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Summer Session: Buzz Revisited - July 5

Last week you saw another college truth in action here in the Numbers Game's first summer session: if the teacher's sick, then the class is cancelled. But I'm well enough now that I can let you know how your summer shows are doing. That said, let's revisit some of the hype that was being generated at the start of the summer, and see if any of it held up.

Put stepwise: a network will try to generate buzz around a program by focusing on the format's strengths (and in some cases, overexaggerating them). Then the show premieres to an audience. That audience changes after seeing the finished product based on popular appeal. Then we use the numbers to calculate whether or not the finished product lived up to that hype.

The thing you'll notice immediately about the three standouts in early summer is that each of them had a heavy bill of buzz built around them.

"Stars" Struck

Let's start with obviously the biggest of the shows so far, ABC's "Dancing with the Stars". Some heavy promo was put into this series, and it managed to pay itself off and then some, so much that past week reruns score in the high ranges at the 8pm hour. But what about the new episodes? Well, if you remember, the opener scored thusly: 9.4/15 in households, 13.48 million viewers, and 4.3/12 for adults 18-49, all first place finishes. This week, a new high, with a time-slot winning 13.5/21 in households, 18.04 million viewers, and a 5.4/16 for adults 18-49 at 9p. According to Mediaweek's Marc Berman, an 8p repeat edition of last week's show also won the time period, with a 7.0/12 in the overnights, 9.40 million viewers and a 2.7/10 among adults 18-49.

Again, the numbers speak for themselves. Just a friendly reminder to the world of TV at large: "If you build it, they will come. If you build it well (as this show has undoubtedly - and inexplicably - done), they will stay."

Insert Hell-related Pun Here

Then there's Fox's "number one" show on Mondays, "Hell's Kitchen". By now, we all know that the restaurant is about as fake as "The Apprentice's" board room. And the drama created... perhaps even faker. But did that do anything for the numbers?

When we started, it was indeed finding its legs. After all, it has the double whammy of being a reality show on Fox. That was reflected in the ratings for that first week, as it only managed a 4.2/7 in households, fourth, 6.80 million viewers, fourth, and 3.2/7 among the 18-49ers, a second-place tie. Since, it has built to consistency, with a second place in the overnights (5.1/8), a second place in total viewers (6.99 million), and a top-finish amongst adults 18-49 (3.4/10). Now the numbers haven't really changed that much, so why the change in finishes? Blame competition. We had the NBA finals, the CBS comedies, and Miss Universe on Memorial Day. Well, that explains a few things.

The draw here? Well, it helps that the show is not lost for drama, thanks to Gordon Ramsay's in-kitchen/out-kitchen dual personality (outside of his tirades, he's actually a darn nice bloke from what I hear). Fox was trying to create buzz around the in-kitchen personality and a little bit of what could possibly happen in the next episode, and for that, it succeeded. Even if half of it was, shall we say, generated.

"Beauty"-ful Crazy

The just-renewed soon-to-conclude "Beauty and the Geek" was billed as "a social experiment," relying on the draw of above average women with below-average intelligence, and, well... geeks. Each episode brought something new to the party, and each week, audiences have been embracing it.

When it started, it managed only fifth-place finishes all around:  2.2/4 in households, 3.17 million viewers, and 1.6/5 in the 18-49. Since then, it's built on the initial audience, and last week, the show posted a 3.3/6 in the overnights (fourth place), 3.70 million viewers (again, fourth place) and a second-place 1.9/7 among adults 18-49. Again, not that much of a change, but given the competition on that first night, an Eagles concert and a "Supernanny" repeat, would explain why it has only comparatively inched up all around.

But again, no surprise that this show is renewed. It speaks to the heart of the WB's youthful audience, and the numbers reflect that. If you watch, you'll find that it's also a pretty solid game. See comment made on "Dancing with the Stars".

Fading Fast

But not all the news is good in primetime game shows this summer. "Hit Me Baby 1 More Time" started out as a surefire hit, only to be hit itself. Even a last ditch effort to bill the finale as having many surprises (it didn't, as Gordon noted in the primes) couldn't save itself from a finish of 4.1/7 in the overnights, second, 4.92 million viewers, third, and 2.4/8 in the 18-49, second. That's a 42 percent decrease from the start across the board for the adaptation. As for the buzz around it, well, we didn't hear that much, except from the pitch to the news agencies.

"Fire Me Please" also started with promise, but with a 42 percent dropoff on its first week, that promise quickly faded. Whether or not that had to do with revelations that most, if not all, of the participants were improv actors and comedians (to wit, Cat Reitman is the daughter of director Ivan Reitman), we can't say, because honestly, we don't know. And we're not even going to pretend to know. All we're going to say is that with last week's preemption of AFI's "100 Years, 100 Quotes" outpacing this week's episode (7.3/12 in the overnights, with 9 million viewers and a 2.8/8 among adults 18-49 versus a series-low 4.2/7 in the overnights, 6.06 million viewers, and a 2.5/7 among adults 18-49), and with an overall drop of about 2 million viewers since week one, it doesn't take a scientist to figure out that, as my friend Dan Sadro once put it, if there's even a hint of a problem, then there's a problem.

Perhaps the worst buzz generation this summer comes from ABC's "The Scholar", which we heard nothing from since the news broke on the series. As a result, probably one of the best-acclaimed shows from a critical standpoint went relatively unwatched. Starting off slow (3.7/5, a third-place tie in households, 4.87 million viewers, third, and 1.7/5 amongst the 18-49, fourth), the show only got slower (this week: 3.1/5 in households, 3.64 million viewers, and 1.2/4 in adults 18-49... all fourth place)

And In Other Numbers...

"Average Joe: The Joes Strike Back" failed to strike the same chord as its predecessors, partly due to a last-second move to accommodate the President's address last week. It only scored a 4.4/ 7 in the overnights, 4.62 million viewers, and a 1.9/ 5 among adults 18-49. They were all fourth place, but building off of "I Want to Be a Hilton" is a plus.

This week will tell the tale, now that the show will be airing (interruptions aside) in its regular slot. Oh, and speaking on which...

Apparently no one cares about people who say "I Want to Be a Hilton". The premiere disappointed with a fourth-place 5.8/9 in the overnights, 6.79 million viewers, and a 2.5/7 among adults 18-49 at 9p It got even worse in its second week as the series sunk to a 4.2/7 in the overnights, 4.36 million viewers, and a 1.8/5 among adults 18-49.

Food Network is reporting that the live finale of "The Next Food Network Star" drew 2.7 million viewers on June 26, making it the cable channel’s highest-rated primetime series telecast to date. Considering that many cable hits will be lucky to draw at least a million or two, this is worth noting.

Big thanks to Mediaweek, Zap2it, and our friends at Buzzer! for the numbers this week. Next week, it's finals time! Until them, remember, the numbers never lie. Alright, holiday's over. Back to work.

Chico Alexander had to work over the holiday, giving him time-and-a-half. E-mail him at chico@gameshownewsnet.com


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