Thursday, January 12, 2006

NBC's "Must See" TV Falls Far Short On Ratings

Struggling Network, NBC's attempt to resurrect a new version of "Must See" TV has fallen far short of previous years versions. NBC's latest efforts only came in at only third place in the ratings compared to weekly champion, CBS and even ABC's new entry of DANCING WITH THE STARS.

NBC had hoped that the ratings strong new comedy, MY NAME IS EARL, as well as the temporary removal of the ratings weak, FRIENDS spinoff, JOEY, from the schedule would help NBC in a weekly ratings loss to CBS. But running against the world's most popular TV program, CSI which drew in 27.2 million viewers in the U.S., and as many as 100 million viewers worldwide, new comedy, MY NAME IS EARL only managed to hold 11.2 million viewers, which knocked in down to only number 35 in all the rated network programs. This was the worst ratings performance for this new comedy entry ever. On Tuesday, MY NAME IS EARL had found a hole in the schedule that it was able to build a ratings strong following. But the return of the medical comedy, SCRUBS, was only able to hold 7.7 million viewers, far below the top 20 program finish of EARL on Tuesday with around 14 million viewers a week in that slot.

The Thursday problem for MY NAME IS EARL, THE OFFICE, WILL & GRACE and the new comedy, FOUR KINGS, is that even though all have a quality writing and acting angle, but none of them has the appeal that older favories such as SEINFELD, FRIENDS, CHEERS, NIGHT COURT or FRAZIER once had. Even CBS has been able to build a successful comedy block on Monday with four very good comedies including TWO AND A HALF MEN, THE KING OF QUEENS as well as new comedy series such as HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER and OUT OF PRACTICE that are beginning to show an audience loyality and ratings strength both.

ABC has heavily retreated from comedy programs, except for the quirky DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES drama, of which NBC has competed with a similar quirky drama with funny moments, THE BOOK OF DANIEL. But with a controversial lineup of characters and many Christian organizations taking an outrage, this dramamedy only managed a mere 9.0 million viewers on ratings challenged Friday, losing to the CBS hit dramas, CLOSE TO HOME, NUMBERS, and ABC's IN JUSTICE and 20/20. More likely than not, THE BOOK OF DANIEL will lose some of it's audience rather than gain more of it, and be cancelled sometime this year. Likely, only the controversary propelled THE BOOK OF DANIEL to only garnering a soft number 46 amongst all the rated programs last week. This Friday, NBC faces a new threat from it's sister cable network, USA Network, as the critically acclaimed dramamedy, MONK returns for a Winter run. Tony Shaloub has created one of the funniest and best detective characters ever, and compared to THE BOOK OF DANIEL, MONK, is a vastly superior and more watchable and entertaining program. When push comes to shove, many who want to see a 10PM Friday dramamedy will tune in to MONK, and ignore THE BOOK OF DANIEL mess on NBC.

But NBC does have many quality programs that are some of televisions very best. LAW AND ORDER:SVU is having probably it's best season ever, as Mariska Hargitay, the daughter of blonde bombshell legend, Jayne Mansfield, has grown into one of television's greatest actresses, far better than her merely acceptable supporting actress role on ER a few years ago would have suggested. Last Sunday, the excellent drama, CROSSING JORDAN, had one of it's best episodes ever, with plenty of ghoulish laughs, edge of seat drama and enough sexual tension to be a great television viewing experience. ER, and the other two LAW AND ORDER programs, and the aging WEST WING are still strong entries with mostly good healthy ratings and audience loyality. NBC seems to have far more strength in quality dramas than it has in comedy programming, however CBS has proven itself to be the current master at both.

Ratings will tend to shift over time. And the loss of WILL & GRACE after this year will be another blow to NBC's comedy lineup. All NBC can do is to continue to look for the next SEINFELD or CHEERS out there somewhere and continue to offer strong episodes of the LAW AND ORDER franchise.


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