadcast networks’ potential strengths and weaknesses.

With the majority of prime-time shows only in their second week of the 2005-06 season, however, executives last week resisted crowning definitive winners or writing off series that have suffered slow starts. Following is a network by network look at some of the initial bright spots and disappointments of the new season, and what’s expected to change the landscape over the coming weeks.





ABC

Good news: No sophomore slumps for “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost” or “Grey’s Anatomy.” Wednesday’s “Invasion” at 10 p.m. finally gives the network scripted competition against NBC’s “Law & Order.” Tuesday’s “According to Jim” grows in the demo in its second week of the season.

Bad news: “Supernanny” on Fridays underperforms its year-ago time period premieres and ranks third among the networks at both 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. While outperforming its year-ago time period premiere, “Boston Legal” is not living up to its critical and Emmys potential.

Unanswered Questions: “Rodney” returns for its sophomore season this Tuesday, while a bumped “George Lopez” premieres this Wednesday after making way for a repeat of the season opener of “Lost” last week. Comedy “Hot Properties” premieres this Friday in the post-“Hope & Faith” time slot, while Freddie Prinze Jr.’s sitcom, “Freddie,” is on the sidelines until its debut Tuesday, Oct. 12.





CBS

Good News: Despite year-to-year ratings declines, CBS is the dominant network on increasingly competitive Thursday nights with “Survivor,” “CSI” and “Without a Trace.” Friday’s new mystical drama “Ghost Whisperer” was the demo winner at 8 p.m. Returning procedural “NCIS” is growing its adults 18 to 49 audience on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. Monday’s young adult comedy “How I Met Your Mother” has found a home in the 8:30 p.m. time slot.

Bad News: Monday’s “Out of Practice” suffered a 16 percent decline from its first week to its second week and an average 20 percent decline from its lead-in, “Two and a Half Men.” Wednesday’s “CSI: NY” was down from its debut last September, giving the franchise its lowest season premiere ever. The debuting Sunday night movie “Martha Behind Bars” was a disappointment.

Unanswered Questions: The network’s new 10 p.m. drama “Close to Home” debuts Tuesday, which could have an impact on ABC’s new time period holder “Boston Legal” and even Tuesday stalwart “Law & Order: SVU.” So far “Two and a Half Men” has been a strong football competitor, but it remains to be seen if the half-hour can fill “Everybody Loves Raymond’s” big, successful shoes.





NBC

Good News: After years of the industry bemoaning the lack of any successful sitcoms, NBC may be ending the broadcast comedy slump with Tuesday’s “My Name Is Earl.” Returning Monday night series “Medium” continues to grow.

Bad News: NBC’s once-assured Thursday dominance has all but disappeared as “Joey” and “The Apprentice” suffer the consequences of increased competition. Wednesday’s “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” has so far not been a good thing for the network. Monday’s “Surface” declined from its first to second week, and medical drama “Inconceivable” underperformed in its Friday 10 p.m. premiere.

Unanswered Questions: With a number of modest ratings performers across several nights, NBC may feel the need to roll out midseason comedies “Four Kings” and “Thick & Thin” plus dramas “The Black Donnellys,” “The Book of Daniel” and “Windfall” sooner rather than later. Reality fare such as “Treasure Hunters” may also make the schedule earlier than first expected, production schedules pending.





Fox

Good News: The early launch and full-season pickup of the buzz-worthy “Prison Break” appears to have paid off for Fox, giving it the early ratings lift it was sorely lacking last fall. “Bones” and “House” look like a competitive Tuesday night pair, while animation-driven Sunday night and Friday’s “The Bernie Mac Show” and “Killer Instinct” are holding their own.

Bad News: Fox gets the dubious distinction of making the first cancellation of the new season, Wednesday’s comedic drama “Head Cases.” Emmy winner and critics’ darling “Arrested Development” hasn’t done much to improve the network’s Monday 8 p.m. fortunes, and may be hindering its lead-out, “Kitchen Confidential.”

Unanswered Questions: After postseason baseball, Fox must contend with premiering at least three returning series on Wednesdays during November sweeps, including the sitcoms “That ’70s Show” and “Stacked,” plus the reality family show “Trading Spouses.” Despite the promising start, the make-or-break moment for the network comes in January, when the fifth installment of “American Idol” premieres, along with season five of the thriller drama “24.” Shows without premiere dates include the improvisational comedy “Freeride” and the returning reality series “Hell’s Kitchen.”





UPN

Good News: Three words-“Everybody Hates Chris.” At long last the network has earned some critical and ratings success, thanks to the family comedy, giving it a toehold on Thursdays that just a year ago UPN could only dream of. Despite big competition, Wednesday’s “Veronica Mars” increased its young-women and female- teen audience in its second season debut. All of Monday’s comedies were up in their year-to-year season debuts.

Bad News: “Sex, Love & Secrets” posted the lowest-rated debut of any new network series for the season.

Unanswered Questions: If “Chris” does become a success, it remains to be seen if UPN can capitalize on its increased ratings and drive traffic to other shows. The midseason drama “South Beach” may end up on the fall schedule if “Sex” continues to struggle.





The WB

Good news: Tuesday looks good for the network with veteran “Gilmore Girls” at 8 p.m. and “Supernatural” holding its solid debut numbers in its second airing. In their season premieres, “Smallville” and “Everwood” improved the network’s Thursday night performance.

Bad news: Despite kind reviews, “Just Legal” has struggled to find an audience.

Unanswered Questions: The Wednesday night lineup of “One Tree Hill” and the new sister comedic one-hour “Related” debut this week.