- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Bad is good for ‘Idol’

Gentlemen, start your insults.

Fox plans to make the most of the return of “American Idol,” Cox News Service reports.

The network said Monday that it would kick off the sixth season of TV’s No. 1 show by airing back-to-back two-hour episodes Jan. 16 and 17.

According to Fox, this season boasts “more talented singers than ever” (Hey, don’t they say this every year?), but it’s the really untalented ones — and the snarky things the judges say about them, particularly resident meanie Simon Cowell — that get many viewers to tune in during the show’s early weeks. Audition episodes, airing Tuesday and Wednesday nights in January, will feature the best and worst of the more than 100,000 aspiring crooners who turned out in Los Angeles; San Antonio; Birmingham, Ala.; Memphis, Tenn.; Minneapolis; New York; and Seattle. Semifinal rounds begin in February.

Nominated for 22 Emmys, “Idol” has become a network television phenomenon. May’s fifth-season finale, in which Alabama native Taylor Hicks captured the crown — and Prince made a live surprise appearance — attracted more than 35 million viewers.

‘Office’ works overtime

Can’t get enough of “The Office”? NBC sure hopes so.

After tomorrow’s episode of the Emmy-winning comedy airs on television (8:30 p.m. on WRC-NBC4), fans will be able to go online to see a different version of the episode: a “producer’s cut” that will include additional scenes cut to fit the show’s half-hour running time, Zap2it.com reports.

Streaming video of tomorrow’s show will go live on NBC.com at 9 p.m. Pacific time (that’s midnight to viewers here as well as those elsewhere on the East Coast), right after West Coast viewers see the episode. NBC already offers deleted scenes from the show online, but the network has never before streamed a full episode with extra scenes.

“This is a first of its kind and a real bonus for fans of ‘The Office,” says Vivi Zigler, who oversees new media for NBC. “It’s also a natural for this show, which has continually pushed the envelope in the digital landscape. We’re seeing an incredible audience reaction to the evolving digital extensions of our programming and anticipate this being one of their favorites.”

Tomorrow’s episode of “The Office” could be worthy of the extra material, at least in terms of plot development. The installment, titled “Branch Closing,” centers on Jan (Melora Hardin) telling Michael (Steve Carell) that the Scranton office of Dunder Mifflin will be shutting down. He desperately tries to keep his employees from getting depressed. Meanwhile, staffers start thinking about their lives outside the workplace.

The Webcast will remain online for a week, Zap2it.com reports.

Years’ gets early exit

Sadly, the news isn’t as promising for other NBC shows.

The demise of the NBC sitcom “20 Good Years” is coming one week earlier than expected, with the freshman sitcom and lead-in “30 Rock” being replaced this week with a two-hour edition of “The Biggest Loser,” MediaWeek.com reports.

“30 Rock” will move to Thursday at 9:30 and the Wednesday 8 p.m. hour will be filled with repeats and specials.

Lost’ and found

ABC’s “Lost” keeps bleeding viewers, but those “Desperate Housewives” have found their second wind.

November’s sweeps period kicked off with an upset that’s been brewing for a while — CBS’ “Criminal Minds” brought in more viewers last week than “Lost,” Associated Press reports, citing fresh statistics from Nielsen Media Research.

The quarterly sweeps ratings are used to determine advertising rates.

Meanwhile, “Desperate Housewives” managed to win the week’s top viewership award despite heavy competition from NBC’s Sunday-night football.

The hard-fought Sunday-night football matchup between rival powerhouses Indianapolis and New England brought nearly 22 million people to NBC. That was well above Sunday-night football’s season average of 15.5 million going into last week, Nielsen said.

None of that mattered to CBS, which rode the overall strength of its prime-time schedule to victory last week.

For the week, CBS averaged 12.8 million viewers (8.2 rating, 13 share), ABC had 11.4 million (7.4, 12), NBC had 10.9 million (7.0, 11), Fox had 6.4 million (4.0, 6), the CW had 3.3 million (2.1, 3) and the I network had 600,000 (0.4, 10).

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision was boosted by the Latin Grammys to a 3.4 million average (1.9, 3), Telemundo had 770,000 (0.5, 1), and TeleFutura had 650,000 (0.4, 1).

A ratings point represents 1.114 million households, or 1 percent of the nation’s estimated 111.4 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of Oct. 30 to Nov. 5, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships: “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 22.65 million; NFL Football: Indianapolis at New England, NBC, 21.95 million; “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC, 21.03 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 20.77 million; “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC, 20.51 million.

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

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