- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

ABC’s ‘Desperate’ hit

People still watch ABC… they really do.

The network’s “Desperate Housewives,” a black comedy, put an exclamation mark on that fact Sunday by drawing 21.6 million viewers, making it the week’s most-watched show, Associated Press reports.

The soapy suburban dramedy, airing in the 9 p.m. time slot, stars Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross and Eva Longoria as a quartet of quirky residents in an upscale cul-de-sac.

So far, so good. The reviews, along with the ratings, have been stellar.

The last time an ABC scripted drama ranked at the top of the Nielsen charts was an episode of “The Practice” three years ago.

That wasn’t the only good news for the alphabet network. Its highly touted “Lost” drew 17 million viewers Sept. 29, then another 8.8 million when the network repeated the first two episodes Saturday evening.

Although CBS was again the most popular network, ABC won among the 18- to 49-year-old demographic most coveted by advertisers, a feat last accomplished a decade ago.

Meanwhile, ABC also can thank President Bush and Sen. John Kerry for some of last week’s success. Chances are “Desperate Housewives” would not have been the week’s No. 1 show if the presidential debate hadn’t wiped out part of the strong Thursday lineups on CBS and NBC.

NBC finished a disappointing third for the week — with its highest-rated show, “The Apprentice 2,” reaching No. 13 in the rankings. “Apprentice 2” drew a below-average audience of just 14.7 million viewers because it had to be switched to Wednesday to make room for the debate.

For the week of Sept. 27 through Oct. 3, the top five shows and their networks and viewerships were: “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 21.6 million; “Survivor: Vanuatu,” CBS, 19.9 million; “CSI: Miami,” CBS, 19.7 million; “CSI: NY,” CBS, 19.5 million; “NFL Monday Night Football: Dallas at Washington,” ABC, 19.4 million.

Hormonal ‘Life’

ABC’s newest series takes us into the hormonal hearts of today’s high schoolers, a place that’s ripe with dramatic potential.

The network’s “Life as We Know It,” debuting at 9 tonight, offers yet another peek into high school life, seen this time through the eyes of three sexually driven teenagers. Right from the start, the influence of previous shows such as “My So-Called Life” and “Dawson’s Creek” is evident — including the infamous teacher-student relationship, which also marked “Creek’s” beginning.

“Life’s” characters, in fact, fit all the high school drama archetypes. There’s Dino (Sean Faris), the jock; Ben Connor (Jon Foster), the clever, popular guy; and Jonathan Fields (Chris Lowell), the artsy, insecure one.

The producers, Jeff Judah and Gabe Sachs — who also brought us “Freaks and Geeks” — do a smart job of bringing fresh dialogue and catchy freeze-frame character confessions that add depth to what initially could be seen as the norm for nearly every guy in high school.

“Life” may not draw the hefty ratings “Desperate Housewives” or “Lost” now enjoy, given its Thursday night time slot. It surely fills a niche, though, and it’s unlikely to run out of material anytime soon.

Kerry stumps on BET

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry drops by Black Entertainment Television tonight for a prime-time interview designed (it’s safe to assume) to secure the black vote.

The special interview, which will enable the Massachusetts senator to appeal directly to black voters, airs at 8 p.m. An encore showing will air tomorrow at 11:30 p.m.

Animated improv

Drew Carey helped fuel the current improv climate by bringing “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” to ABC a few years back.

Now he’s trying to breathe life into the visually staid format with a show blending improv with animation. The notion ranks right up there with “Joanie Loves Chachi” for dopey ideas that deserve to fail.

Yet the animation gimmick may be just the ticket for attracting new fans to the improv format.

The WB’s “Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show,” debuting tonight at 8:30, lets Mr. Carey and pals ham it up on a special set that allows animators to add visuals after the fact.

If, say, Mr. Carey and fellow improv vet Greg Proops get the notion to whip up a Western showdown, the animators can immediately draw in the 10-gallon hats and saloon backdrop.

With that in mind, we should all tip our hats to the animation team, which has skillfully merged humans with drawings in a cohesive manner. It doesn’t always work (as in the second-episode screener sent to critics), but the concept buries the notion that improv must be visually static.

Those who have an allergic reaction to improv comedy — and it can be a strain to endure at times — might not be charmed, but youngsters will readily embrace the format.

Fox gets ‘Spoiled’

The Fox News Channel examines how parents mold their children’s behavior this weekend with a new special hosted by Judith Regan.

“Spoiled Rotten Kids: Taking Control,” airing Sunday at 9 p.m., features interviews with such child-rearing experts as Dr. Robert Shaw (author of “The Epidemic”) and Dr. Michael Rich (Harvard University’s Center on Media and Child Health). The participants will discuss the dangers resulting from slipshod parenting and what needs to be done to help children.

Compiled by Christian Toto and Thomas Walter from staff and wire reports.

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