- The Washington Times - Friday, July 17, 2009

Syndies slip

Syndication ratings tumbled in the last week of spring, ending June 21; a majority of syndicated shows saw ratings drag as balmy weather and pre-emptions for the U.S. Open golf tournament sent viewing levels down, Broadcastingcable.com reports.

Many shows, in fact, dropped to their low points of the season. Of course, those numbers don’t reflect the double-digit increases most magazine-formatted shows saw June 25 — the day Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died.

The shows’ primary-run metered-market averages are newly available. CBS Television Distribution’s “Entertainment Tonight” saw the biggest gain for the day’s coverage, jumping 42 percent from its year-ago time period, according to Nielsen Media Research. Ratings averages that include only a show’s primary-run numbers are higher because the ratings aren’t diluted by averaging in the numbers for all telecasts, including those that run in less-watched late-night and early-morning time slots.

In third place, NBC Universal’s “Access Hollywood” improved 22 percent, and “ET’s” sister show, “The Insider,” earned the genre’s second-highest uptick, gaining 41 percent.

Warner Bros.’ “Extra” jumped 15 percent, and its “TMZ” — which broke the story of Mr. Jackson’s death June 25 on its Web site, TMZ.com — remained in last place, gaining just 6 percent from its year-ago time-period averages.

Likewise, the magazine shows’ national ratings slipped along with everything else. However, extensive coverage of Billy Joel’s divorce from his third wife, Katie Lee, sent “ET” weekend numbers up 20 percent among first-run weekly hours.

The weekday “ET,” however, slipped 8 percent but still easily led the category. “Inside Edition” sank 11 percent to a new season low, while “TMZ” and “Access Hollywood” both were down 5 percent. “The Insider” fell 6 percent to a new season low, and “Extra” lost 13 percent.

Most daytime talk shows had a very rough go of it as well. CTD’s “Oprah” led the talkers but skidded 5 percent. CTD’s “Dr. Phil “slipped 4 percent, Disney/ABC’s “Live With Regis and Kelly” tumbled 8 percent to a new season low, and NBC Universal’s “Maury” sank 6 percent.

Similarly, Warner Bros.’ “Ellen DeGeneres” lost 6 percent, CTD’s “Rachael Ray” was down 7 percent, and its “Jerry Springer ” remained flat.

On the other hand, NBCU’s “Steve Wilkos” was up 11 percent, while Warner Bros.’ “Tyra Banks” fell 18 percent.

Among the court shows, “Judge Judy” easily landed on top, dipping just 3 percent and still beating everything in syndication. Warner Bros.’ “People’s Court” gained 6 percent, while its “Judge Mathis” was down 7 percent — landing in a tie with Twentieth Television’s “Judge Alex.” Sony’s “Judge David Young” was up 14 percent.

In game shows, CTD’s “Wheel of Fortune” dropped to a new season low, down by 3 percent. CTD’s “Jeopardy” also sank to a new season low, falling 4 percent.

‘Simpsons’ get Spurlock

“The Simpsons” is getting “super sized” to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its debut, Zap2it.com reports.

Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me,” FX’s “30 Days”) has been tapped to produce and direct a special about “The Simpsons,” which will air Jan. 14, 20 years to the day after the show debuted as a weekly series. The full title is “The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special in 3-D on Ice.” (A helpful and hilarious editor’s note at the end of Fox’s press release about the documentary asks writers to “Please note the special is neither in 3-D nor on ice.”)

“When they first called me about this, I thought it was a prank, and I hung up,” Mr. Spurlock says. “And then my agent called back and said, ‘No, no, this is for real,’ at which point, I fainted. Then when I woke up, I called everyone I knew because it was the coolest thing I could ever get to do in my career.”

Mr. Spurlock will explore the cultural impact “The Simpsons” has had in its two decades on the air, both in the United States and around the world, and also will examine how the Simpson family has seen the world in that time.

Nick loves that ‘Bob’

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” Nickelodeon will air a 50-hour marathon of episodes beginning Friday at 8 with a new episode, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes.

In the episode, “SquarePants or Not to SquarePants,” SpongeBob’s pants shrink in the dryer. He tries a pair of round pants only to find that no one recognizes him.

Hosted by Patchy the Pirate — a live-action character who is the president of the SpongeBob fan club — the SpongeBob SpongeBash Weekend continues at 10 a.m. Saturday with the top 10 most memorable episodes, as chosen by fans at Nick.com.

Other “SpongeBob” presentations include an airing of “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” at 8 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, the top 10 episodes chosen by celebrities begin airing at 10 a.m., and a marathon of 10 new episodes begins that evening at 7.

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

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