The Story Is Always Two -
a new year in the Numbers Game, as we continue to give
you the long and the short of TV ratings, spin control,
and other questions that are best answered thusly: "Long
answer, yes with an if. Short answer, no with a but."
Today, we've got dancing, deals, special editions, and a
runner... that didn't. First, though...
If there was one bright
star during the night sky that was last summer, it was
ABC's "Dancing with the Stars".
long-awaited second season opened up to some decent
numbers. To recall, the first season finale posted
households: 16.2/25; Viewers: 21.84 million; A18-49:
6.5/19. Last Thursday, a bit of a shave-off from the
move to Thursdays: 12.8/19 in the overnights, 17.33
million viewers and a 4.7/12 among adults 18-49, but
good enough for second place opposite CBS's Thursday's
lineup. But considering that the last time ABC had a
monster Thursday was back in the days of "Who Wants to
Be a Millionaire", this is, what we scientists call,
So not for lack of
trying, but I don't know anyone outside of the ABC brass
who expected to knock off the eye on Thursday. I just
wanted to watch the show for a good time (and to see
Kenny Mayne royally take one), which I got. With a
competitive showing for a first-week out, it's like what
Ardal O'Hanlon (of "Father Ted" and "My Hero" fame) once
said: "if you expect a kick in the balls and get a slap
in the face, then it's a victory."
Daily Deal? Not So
Fast There, Buddy...
So "Deal or No Deal" was
a hit for NBC but before someone goes off the deep end
and make it his life goal to see that success parlayed
into syndicated numbers, consider the following
- Every syndicated
version of "The Price is Right" paled in comparison to
its broadcast equivalent, resulting in a) Bob Barker
stepping in (in the case of the Dennis James version),
or b) cancellation within a year.
- "Who Wants to Be a
Millionaire?" was on ABC for three years before being
jettisoned to the land of syndication, where it turned
out decent enough numbers for itself. The last week
alone tied season records with a 3.3.
- "Wheel of Fortune,"
America's #1 syndicated game show, was on in tandem with
its broadcast brother when the latter started to falter
while the former rose to its present-day glory (this
week, an 8.1).
- "Weakest Link" was
hardly on for a year before it was called to do double
daily duty. The syndicated show came and went as quickly
as the primetime show, given the door after a year and a
So when you have a hit
like "Deal", and NBC is asked the question of when it
will return and how many episodes, of course the answers
will be "soon" and "more". But let's be real for a
moment. This will only work if we do it properly, build
up a decent audience of familiarity, then do right by
the show for a change.
Special Editions: Good
The bad: CBS's "Amazing
Race: Family Edition" did so poorly that, despite its
Emmy win, the network did not reference it in announcing
season nine of the Race.
The good: NBC's "Biggest
Loser: Special Edition" premiered with this: 6.3/9 in
the overnights, 8.54 million viewers and a 3.6/9 among
adults 18-49 from 8-10p, according to Mediaweek's Marc
Berman, who cites that it did air opposite a big bowl
game. This week, overnights: 4.6/7; Viewers: 6.56
million; A18-49: 2.7/7, all third place. Why is this
good? Because it built 46 percent out of "E-Ring".
The weekly rant, or
Miss America is not a game show... at least not anymore.
Whose stupid idea was that anyway?
The best show on GSN
nowadays, surprisingly enough, isn't even a game show in
the loosest sense of the word.
Let me preface this by
saying that I am a big fan of shows like "Biography",
"Behind the Music", and even "E!'s True Hollywood
Story". So when I heard that GSN was creating its own
true-story in their own words documentary, I was in
heaven. Granted, it wasn't that unexpected given the
critical success of the network's first documentary
movie, "Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal."
The new series "Anything
to Win" takes those humble roots and magnifies them to
chronicle the thrill--and the agony--of victory,
sometimes at any cost.
When I saw the finished
product on the Rosie Ruiz story (as an aside, after
hearing her story and watching countless bits of
evidence contrary thereto, I said to myself that, to
paraphrase Doug Morris, if this person doesn't have some
king of mental issue, she ought to have one), I had my
doubts about the production itself, not the story.
First off, I know you
have to stretch an hour-long show into a two-hour
premiere, but was showing the same pictures and video
over an over again absolutely necessary? We get it
already. The sweat was off, she was a bit chunky, she
didn't have the exuberance of someone who ran 26.2 miles
when she crossed the finish line. It was almost three
hours after the race started. Show me something new for
cripes sake. I mean "BTM" rarely recycled footage just
to prove a point.
Another gripe that I had
was that the story was impossible to follow, as it
jumped from the big story to the back story to the
research to the opinion back to the big story and then
ending with "where are they now?". "Big Bucks" has this
spot on. They gave us the story, then the back story,
then the mechanics, then the aftermath. Any good story
teller will tell you that before you get there, we have
to establish where "there" is. Then give us the raw
figures and the how and why before getting to the
aftermath. Then assume that your audience is smart
enough to come to its own conclusion. That's why figures
show that educated people get their news from "The Daily
Show" more than Fox News. True story.
But all in all, it was
probably the best non-game programming since the
conversion in 2004, although some will argue that with
exhibits like "American Dream Derby" and "Video Game
Invasion", such a thing is hard not to pull off. All the
important bits were there. First, we go to hear the
story in Rosie's own words. That is first and foremost
the point and the benchmark from which this series
stems. Their story, their words, no spin, just a raw
account of the events in question from their vantage.
Then there was the attention to not letting anything
outside the story become the story. This isn't about the
feisty Canadian runner who finally broke the tape 25
years on, although this did make for a nice little
wrap-up. This is simply the people of the Boston
Marathon of 1980. We didn't hear anything we didn't need
to hear, and if future episodes follow suit, then we
could possibly have a winner. I'll weigh in on final
judgment in 13 weeks, provided GSN doesn't preempt or
But until then, some
dream subjects: Ken Jennings, the 1980 US Hockey Miracle
on Ice, the Quiz Show Scandals of the 1950s, Thom McKee,
John Carpenter, and last summer's "Dancing with the
Stars". I'm still scratching my head over that one.
Chico Alexander loves the whole duality thing. Don't
you? E-mail him at