- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2005

‘Grey’ matters

During last week’s World Series on Fox, just days before the start of November ratings sweeps, networks offered a lineup clogged with reruns. It was a missed opportunity for everyone and provided a mixed blessing for Fox: The series lasted the minimum four games and was the lowest-rated Fall Classic ever.

There was good news, though, for ABC: An episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” which featured a family from Prince George’s County, managed to crack Nielsen’s list of the 10 highest-rated programs — as did “Grey’s Anatomy,” the ABC drama about young doctors with very active social lives, Associated Press reported yesterday, citing data obtained by Nielsen Media Research.

“Grey’s” big ratings also earned a big reward. ABC announced that the show will get the plum time slot after the Super Bowl, which the network is telecasting Feb. 5.

“Grey” debuted earlier this year and is promoted relentlessly each week during “Desperate Housewives” (which aired a rerun on Sunday). Until it proved itself, there was always doubt it could thrive on its own. Yet “Grey” drew 2.6 million more viewers than Sunday’s “Desperate” rerun, indicating it has an audience that will seek it out, network officials said.

Meanwhile, not every new drama strikes gold on ABC. Thursday’s “Night Stalker” was seen by fewer than 5 million viewers, or about one-fifth the audience of the competing “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” rerun on CBS.

CBS again won the week, averaging 12.6 million viewers and winning among viewers aged 18 to 49. Fox averaged 10.3 million viewers, ABC 9.5 million, NBC 8.7 million, the WB 3.7 million, UPN 3.6 million and Pax TV 550,000.

For the week of Oct. 24 through 30, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 24.2 million; “Without a Trace,” CBS, 21.8 million; World Series Game 4: Chicago vs. Houston, Fox, 20 million; “CSI: Miami,” CBS, 19.9 million; and “NCIS,” CBS, 18 million.

Retro show returns

“That ‘70s Show” begins its eighth season tonight (8 p.m. on Fox) without Topher Grace — who apparently is more focused on his screen career — but with the rest of the cast intact.

Tonight’s hourlong season opener picks up where the show ended last spring: with Hyde (Danny Masterson) returning from Las Vegas to find his estranged girlfriend, Jackie (Mila Kunis), sharing a hotel room with the klutzy Kelso — played by Ashton Kutcher, who will follow Mr. Grace’s lead by exiting the series after this season.

‘Fear’ resurfaces

Just when you thought you had seen the last of do-anything-for-publicity contestants covered with worms or swilling maggot mucus, comes word of the return of “Fear Factor.”

Next month, NBC will bring back its longest-running reality series in the Tuesday 8 p.m. slot, now home to “The Biggest Loser,” which wraps its run when its weight-loss champ is crowned at month’s end.

” ‘Fear Factor’ has virtually become a trademark series,” Curt Sharp, NBC’s vice president for alternative programming, tells Zap2it.com. “It brings a loyal audience and should mesh well on Tuesdays at 8 after the success of ‘The Biggest Loser’.”

The Tuesday time slot is a change from “Fear Factor’s” longtime Monday home. NBC has plugged “Surface” in the 8 p.m. Monday spot this season and has had moderate success, although that show hasn’t generated the ratings “Fear Factor” enjoyed last season among the coveted 18-to-49 demographic that advertisers crave.

However, the new season, the sixth for “Fear Factor,” promises bigger thrills. A new production team — whose feature film credits include “Kill Bill Vol. 2,” “Minority Report” and “The Matrix Revolutions” — will design the show’s stunts, Zap2it.com reports.

Other noticeable changes include a multiepisode arc featuring several teams of reality-TV stars (from such shows as “Survivor,” “American Idol” and “The Real World”) plus an episode filmed at the “Psycho” house and Bates Motel sets at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.

“Fear Factor” also will incorporate a “Home Invasion” segment, in which host Joe Rogan travels to viewers’ homes and challenges them to complete a stunt, with a $5,000 prize at stake.

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

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