- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A very fine ‘House’

TV medical dramas seem like the second-surest bet for a hit, following closely behind crime-scene whodunits.

NBC’s long-running “ER” shows no sign of major slippage in its current season, and now Fox has its own budding medical hit on its hands.

The network’s “House” reached a series high last week, coming in as the most popular scripted series on the tube, Associated Press reports.

The drama, starring Hugh Laurie as a doctor with a questionable bedside manner, was seen by 17.3 million people March 15, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.

Those numbers got a sizable boost from the “American Idol” lead-in, but “House” still deserves credit for building on its earlier viewership.

Likewise, another popular freshman series, “Medium,” was the most popular show on NBC last week, getting a boost from airing a new episode, as opposed to a rerun of “CSI: Miami” in the same time slot (Mondays at 10 p.m.).

Unfortunately, ABC isn’t having the same luck with “Jake in Progress,” its highly touted new series. The network aired four back-to-back episodes of “Jake” on Thursday but attracted only 7 million viewers.

CBS won the week, averaging 12 million viewers per show and finishing just behind Fox in the prized 18-to-49 demographic. Fox had 9.7 million viewers, NBC had 9.4 million, ABC 8.2 million, UPN 3.2 million, the WB 2.7 million and Pax TV 600,000.

For the week of March 14 through 20, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “American Idol” (Tuesday), Fox, 28.4 million; “American Idol” (Wednesday), Fox, 24.7 million; “Survivor: Palau,” CBS, 18.4 million; “House,” Fox, 17.3 million; “Cold Case,” CBS, 17.3 million.

‘Stick’ strikes out

Between the moderately ambitious “Jake in Progress” on ABC and the better-than-average “The Office” over at NBC, we’ve almost forgotten what a midseason replacement show looks like.

Fox reminds us with tonight’s premier of “Life on a Stick.”

The comedy, airing at 9:30 p.m., follows best friends Laz (Virginia Beach native Zachary Knighton) and Fred (Charlie Finn) as they leave high school and begin work at a fast-food restaurant. There, Laz meets the adorable Lily (Rachelle Lefevre). He also locks horns with a stereotypically mean manager (Maz Jobrani).

Laz doesn’t mind the gig because he’s living rent-free with Mom and Dad — as long as he watches over his surly stepsister, Molly (Saige Thompson), which sounds like no bargain to us.

Unfortunately, “Stick,” the brainchild of Victor Fresco (who also created the far superior “Andy Richter Controls the Universe”), does little to merit a second look. Few, if any, humorous moments exist, and the youthful cast members never rise above the mediocrity.

Fawcett falls

Even angels can fall to Earth.

Farrah Fawcett’s career, so blazingly hot in her “Charlie’s Angels” heyday, is now fodder for reality television.

TV Land’s “Chasing Farrah,” airing at 10 tonight with back-to-back episodes, tries ever so hard to brand the actress as the new Anna Nicole Smith — a larger-than-life beauty packing nothing but peanuts between the ears.

Miss Fawcett, however, is smarter than that, though not smart enough to avoid this catastrophe.

The reality show — and we use the term “reality” as loosely as possible because much of what transpires seems staged — follows the aging diva as she juggles her personal and professional life.

What the producers clearly hope (as evidenced by the premiere episode) is for that “Letterman moment.” The actress once appeared incoherent on Mr. Letterman’s talk show, and, sadly, that’s been the biggest buzz about her career ever since.

“Chasing Farrah” has no such moment. Instead, we watch a spoiled icon being fawned over by producers and strangers alike. Miss Fawcett still can turn heads with her figure, but it’s hard to find a reason to check out the show other than watching those curves in action.

Miss Fawcett elevated herself from pinup queen to respected actress with her performance in the 1984 TV film “The Burning Bed.” That respect evaporates over the course of “Chasing Farrah,” which might have been more aptly titled, “Debasing Farrah.”.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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