- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Desperate decline

During the regular TV season, “Desperate Housewives” was a top-five hit nearly every week, but this summer the prime-time soap has suffered the same malady as other shows of that genre this time of year: lousy ratings.

Since its original episodes stopped a few months back, summer reruns of the ABC hit — up for 15 Emmys next month — have barely drawn 5 million viewers each week, less than a quarter of its average viewership during the regular season, E! online reports.

In the latest Nielsen Media Research rankings, “Housewives” came in 50th place (netting just 4.9 million viewers) for the TV week of Aug. 8 through 14.

A ratings drop is a reality for all shows during the summer months, but some numbers fall further than others. While “Housewives” is down more than 75 percent from its regular-season average, CBS’ “CSI” is off by a more modest figure, 50 percent. The show hasn’t lost its Top 10 status, either. Last week, the crime drama was again TV’s most watched show, with 13.9 million viewers.

The news comes as no surprise because past summer ratings have shown that crime shows such as “CSI” are more durable in the ratings than night-time soaps during heavy rerun periods.

“Housewives’” inability to break soapdom’s summer curse has been a relative boon to “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” Going up against the adventures of the women of Wisteria Lane last season, the long-running NBC drama weathered major viewer defections. This summer, though, it’s back in the Top 10 — actually placing 10th last week with 8.7 million viewers. It was a victory of sorts — albeit in the Sunday 9 p.m. time slot against the new ABC comedy-variety show “My Kind of Town,” which placed 25th (6.7 million viewers).

Still, ABC needn’t worry. Declining ratings for prime-time soaps usually reverse themselves when TV’s regular season begins each fall.

All in the family

Blood ties will factor into the upcoming season of CBS’ “The Amazing Race,” a break from the past for the show, which has generally featured friends, lovers and spouses on two-member teams.

The upcoming edition of the Emmy-winning reality series, titled “The Amazing Race: Family Edition,” will feature 10 four-member clans as they trek around the world in a battle for $1 million, according to E! online.

During this year’s globe-trotting, the four-member family teams will be pitted against each other in a series of mental and physical challenges, presumably testing the bonds of the ‘hood — sibling-hood, parenthood, couple-hood, in-law-hood and even stepfamily-hood.

“Anytime you put a family of four together, you get interesting dynamics,” executive producer Bertram van Munster told USA Today. “It’s a pretty humorous and explosive mix.”

The addition of younger competitors is also new this year, prompting some adjustments to the grueling “Amazing Race” schedule. First, there are fewer non-elimination episodes, and the teams only traveled about 30,000 miles total — less than half the 72,000 miles logged by contestants in season six. Less crowded competition sites also were chosen in deference to the youngsters.

Yet producers see the addition of children as a possible plus for the teams.

This year’s “Amazing Race” also will feature local competitors: the Black family from Woodbridge, Va. Parents Reggie and Kim have the chance to travel the planet with their sons Kenneth, 11, and Austin, 8.

The series will be hosted again by Phil Keoghan. “The Amazing Race: Family Edition” kicks off Sept. 27 with a two-hour premiere at 9 p.m.

More Mencia

Comedy Central has extended the first-season order of “Mind of Mencia,” starring Honduras-born comic Carlos Mencia. The network has added three more episodes to the original order of 10, thanks to its strong ratings throughout the summer.

Since its July 6 premiere, the show has averaged 1.4 million viewers and has won its Wednesday 10:30 p.m. time slot among the 18 to 24 male demographic, MediaWeek reports. “Mencia” follows reruns of the cable network’s animated franchise, “South Park.”

Like Mr. Mencia’s stand-up routines, “Mind” showcases his passionate and brutally honest point of view of the world on such topics as ethnic stereotypes, race relations, immigration, war, patriotism, capitalism and family. The show also blends Mr. Mencia’s take on pop culture and current events with man-on-the-street interviews.

“Mind of Mencia” airs Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. through Sept. 28.

Bill’s back

HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” is back in its regular Friday night time slot, returning for its third season tomorrow at 11 p.m.

This week’s featured guests include antiwar protestor Cindy Sheehan, former Homeland Security Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson, ABC News correspondent Michel Martin and actor-comedian Chris Rock.

Compiled by Thomas Walter from staff and wire reports.

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