Cup of 'Joe' Hot for Fox
Wed Jan 8, 2:37 AM ET
By Rick Kissell
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - This ain't your average Joe.
Fox's limited-run reality series "Joe Millionaire" has cashed in with jaw-dropping Nielsens, including some of the network's best Monday ratings in eight years.
The boffo bow overwhelmed and overshadowed a solid preview performance for UPN's new comedy "Abby," which moved to its regular night on Tuesday.
"Millionaire," Fox's twisted take on ABC's hit "The Bachelor," averaged a huge 10.1 rating/22 share in adults 18-49 and a 12.3/29 in adults 18-34, making it the highest-rated premiere of the season on any network -- scripted or unscripted -- in these coveted demographics. It more than quadrupled the two-week scores of the short-lived "Girls Club," which aired on Fox in the Monday-at-9 hour in October.
Throw in its 18.61 million viewers overall, and this is Fox's best series showing in the slot since "Melrose Place" in January 1995.
"These numbers are beyond anyone at the network's wildest expectations," Fox Entertainment president Gail Berman told Daily Variety.
"Millionaire" revolves around 20 women who compete for the affections of a wealthy bachelor, not knowing that he is in fact a regular working-class guy.
Berman said Fox reality chief Mike Darnell "conceived of something that just really tapped into the Zeitgeist of American culture."
Darnell said he believes "Millionaire" simply "struck a chord with viewers. The show's a new way to do reality." The opening-night 18-49 rating for "Millionaire" tops all but one episode of both of Fox's other standout reality performers of the past two years -- "Temptation Island" and "American Idol." It also is higher than every episode of CBS' "Survivor: Thailand" earlier this season, and better than all but the finale of ABC's most recent edition of "The Bachelor."
"Millionaire" grew nicely on the half-hour, too, suggesting that people liked what they saw. The show is scheduled to wrap during the February sweep, as Fox plans to use the Monday hour for a variety of reality specials and series during the rest of the season.
"Joe's" audience makeup was roughly 42% male, making it more testosterone-tilting than ABC's "The Bachelor" (31% male this season), but it did its biggest numbers in women 18-34 (14.3/32) and women 18-49 (11.6/24). Heavy promotion during the NFL playoffs, combined with the game's "gotcha" twist, seemed to bring more males to the table, Berman said.
"Fox Sports (programming) has been a fantastic promotional platform for the launching of 'Joe Millionaire,"' Berman said. "The male numbers were very high for a relationship-oriented show, and football was a dynamic part of this launch."
Fox, which also received a solid showing from "Boston Public" (4.0/10 in adults 18-49), captured the night in 18-49 with its best average for regular programs (7.1/17) in nearly two years. Fox was second to CBS in total viewers, drawing its largest Monday audience with regular series since February 1996.
Berman called the boffo bow for "Millionaire" just "one part of the puzzle" as Fox begins to jump into the 2002-03 season following its almost predictable fall fumbles, caused in part by taking the month of October off for baseball playoff coverage.
"Fox has always had a remarkable ability to rally in January," she said. "We're using 'Joe Millionaire' as a base for our other midseason shows and the move (of 'Fastlane') to Friday nights."
Network executives can now only salivate in anticipation of the ratings for the second edition of "American Idol," which bows Jan. 21.
But for now, at least, Fox executives said they doubt there'll be a "Joe Millionaire 2," since potential participants might be suspicious they're being conned.
"I don't know how you can do it again," Berman said. "This seems like a one-time only thing."
Meanwhile, UPN laffer "Abby," starring Sydney Tamilia Poitier as a TV-sports producer with a complex love life, averaged a 1.5/4 in adults 18-34 with its special 9:30 preview episode, retaining 79% of its lead-in from "Girlfriends." It held 90% of its "Girlfriends" lead-in among adults 18-49 (1.8/4 vs. 2.0/4) and 100% among female teens (3.3/9).
The show aired Tuesday at 9:30 behind another firstrun "Girlfriends" before it eventually takes up the Tuesday-at-9 slot.