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Surviving the Fall

Sep 18, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The return of ABC’s reality series “Dancing With the Stars” last week scored big points with the ultimate ballroom dance judges-adult TV viewers ages 18 to 49.

While most of the show’s 2006-07 season competition is still stretching backstage, “Dancing” was one of last week’s few debuts, albeit an important piece of ABC’s fall schedule, con-

sidering the show’s lead off position on two nights.

The other notable premiere, CBS’s Thursday veteran “Survivor,” posted its lowest debut since its 2000 premiere in adults 18 to 49, even with the press attention given to its racially segregated format for its 13th installment.

The show, which won a repeat-laden night, faces its first competition against fresh shows this week when NBC premieres its “My Name Is Earl” and “The Office” comedy block in the time period.

While Fox has been rolling out its new season offerings since late August, the rest of the broadcast networks have scheduled more than 30 season or series debuts for this week, so “Dancing” and “Survivor’s” early bows occurred amid fewer distractions than they would have later in the season. Networks have been experimenting with debuting their schedules outside the fall for years, but mid-September is once again the primary time for broadcasters to introduce programming.

The ratings performances for this week’s premieres will start to draw a clearer picture of how the 18 to 49 race, which was closely contested last season, might shake out this year.

Last week’s “Dancing” debut was the first fall premiere for the former summer program that found ratings as a midseason show this past winter. The show’s mid-September ratings so far represent a good start for ABC, which is attempting to shake things up on a number of nights this season, including Thursday at 9 p.m., where the network’s “Grey’s Anatomy” is expected to bring an adults 18 to 49 boost.

The two-hour season premiere of “Dancing” on Tuesday scored a 5.7 rating in adults 18 to 49, a number that includes live viewing plus same-day viewing via digital video recorders, according to Nielsen Media Research. That was the show’s best premiere number and its third-best performance overall, behind only its two previous season finales.

From the 8 p.m. (ET) half-hour to the 9:30 p.m. half-hour, “Dancing” grew its adults 18 to 49 audience by 51 percent. The reality show, a sometimes loopy dance competition featuring B-list celebrities and professional ballroom dancers, helped ABC win the night in the demo, despite some tough competition. A strong “Dancing” on Tuesday bodes well for ABC’s upcoming 9 p.m. comedy block of “Knights of Prosperity” and “Help Me Help You,” while the Wednesday results show shores up a night already driven by the success of 9 p.m. drama “Lost.”

`Dancing’

The reality series also helped get ABC’s new comedic drama “Men in Trees” out on the dance floor Tuesday with a special 10 p.m. preview. “Trees” scored a 3.6, down 42 percent from the last half-hour of “Dancing,” but still strong enough to beat its repeat competition, NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU (3.0) and CBS’s “NCIS” (1.9). “Trees” was also 6 percent higher in the ratings than last year’s time period premiere of drama “Boston Legal” (3.4). “Trees” was scheduled to premiere in its regular Friday 9 p.m. time slot Sept. 15.

Despite “Dancing’s” strength, it wasn’t enough to beat back an original episode of Fox’s “House,” which was still the highest-rated program for the night in adults 18 to 49 with a 5.9. Head to head, the medical drama outperformed “Dancing” in the 8 p.m. hour by 20 percent (5.9 versus 4.9), even if “House” did drop 18 percent in the demo from its season premiere the previous week.

The Fox show that really took a stumble was the new drama “Standoff” at 9 p.m. Down 30 percent from its debut the previous week and down 11 percent over the course of the hour, “Standoff” scored a 3.3, retaining 56 percent of its “House” lead-in audience and scoring third in the 9 p.m. time period behind the second half of “Dancing” and the CBS reality series “Rockstar: Supernova” (3.5).

The “Dancing” results show on Wednesday at 8 p.m. was the highest-rated program for the night in adults 18 to 49, scoring a 4.1. That was also strong enough to improve the year-ago time period of “George Lopez” by 17 percent (3.5) and improve on its most recent results show premiere in January by 37 percent (3.0).

“Dancing” time period competitor “Rockstar” scored a 3.1 in its series finale, matching its season high. “Rockstar” was still down 18 percent from its finale last year.

Fox’s all-original Wednesday night was the fourth-ranked network for the night, with “Bones” pulling in a 2.8 and new 9 p.m. legal drama “Justice” declining down 14 percent from its previous week’s performance to a 2.5.

Even given all the media attention given to the controversial “Survivor: Cook Islands,” its premiere Thursday did not match its adults 18 to 49 debut numbers from last season.

“Cook Islands” scored a 6.5 rating at 8 p.m., down 7 percent from the February 2006 premiere of “Survivor: Guatemala.”

“Survivor” topped the second week of Fox’s new Thursday lineup. Fox marriage comedy “`Til Death” scored a 2.5 rating, down 19 percent from its series debut last week. At 8:30 p.m. the sitcom “Happy Hour” came in with a 2.2, down 8 percent from its premiere last Thursday. At 9 p.m. reality series “Celebrity Duets” was down 15 percent.