- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Olympic-size dud

The beauty and pageantry of the 2006 Olympic Games translated into ugly news for NBC.

The network’s prime-time Olympics coverage from Turin ended up averaging 20.2 million viewers per night, a 37 percent decline from the Salt Lake City games four years ago, with an even steeper drop among young viewers, Associated Press reports.

Sunday’s closing ceremonies attracted just 14.8 million viewers and were clobbered by ABC’s finale of “Dancing With the Stars.”

That’s right, more viewers cared about C-list celebrities than some of the world’s finest athletes.

Still, the Olympics ratings were more than double NBC’s prime-time average for regular programming, and the network hopes it was able to reach enough people with ads for new programs such as “Conviction” to give them strong starts.

The top five shows for the week of Feb. 20 through 26, their networks and viewerships were: “American Idol” (Wednesday), Fox, 31.68 million; “American Idol” (Tuesday), Fox, 30.16 million; “Dancing With the Stars” (Sunday), ABC, 27.22 million; “Winter Olympics” (Thursday), NBC, 25.72 million; and “Winter Olympics” (Tuesday), NBC, 25.07 million.

Indies On Demand

It just got a little easier to see just-released indie films.

In a deal announced yesterday, Comcast will partner with IFC Entertainment to air selected independent features at the same time they hit theaters, McClatchy News Service reports.

Philadelphia-based Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, says the “IFC in Theaters” selections will be shown via its On Demand service. On Demand allows subscribers with digital cable service to order movies, television shows — including some on premium bable — and specials whenever they choose, often at no extra charge.

The On Demand indies can be ordered for $5.99 when the films begin airing later this month.

Long, bumpy ‘Ride’

Fox’s “Free Ride” promises something relatively fresh for broadcast television — a partially improvised sitcom.

Hey, if it works for HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” why not try it again?

The dialogue for “Ride” (debuting tonight at 9:30 following “American Idol”) might feature different beats than your average sitcom, but the bland scenarios and barely likable lead are straight out of the bad old days.

Young college graduate Nate Stahlings (Josh Dean) is taking a respite in his childhood home while plotting the next move in his career. His folks aren’t too keen on the return because they’ve converted his old room into a gym and are knee-deep in sexually charged marital counseling. (Talk about too much information.)

The old haunts seem fresher than Nate remembered, particularly when he reconnects with Amber, the local cutie (Erin Cahill), who gives good flirt but, alas, is engaged. Nate finds a welcome distraction in Mark (Dave Sheridan) — a guy who peaked in high school and hasn’t grown emotionally.

Mr. Sheridan’s zesty spin on astock charactergives “Free Ride” its sole adrenaline boost. Otherwise, we’re slogging through painful comedy stretches that feel as stale as the worst scripted sitcom. Although we should feel Nate’s pain, the character, as played by Mr. Dean, fails to rally our support.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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