- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Marking middle age

Don’t be surprised if Fox suddenly buys a Ferrari and acquires a hot young girlfriend. The once-youthful network has officially hit middle age, TVWeek.com notes.

Fox’s median age passed the 40-year-old threshold for the first time last season, according to a new study from Magna Global USA’s Steve Sternberg. The network, which boasted a median age of 35 just four years ago, aged up to 42 last year.

That still makes Fox the youngest of TV’s Big Four networks — although the gap is narrowing.

Fox doesn’t have much to worry about, though. Its median age is still in check with the national population and reflects a broadening of its schedule. Such shows as “24,” “House” and even “American Idol” reach a wider age range than its shows did even a few years ago — and have helped lead the network to the No. 1 spot in adults age 18 to 49.

The CW is by far TV’s youngest broadcast network, with a median age of just 32. That’s two years younger than the median age of UPN and the WB, the two networks it replaced last season.

CBS, dogged by a reputation as TV’s oldest-skewing broadcaster, still has the oldest overall audience, with a median age of 53. Still, Mr. Sternberg notes that the Tiffany network’s percentage of viewers over age 65 is down from five years ago, making it less gray overall.

ABC, however, is getting older — in part because it has become more successful overall in the past few years. Its median age of 48 is up from 44 five years ago, thanks to older-skewing shows such as “Dancing With the Stars” and “Boston Legal” and the expected aging of such hits as “Desperate Housewives.” However, given how well ABC does among affluent viewers with those same shows, it’s unlikely anybody at the Disney-owned network is complaining about a few median-age numbers.

Then there’s NBC. Its median age is 49, once again making it the second-oldest-skewing broadcast network. The loss of young-adult magnets such as “Friends” and an overreliance on “Law & Order” and “Dateline” is behind the increased number of older viewers.

The CW’s “One Tree Hill,” with a median age of 26, was the youngest-skewing show on the broadcast networks, while CBS‘ “60 Minutes” was the oldest with a median age of 60.

On the cable front, preschool channel Noggin’s daytime slate represented the youngest median age — 6 — while GSN’s daytime schedule and Fox News Channel’s daytime and prime-time slates were the oldest, all averaging a median age of 65 and older.

That very well could signify that onetime upstart Fox News is firmly part of the establishment. By contrast, CNN has aged down, with a median age of 62 in prime time.

Brady’s back

Speaking of Fox, the network has tapped Wayne Brady to host its new half-hour game show “Don’t Forget the Lyrics!” premiering July 11 at 9:30 p.m. and then returning the next night at 8:30, Variety reports.

After the initial half-hour viewings, Fox will continue to schedule the game show on Wednesdays and Thursdays and eventually will increase its running time to an hour starting July 26.

Here’s the setup: Contestants, backed by a studio band, will be asked to sing along with the studio audience as lyrics are projected on a large screen. Then, suddenly, the band will stop playing, the words will disappear, and the contestant will be forced to continue singing.

After each correct response, players must decide to “stay and play” or “take the money and run.” If they can recite the lyrics from nine songs correctly, they’ll be presented with a No. 1 hit and a missing lyric. If they can recall that final lyric, they’ll win $1 million.

Mr. Brady previously hosted ABC’s improvisational series “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (1998-2006) and won two Daytime Emmys as host of “The Wayne Brady Show.”

Royals boost NBC

NBC claimed last week’s top four shows as the broadcast networks shared another hot-weather round of mostly reruns and reality fare, and tepid ratings, Associated Press reports.

The Peacock had the week’s most-watched show, “America’s Got Talent.” “Dateline NBC,” which featured Matt Lauer’s interview with Prince William and Prince Harry, was seen by 12.2 million viewers and grabbed second place — making it the most-watched edition of “Dateline” in more than two years.

But it wasn’t enough to give NBC the week’s ratings crown. That honor went to CBS, which had a weekly prime-time average of 7.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. NBC was second with 6.3 million viewers, while Fox averaged 5.5 million viewers. Following were ABC with 4 million, the CW with 1.9 million, My Network TV with 880,000 and ION with 660,000 viewers.

For the week of June 18 through June 24, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: 1) “America’s Got Talent,” NBC, 12.5 million; 2) “Dateline NBC” (Monday), NBC, 12.2 million; 3) “Deal or No Deal” (Monday), NBC, 12 million; 4) “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” NBC, 9.4 million; and 5) “NCIS,” CBS, 9.3 million.

Web watch

If you missed last night’s edition of CNN’s “Larry King Live” — featuring former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr with Yoko Ono (widow of John Lennon) and Olivia Harrison (widow of George Harrison) — you can read an account of the groundbreaking interview at www.washingtontimes.com.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports.