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November Sweeps: What Have We Learned - December 1

Lots of stuff to go through as sweeps comes to a close. So what have we learned?

1) Losers win. For the most part, "The Biggest Loser's" victories were few and far this season, but it came on strongest where it counted, last Tuesday's two-hour season finale. After hearing the jibes of both CBS's "NCIS" and Fox's "Bones", "Loser" won the night with a rating that grew from a second-place 8.8/13 at 8pm to an astonishing 11.1/16 in the final half-hour, when indeed the Biggest Loser was revealed. The show even bettered last January's first-season finale by 12 percent and helped NBC to its highest Tuesday 18-49 rating from 8 to 10 p.m. in four years, according to Media Life Magazine.

It's a welcome surprise for a show that has seen its share of feasts and famines (no pun intended), as a third season and several mini-competitions are now planned. Now NBC has a leg to stand on to further promote the show. "Survivor" has the number one ranking. "The Amazing Race" has its Emmy wins. "American Idol" has Simon. Now we have something for "The Biggest Loser". And it's a long time come for a midseason hit turned fall ambition.
NBC averaged a 6.6 rating and a 16 share among 18-49s last night, likely pushing it ahead of Fox for good for third place during November sweeps. Going into last night, both networks had averaged a 3.2 rating during the period. Fox was second last night at 4.3/11.

2) Bad singers make for good Idol footage, but stretched out an entire hour... not so much. VH1's "But Can They Sing?", adapted from a format that NBC killed a while back, should've stayed dead, according to popular opinion. In the beginning, 400,000 viewers, give or take a few thousand, tuned in to hear if nine celebrities, trained in the art of vocal pop performance could stand up to the big stage?

The answer, a resounding NO. No, no, no, no, no.

And the viewers, who, as we like to point out, are smarter than programmers give them credit for, have tuned out to the tune of 24 percent from the last show.

Quoting one media buyer, "The program never seemed to ignite the viewer involvement or really the celebrity commitment necessary to build a week-to-week following. 'Sing' was formulaic, which by definition makes it somewhat derivative."

If this is really true, then perhaps Fox should rethink "Skating with Celebrities", as that is as formulaic as Fox reality shows have ever... wait, they slotted it? Oh well, as my mom always told me, if you don't hear, you'll feel.

And Fox is going to have a really bad feeling on the day after this show airs.

3) Martha Stewart... A cancellation is still a cancellation. It means you ain't coming back no more. It might've worked had Donald wanted to bench this particular season of his version, but you all know how the Donald is.

And even though his version is also slumping, he'll keep said spotlight on him for at least another half year. Speaks to his character as a media ho, now doesn't it?

4) Ken Jennings is a blessing and a curse. This sweep, while Jeopardy! remains the definitive American quiz, it suffered double digit drops as a result of last year's invasion of the definitive American quiz contestant. Sure the loyal and true J!-heads among us will stay to the show until the very end, which, we hope, isn't for a long time, but only with a new force to be reckoned with will we see the same number as we did last year this time.

Ken Jennings brought the game show back into the mainstream... and he took it with him when he left.

File this next one under miscellany...

From time to time, I like to step away from the Numbers Game and just go off on subjects that I find interesting. After all, this is my space, so why not? So if you'll let me, I'll just muse that the things I learn surfing the web for an update for this site are quite astounding. For example, one of our favorite sites to visit is the Futon Critic. This place is basically everything you need to know if you plan on getting in "the business". And the things we find here are just amazing sometimes.

For example, and this is from a 2004 NATPE report... Did you know that there had been plans for an American version of the BBC quizzer "The Enemy Within"? Pitched for syndication  in 2003 by Sony, it was to have Jay Thomas in the role of Nigel Lythgoe as players, one of whom knows the answer to all of the questions beforehand, play the game not only to win the prize money at the end, but to sniff out the cheat amongst them. The original still airs Sundays on BBC America, and is one of my all-time favorites.

It was not picked up. Damn. Could've been interesting to see what could've been, but I'm more interested to see what went wrong.

For one, this sort of show seems like it could've stood a chance at GSN, BUT this was when GSN was trying to distance themselves from the game shows that made the network. And we all know what happened then. Almost every show spawned by the GSN gambit folded, except, ironically, for the card games and Extreme Dodgeball. But perhaps it's time for Sony, should they still own the American rights to produce and distribute, to revisit the format, as GSN revisits game shows in general.

Just a thought....

Chico Alexander wishes his sister a happy birthday. E-mail him at chico@gameshownewsnet.com.


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