Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Will Dancing with the Stars become the American Idol of the fall? (And five other ratings questions)

By Jon

That's probably a question few have pondered, but it's something to consider.

Dancing with the Stars came out of nowhere last summer to become a big, cheesy hit, opening with over 13 million viewers in its first week (Great for a summer program), and it increased from there, building to a 22 million viewer finale.

Naturally, this prompted another edition of the show for midseason, placed on Thursdays and Fridays to take advantage of Survivor’s hiatus. Despite people thinking it was a summer-only phenomenon, it went on to open with over 17 million viewers, then built up again as the season progressed, even with competition from the new season of Survivor and the Winter Olympics, to a 27 million viewer finale up against the Olympics Closing Ceremonies, which hit a record low.

Now ABC has moved it to the American Idol pattern of Tuesday/Wednesday, and with no Idol to suck up potential publicity and not-as-strong competition (NCIS? Pfft.), the pieces are in place for it to reach its full potential.

I’m actually almost tempted to say it could be the #1 show of the fall. Desperate Housewives hasn’t recovered from its slump (More on that soon). CSI and Grey’s Anatomy will send each into the low 20s.

I’m not saying it’ll be getting 30 million viewers a week and making Harry Hamlin the most searched celebrity on Yahoo, but I do think top three for the fall is certainly within reach.

As for the other questions:

2. CSI vs. Grey’s Anatomy: Who will win?

Both. CSI is going into its seventh season and should be giving out any day now. All it has needed is a large enough foe. Grey’s is it.

However, CSI has that older-age CBS audience that rarely checks out the competition that should keep it ahead of Grey’s among total viewers (22-24 million sounds like a respectable goal). Grey’s, however, has those pesky Adults 18-49, and it should easily top CSI in that department, if not among total viewers (18-21 million is likely).

3. Can CBS survive the probable downfall of the procedural this season?

Sure. Why not? CBS didn’t become the biggest network on TV and hold some control on every night simply on luck. They have shown themselves to be a smart network, and their choices of new programs show they fully realize they’re built on a foundation that is about to give out very soon.

The only new crime-centered show this fall is told from the point-of-view of a career criminal. Their other two shows are based off of winning formulas from other networks: Jericho (a group of people isolated from society) and Shark (a smart, lovable bastard with a high-paying job).

Granted, they still have a hit procedural on every night, but they have at least one other show to balance things out (I don’t want to waste space by listing them all, so see their schedule here). And if I had to guess what will be the first crime shows to go, I’d say Close to Home and Criminal Minds.

4. Will comedy ever be big again?

Ever? Sure. Soon? Probably not.

Last season critics heralded the return of the Sitcom with How I Met Your Mother, My Name is Earl and Everybody Hates Chris. All were heavily hyped, and had big ratings numbers for their premieres.

By season’s end, most had forgotten they even existed. Mother had lost 25% of its premiere audience (10.9M to 8.2M), Earl 44% (15.2M to 8.7M) and Chris 57% (7.8M to 3.3M). Sure, their premieres were inflated by hype (Chris especially), but those final numbers are hardly genre-reviving. And the biggest New Comedy overall? The New Adventures of Old Christine.

This season doesn’t seem too promising. 30 Rock has been getting the most buzz of the new sitcoms, but is placed on NBC Wednesdays at 8, up against the Dancing with the Stars results show. The only new sitcom on Comedy King CBS is The Class, which is expected to successfully lead off the night. I have a feeling it won’t live up to the hype.

The only other sitcoms with major potential are the Dancing lead-outs The Knights of Prosperity, a serialized sitcom about low-life crooks robbing Mick Jaggar’s apartment, and Help Me Help You, starring Ted Danson as a self-obsessed group therapist. ABC has a lot rolling on these two shows, as they are ABC’s first honest attempt at sitcom hits in years, which is probably why their current line-up sucks.

They have taken the interesting route of airing the shows by premiering Help Me first on September 26, then airing it for 3 weeks out of 90-minute editions of Dancing, before premiering Knights on October 17. Whether or not this will succeed in keeping a stable audience there depends entirely on whether or not audiences still find small time crooks and Ted Danson funny. I say odds are good enough.

However, if any comedy should be looked out for, it's three-seasons-old The Office. While lead-in My Name is Earl gradually lost its audience, The Office held steady, with its hold on Earl audience going up from 59% (15.2M/9M) to 86% (8.7M/7.5M). It has also become a hit on iPod. And now it’s a Best Comedy nominee at the Emmys and the favorite to win. If this show was ever meant to break out, now is the time.

5. Just what can we expect from The CW ratings-wise?

This is a tough question, and probably unanswerable until the network actually premieres on September 18. Its clearance is at 95%, on par with Fox but below the big three, so the potential audience is certainly higher. But will these new viewers care enough to watch? The only new shows aren’t too appealing (The Game and Runaway), and all the older ones might be too far into their runs to get new viewers to care.

In the end, my best guess is that we won’t see an immediate change. However, as new shows with actual appeal come around next season and onward, it could reach Fox-levels.

6. Will Fox not suck enough Wednesday through Monday this fall for us to care?


All ratings information was provided by

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