- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2008

‘Ray’ not over easy

Is Rachael Ray’s media empire showing cracks?

Insiders say the TV cook’s eponymous syndicated talker, “Rachael Ray” (seen here weekdays at 10 a.m. on Fox5-WTTG) will be getting the ax at the end of her contract, the New York Post said, citing an “impeccable” source.

The problem is her ratings. When her show debuted two years ago, she had a meager 2.5 rating, which her syndicator, King World, nonetheless trumpeted as “the biggest syndicated debut since ‘Dr. Phil.’ ”

In fact, one insider said, “They had hoped for more. ‘Dr. Phil’ beats ‘Oprah’ and gets like a 5.0 rating — and Rachael’s set is very expensive and elaborate; his is just chairs.”

A representative for Miss Ray responded by saying that she’s not alone in her falling numbers: Oprah Winfrey, Miss Ray’s broadcast mentor, was down 15 percent from February 2007, as were “Live With Regis and Kelly,” “The Tyra Banks Show” and “The Martha Stewart Show.”

Miss Ray’s syndicated show averaged a 2.2 Nielsen rating in 2007 and already has dipped to 2.0 this year.

Another bad indicator is that in 2007, the average age of a daytime “Rachael Ray” viewer was 53.4, with just 776,000 women between the ages of 18 and 49 (the show’s target demographic) tuning in. In 2008, both numbers have taken a turn for the worse. The average-age viewer today is 55.1, with just 688,000 women between the ages of 18 and 49 tuning in.

Miss Ray’s peeps also point out that the average age for Miss Winfrey’s viewers is 54.6. Moreover, “Our show is renewed through 2010 — so canceling is not an option,” one show insider was quoted as saying.

Still, even if Miss Ray loses the syndication gig, the perky on-air host still has her Food Network shows, “30 Minute Meals” and “Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels,” along with her magazine, Every Day With Rachael Ray.

‘Law’ imitates life

You might wonder how “Law & Order” manages to come up with new plots after nearly 20 years on the air. But of course, the crime drama is notorious for ripping its ideas from the headlines.

“Bottomless,” the episode slated for March 30 at 9 p.m., takes its inspiration from a seemingly unlikely case that’s close to home: “When a pair of men’s pants goes missing from a dry cleaner …” NBC’s synopsis begins.

Sound familiar?

It should.

Locals will recall the recent case of Roy Pearson Jr., a lawyer and administrative law judge who filed suit against Custom Dry Cleaners for $67 million after claiming the establishment had lost his pants. Mr. Pearson lost both the case and his job.

However, the “L&O;” episode takes a more ominous turn, imagining that those lost pants are “linked to the gruesome murder of a young lawyer.”

Dogg gets ‘Life’

Superstar rapper Snoop Dogg will make a guest appearance as himself on the May 8 and 9 editions of ABC’s long-running soap “One Life to Live.”

The D-O-double-G also will perform two songs from his latest CD, “Ego Trippin”,” released last week.

Sponge moves in

So long, Charlie Brown. SpongeBob is taking over.

The Mall of America’s indoor amusement park, seven sprawling acres of rides, games and assorted fun once ruled by the Peanuts gang, has become the domain of Nickelodeon Universe, Associated Press reports.

After a $25 million park makeover, SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and Boots the Monkey are greeting visitors to the Bloomington, Minn., attraction, which had its grand opening Saturday with appearances by Ashlee Simpson and an assortment of the popular cable network’s stars.

The debut gives Nickelodeon its first stand-alone theme park as it expands Nickelodeon’s brand. The mall considered “almost every brand out there” before choosing Nickelodeon, which is owned by Viacom Inc., spokeswoman Maureen Hooley Bausch said.

Camp Snoopy operated in the center of the Mall of America for 13 years, from the mall’s opening in 1992 until an agreement couldn’t be reached to extend its run. A little more than a year ago, Nickelodeon was announced as the new theme-park tenant.

Charlie Brown, Lucy and the other Peanuts characters are “a wonderful brand, but they’re slightly more nostalgic,” Miss Bausch explained.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse and Kelly Jane Torrance from staff, wire and Web reports.

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