'Girls Club' debuts to dismal TV ratings
Oct. 22, 2002 01:51 PM
LOS ANGELES - The biggest problem with ''Girls Club,'' the latest TV show from vaunted producer David E. Kelley, is that few young women tuned in to watch it.
Those viewers had been the target audience for the new Fox network drama that premiered Monday night and was intended to replace Fox's former hit show, ''Ally McBeal,'' which was also created by Kelley.
But ''Girls Club,'' about three young female attorneys in a San Francisco law firm, has been dogged by mostly negative reviews and was a ratings dud in its debut outing, according to preliminary figures on Tuesday from Nielsen Media Research.
The show's first episode ranked a distant fourth place among the four major networks in the Monday 9 o'clock hour, averaging a lackluster 6 million viewers. That's nearly 5 million fewer than last year's season premiere of another Kelley show about single young lawyers in a big city, ''Ally McBeal,'' in the same time slot.
The new show did especially poorly among viewers aged 18 to 49, the young-adult demographic most coveted by advertisers, registering a lowly 2.6 rating. By comparison, ''Ally McBeal'' drew twice that number in its season debut last year. Worst of all, perhaps, were the Nielsen ratings for viewers targeted as the show's principal audience -- a dismal 2.9 rating for women aged 18 to 49 and a 3.6 rating for women aged 18 to 34.
There was no immediate comment from Kelley's production company or from Fox officials, though network executives were believed to be huddling to decide the show's future.
A hasty demise of ''Girls Club'' would leave Fox, a unit of News Corp. Ltd. , with a gaping hole in its schedule on a night that has long been a bright spot for the network, with marquee shows such as ''Melrose Place'' and ''Ally McBeal.''
''Girls Club,'' featuring movie actress Gretchen Mol, was supposed to be the heir apparent to ''Ally,'' the Emmy-winning sensation starring Calista Flockhart that captured a devoted female audience but ended its five-year run last May after sinking steadily in the ratings.
The inauspicious launch of ''Girls Club'' marks another disappointment for Kelley, who sprang to prominence as the executive producer behind such landmark shows as ''L.A. Law'' and ''Picket Fences.'' He currently has two other prime-time series on the air -- the high school drama ''Boston Public,'' also on Fox on Mondays, and legal drama ''The Practice'' on ABC Sundays.
TV Guide chief critic Matt Roush said the problem with the new series was that it lacked either ''the power or the quirkiness of a David E. Kelley show. ... It's just kind of blah.''
He added the apparent flop also demonstrates the limited value of having a brand-name producer like Kelley attached to a series if the show is of subpar quality and facing stiff competition. ''He's certainly not the media darling that he used to be,'' Roush said.
The stumble of ''Girls Club'' comes as another much-acclaimed writer-producer, Aaron Sorkin, faces declining ratings for his show, Emmy-winning political drama ''The West Wing,'' which many critics also see has having hit a rut in its fourth season.
Kelley's latest show aired opposite ''Monday Night Football'' on ABC, the NBC police and fire drama ''Third Watch'' and CBS sitcoms ''Everybody Loves Raymond'' and ''Still Standing.''
CBS is a unit of Viacom Inc. , ABC is a division of Walt Disney Co. and NBC is owned by General Electric Co.