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Ruffling a Few Feathers - August 11

To say that NBC has not had much success with competitive reality this summer would probably be the king of all understatements. After all, the network as a whole is suffering an off-season the likes not seen since the days of "Supertrain." Long-standing favorite "ER" is showing its last legs. The "Law & Order" franchise, while still strong, is oversaturated. The end of "Friends" and "Seinfeld" can be seen as the death of the sitcom as we know it. And "Will & Grace?" That's gone after next year.

So what's a network in peril to do? Throw a few reality series on the schedule and see what sticks. The problem here... Not much is sticking. Let's start with the latest example, the case of "The Law Firm," which, after two shows, was recently jettisoned to cable's badlands.


Last Thursday, NBC's primetime lineup found itself in an unfamiliar place... fourth (or, if you're like me, an adult aged 18-49, fifth). "The Law Firm" was a big part of that failure, as only 4 million pairs of eyes went to court (the rest of you closet pre-verts missed a case involving a dominatrix). That was down from 5.1 million the previous week. Quite impressive if you happen to be on cable. Quite embarrassing if you're a fourth-place network trying desperately to dig yourself out of a quagmire that was your regular season (just ask ABC, they're JUST getting their footing back).

Let's hope that it does fare better on Bravo, although I wouldn't hold out hope.

A Long Tradition... of Mediocrity

This is just the latest in a line of summer offerings from the peacock that have failed to generate any spark. Last Tuesday, two summer games, "Meet Mister Mom" and "I Want to Be a Hilton", only combined with SVU to give NBC a 4.4/7 for the night, down 35 percent from last year. "Mr. Mom" got only 4.47 million viewers. "Hilton," which thankfully we will never have to deal with again, only sampled about 3.85 million. Don's got the winner in the recap to follow. Together, both shows took fourth.

And let's not forget Average Joe, whose fourth series finisher (last Wednesday) only got about 3 million hits. The only modest hit that NBC had this summer was "Hit Me Baby 1 More Time", with 5 million viewers its final show.

It's gotten me worried about what will happen when "Deal or No Deal" drops. Sure as far as conventional game shows go, this will be the only game in town in primetime when it does, but the fact of the matter remains that no game show since ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" single-handedly saved a network from certain doom.

But then again, no game show, except maybe for Fox's "American Idol", was given a chance.

A way-out idea... get the repurposing rights for GSN's Ballbreakers. Might benefit both in the long run.

Addendum: A Good Sign for TUF2?

This coming from The Futon Critic and Mediaweek: "The first live telecast of "Ultimate Fight Night" drew 2.0 million viewers on Saturday, where it topped all cable networks among adults 18-49, adults 18-34, men 18-49 and men 18-34." (thefutoncritic.com) Spike TV delivered more men 18-34 and men 18-49 than any other cable telecast that day, with growth over the year-ago time period of 400 percent in men 18-34, and 350 percent among men 18-49. (Mediaweek)

Given that "The Ultimate Fighter 2" premieres in a matter of days, this is indeed good news.

In Other Numbers

It looks as Bravo is having its own share of ratings trouble, as the search for the next great sitcom only yielded an audience of about 200,000 in its premiere. "Situation Comedy", co-created by "Will & Grace's" Sean Hayes, is off to Fridays.

Save for "Big Brother", which put CBS at its fourth-consecutive Tuesday win last week, the Eye is no summer chicken either. "The Cut" moved to Wednesdays after poor ratings on Thursday. Then it moved to Friday after poor ratings on Wednesday. Seems like that show can't win, and the final Friday numbers drive that fact home. In its new "mostly harmless" home, the show scored 3.07 million viewers and a 1.0/4 in A18-49. Lest we forget "Rock Star: INXS." Mark Burnett's summer turkey, now split between two networks. The most watched episode this week: the performance, with 5.86 million viewers. The least: the results show, 4.37 million. We think CBS is hoping that this move will foster steadiness in the show and keep it from doing any damage.

RU Watching? The answer, apparently, is "maybe". Actually, if you're one of the 2.5 million viewers who watched "RU The Girl with T-Boz & Chilli" last week, the answer is yes. The show started with a 1.7/3 in its premiere.

The Numbers Game and State of Play will be taking a couple of weeks off, due to Game Show Congress 4. We'll see you with a new column on August 25. Until then, remember, the numbers never lie.

Chico Alexander hasn't been to California in 17 years and is really looking forward to it. E-mail him best wishes at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.


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