- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The tribe has spoken

The reality of last week’s ratings race wasn’t pretty for networks battling CBS.

Associated Press reports that the conclusion of “Survivor: Pearl Islands,” the seventh edition of CBS’ reality game, reached 25.2 million viewers Sunday, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.

That enabled “Survivor” to beat two other big reality events — the finale of NBC’s “Average Joe” and “The Bachelorette” Trista Rehn’s wedding on ABC.

The penultimate episode of “Survivor,” broadcast Dec. 11, was seen by slightly fewer than 22 million people. The game has been a consistent winner, and the promise of an all-star “Survivor” with favorite contestants starting in February makes CBS executives swoon.

In other reality-show news, “Average Joe” drew a hearty 17.4 million viewers for NBC last week, upsetting ABC’s opulent reality wedding between Miss Rehn and Colorado firefighter Ryan Sutter. NBC has a second serving of “Joe” filmed and ready to go in January.

Let’s not forget ol’ Rudolph in the ratings games.

The popular animated “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” drew 13.7 million viewers for CBS, helping the network to another easy ratings win. CBS averaged 13.7 million viewers for the week (an 8.4 rating, 14 share) and also won among the important 18-to-49-year-old demographic that’s usually dominated by NBC.

NBC finished second for the week with 11.2 million viewers (7.4 rating, 12 share), ABC had 9.5 million (6.3, 10), Fox 7.7 million (4.9, 8), UPN 3 million (2.1, 3), the WB 2.9 million (2.0, 3) and Pax TV 980,000 (0.7, 1).

A ratings point represents 1.084 million households, or 1 percent of the nation’s estimated 108.4 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of Dec. 8 through 14, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 26.8 million; “Survivor: Pearl Islands Finale,” CBS, 25.2 million; “Survivor: Pearl Islands (Thursday),” CBS, 22.4 million; “Survivor: Pearl Islands Reunion,” CBS, 21.9 million; and “ER,” NBC, 19.7 million.

NBC’s makeover

Once-mighty NBC is looking to rebound after a rough start in the current television season.

Reuters News Agency reports that the network slumped 12 percent in the coveted 18-to-49 adult demographic so far, more than any other Big Four network, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research.

Yet the Peacock network is clinging to first place in the age group despite the drop — and, adds Jeff Zucker, NBC’s entertainment president, his shop is on the rebound after an admittedly rocky fall.

The demographic decline is “a little more than I would have expected, but I think we’re going to make that up in the first quarter of 2004,” Mr. Zucker told Reuters.

One cornerstone of the midseason plan is “The Apprentice,” from producer Mark Burnett (of “Survivor” fame). The reality contest — following real estate mogul Donald Trump’s search for a new lieutenant among a band of bright young hopefuls — debuts Jan. 8. NBC has given the series an 8 p.m. Wednesday berth, with the drama “Ed” moving to Fridays.

Mr. Zucker also has high hopes for the midseason comedy “Come to Papa” and the return of the reality series “The Restaurant” and the drama “Crossing Jordan.”

The midseason offerings would have to be stellar, indeed, to make up for the decidedly mixed results of the past three months.

NBC has had its best luck on Mondays, when “Las Vegas” — the top-rated freshman drama on any network — has thrived in its slot between the gross-out staple “Fear Factor” and “Average Joe,” the new hit reality romance, which will return next month.

The network’s trio of freshman comedies has delivered respectable if not knockout results on Tuesdays. The jury is still out on “The Tracy Morgan Show,” Mr. Zucker said, but the network is satisfied with numbers for “Whoopi” and “Happy Family.”

NBC also found a Tuesday anchor in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” which was imported from Fridays. “That’s really shored up our Tuesday night,” he added.

NBC felt the loss on Fridays, however, at the start of the season with the struggling freshman drama “Miss Match” (limping out of the gate at 9 p.m.) and the now-canceled police drama “Boomtown,” initially replacing “SVU” at 10 p.m. Still, the relocation last month of the action drama “Third Watch” from Monday to Friday has again made NBC competitive on Friday.

As for “Miss Match,” the Alicia Silverstone vehicle that was bruised by ABC’s TGIF comedy block and CBS’ new hit “Joan of Arcadia,” the network will show a little patience, Mr. Zucker said. “We like it a lot, but we don’t think Friday’s the proper night for it, so we’re probably going to try and find another place for it.”

Not so fortunate was “The Lyon’s Den,” an engaging legal drama starring Rob Lowe that fizzled on Sundays.

Still, Thursday — when NBC’s once-invincible lineup is under increasing pressure from CBS’ “Survivor” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” — remains the top priority. This season, the racy “Coupling” joined the scrapheap of failed Thursday Peacock sitcoms, a legacy that includes “Inside Schwartz,” “Jesse” and “The Single Guy.”

Ritter’s farewell

One of John Ritter’s last movie roles was a dinner with friends.

The actor, who died September 11, spent 12 hours with pals Straw Weisman and Andy Goldberg two years ago to make the improvised dramatic-comedy “Man of the Year.”

After screenings on the festival circuit, the film is playing in one theater in Los Angeles and may play a few other limited engagements in coming months, Mr. Weisman told Associated Press recently.

The movie, filmed in July 2001 with 25 actors, 70 crew members, 20 digital cameras and no script, stars Mr. Ritter as a wealthy honoree at a dinner party that leads to the unraveling of his life.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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