The Only Thing
We Have to Fear... - December 8
I believe it was
President Roosevelt who said "The only thing we have to
fear is fear itself." Of course, this was way before the
days of demographics and trigger-hair cancellations at a
moment's notice. Now the network has so much to fear.
But let's not get all doomy-gloomy just yet.
situation. "Fear Factor", one of NBC's top draws for the
coveted adults 18-49 demographic, returned this week
after hesitating a bit in the face of sagging ratings.
The show, a game show which most game show fans will
agree that they can do without, was in desperate need of
an overhaul to win back any numbers lost by the natural
The good news:
it helped along NBC to a night win in said demographic
and took its place once again as one of NBC's top draws.
The bad news: ratings for the show, now in its sixth
season, are still on the downswing: the season premiere
ranked third in the 8p hour with 4.8/7 in the
overnights, 8.31 million viewers and a 3.1/8 among
adults 18-49. Comparatively, that was a double-digit
loss from its already declining performance one year
earlier. To add insult to injury: NBC's "My Name is
Earl" and the struggling-but-brilliant "The Office"
combined out-pointed the stunt show in all key aspects.
To further add insult to injury: last week's "Biggest
Loser" finale pointed 9.5/14 for first place, almost
double the audience of "Fear Factor". To completely saw
off the legs of the horse, "Fear Factor" was beaten by a
rerun of "NCIS" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Not a
reassuring sign to a show to which the network has shown
the business to.
This season was
billed as one which touted more audience participation
and less gross. While with the new "Home Invasion"
segment delivered on that promise, it's very hard to
discount the evidence that no one seems to care about
that sort of thing anymore. Now it seems that the only
people who will watch are the adults 18-49 that the
network covets so dearly. So why is that a bad thing?
Answer: there there are less of them.
There is no easy
way to say it. There is just not an audience for that
sort of thing anymore. The initial draw of "Fear Factor"
was the shock value. After five years of doing the same
thing over and over again (big movie-like stunt,
grossout stunt, bigger movie-like stunt), the hardcore
fans have stayed around, while the casual viewers have
left en masse desensitized or just fearing what sort of
sick monster the "Fear Factor" foundry has in the offing
I predict a
fourth-place finish when Fox's "Bones", just picked up
for the rest of the season, returns next week, if not in
January when "American Idol" returns.
television is like the stock market. The networks invest
time in a franchise, and if they don't see a return in
their investment, then they get rid of it and invest
their time elsewhere. And while NBC is to be commended
for having faith in the face of Fear on Tuesday nights,
but the fact remains the same: evidently fear is no
longer the factor it once was as back in the days of
out-pointing "The Weakest Link".
Now we can get
One week out of
sweeps and literally nothing has changed. "Wheel of
Fortune" is still America's game, having grown
year-to-year just so (1 percent) with an 8.3, down from
last week by 0.4, although it is no longer the #1 show
on the daytime dial (that honor goes to Oprah). Still
doing better than "Fear Factor", though. Heh.
"Jeopardy!" is down 0.1 with a 6.5, still good for
third, although the double-digit dropoff continues (10
percent from last year). "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"
once again matched its season high with 3.1, down from
last year by 16 percent.
What's the point
in "Family Feud" having returning champions if they're
going to keep jumping about the schedule like this? If
what I hear is true, then tomorrow will be the THIRD
jump this month. For a show that's supposed to showcase
consistency, this is NOT acceptable.
Alexander would like to thank Travis E. and Chris Tufts
for that last rant. E-mail him at