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The Summer of Our Discontent - September 1

Quick quiz. Name five primetime shows that broke out this summer to become bonafide hits.

"Dancing With the Stars", definitely!

"Beauty & The Geek," good thinking there.

"Ultimate Fighter 2", of course...

... and you're stumped. Sure you could make a case out of "Hell's Kitchen" or "So You Think You Can Dance", but compared relatively to these three, they're only modest in their impact on TV this summer. For instance, take the megahit of "Dancing with the Stars", with some 22 million viewers watching Kelly Monaco & Alec Mazo rob John O'Hurley & Charlotte Jorgenson, compared to a good-if-you're-a-Fox-show 8 million viewers watching Michael Wray win, then give up, his own dream restaurant on "Hell's Kitchen."

Then there's the heavily-hyped "So You Think You Can Dance," which at its beginning was ranking about 10 million viewers, good enough for both second-place showings and a chance to plug Fox's Wednesday hole caused by "The Inside." I'm sure Fox didn't have plans on making "Dance" Wednesday's only show. It just happened to happen that way. Since then, it's settled to about 7 to 8 million viewers for each showing. Last week's show posted thusly: 6.4/10 in households, 7.82 million total viewers, and 3.2/10 in adults 18-49.

But aside from that, and the "Ultimate Fighter's" big honking premiere, there was nothing really standoutish this summer. To put it bluntly, it was your typical summer doldrum. Even summer mainstay "Big Brother 6" wasn't immune to some slumping this year. In fact, and this is from what I gather from my partner-in-crime Gordon, more people watched the Tuesday veto shows this summer than the Thursday voteouts. Last week, Tuesday's show placed 17th in the week in total viewers with 7.95 million (also fifth in 18-49ers). Thursday's show placed 21st in viewers with 7.76 viewers (tenth in 18-49ers). Which means if you do the math right, about 190,000 didn't even know that Rachel had gone the way of "The Law Firm" until later that evening (and that's assuming that they have internet access).

Did someone say segue? Let's talk about summer bombs. Sci Fi "Master Blasters" was gone after four episodes, a cable failure not seen since the tens of thousands of people who managed to sit through the entire run of "American Candidate". "The Law Firm", David E. Kelley's heavily-hyped concession to the reality TV crowd, was jettisoned to Bravo from NBC after two. The one-two punch of "Average Joe: The Joes Strike Back" and "I Want to Be a Hilton" were pretty much non-factor fillers for something good ("Tommy Lee Goes to College", anyone?). "The Cut" moved twice after failing to perform on the level of the show from which it was cloned. "My Kind Of Town" never quite recovered from its initial showing, averaging 5.2 million viewers, down 54 percent from 11.4 million two weeks ago. "Rock Star" was a rocky ride. More on that later.

Why was this summer very unkind to the reality game show? Is it because there were so gosh darned many? Well, I'm not one to say, because I don't know. All I know was that "Dancing With the Stars" was something a bit different, while other shows were just retreads of other ideas.

Perhaps the viewing audience finally got the hint.

A Perk Up for "Rock Star?"

You probably wouldn't believe me if I told you that CBS is mulling renewing its struggling "Rock Star" franchise. After all, it was heavily overexposed and didn't yield a return worthy of said overexposure. Perhaps the cutting of one of its episodes over to sister cabler VH1 was a good thing. Going back to the beginning, Rock Star: INXS was fourth in the 9p hour in households (3.9/6) and total viewers (5.62), and second among adults 18-49 (2.4/7) on Monday, July 11. Perhaps bolstered by "Big Brother", the Tuesday performance shows have since averaged 6.22 million viewers. The Wednesday show, helped along by nothing and since expanded to an hour, has averaged 4.74 million, about a million and a half less. Again, more people care about the build up than the actual outing, which isn't surprising, given the ratings for "American Idol" this season, but is still weird.

Which begs the questions a) why renew the show in the first place, and b) why expand the show to an hour? Are CBS and Mark Burnett hoping that this show is another "Amazing Race" that started out sluggish only to grow by leaps and bounds later?

Only time will tell on that one.

Questions in "Jeopardy!"

This week, if you're a "Jeopardy!" fan (and if you're reading this, I'm just going to assume that you are for argument's sake), then you're probably enjoying the best of Ken Jennings as he takes on any and all comers again. You can't wait for that DVD either, can't you? Anyway, you are probably no doubt aware that people are making the assumption that no grand champion means no viewers, as is evident in the sudden dip in viewers, as reported on this very site. "Jeopardy!" is down 22 percent to a 6.2 from last year's numbers, when we say the subject of a game show dynasty, a board game, a CD game, and his own game show mop the floor with whoever Harry Friedman could throw at him.

This is one of those cases of "correlation not equating causation". After all, ratings typically do take a nosedive over the summer. The real test will be to see whether or not David Madden's little streak can bring back the viewers when the show starts anew on September 12.

Good News for "Wild'n Out"

According to the Futon Critic, MTV has renewed the Nick Cannon-hosted improv competition "Wild'n Out" just five episodes into its inaugural run. Now here's why... To date this season, "Wild" has regularly topped its cable competition in the Thursday, 10p ET half-hour among viewers 12-34, 12-24 and 12-17. Ten new episodes will comprise the new season, which will bow in early 2006.

So as we end this summer in "The Numbers Game," remember one thing... With new seasons of "The Amazing Race", "Survivor", "Jeopardy!", "Millionaire", "The Apprentice", "Wheel of Fortune", and "Family Feud" on the way, the summer of our discontent will soon give way to a glorious harvest come fall.

Until next week, remember, the numbers don't lie.

Chico Alexander wishes he was still in California, but realizes that, against his better judgment, he has a life outside of the fandom. E-mail him at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.

 

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