New Fall TV Season Trends Begin
Sat Sep 28,10:36 AM ET
By FRAZIER MOORE, AP Television Writer
Just four days into the fall TV season, hits and misses are already emerging. And with 25 of the networks' 34 new series on the air, ABC — desperate to rebuild — is still on shaky ground.
"It's a two-network race between CBS and NBC," summed up Marc Berman, an analyst for Mediaweek Online.
That theory seemed borne out by Thursday's clash of titans: According to Nielsen Media Research, CBS' "Survivor: Thailand
" was a solid runnerup to NBC's "Friends
" combo; "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
" beat "Will & Grace
" and "Good Morning Miami
"; and crime drama "Without a Trace
" premiered with about two-thirds the audience of "ER
," somewhat narrowing that show's usually huge lead.
Bottom line: NBC carried the night with a huge 25 percent share of the viewing audience but was closely followed by CBS with 21 percent.
ABC along with Fox, UPN and the WB were also-rans.
In the midst of the night's carnage was "Push, Nevada
," ABC's innovative new whodunit, which in its first airing against full-blown fall competition had a tiny 5 percent audience share in its 9 p.m. EDT berth.
As of Thursday, ABC had introduced four of its seven fall shows, with its brightest new performer being "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter
," a sitcom starring John Ritter.
Despite losing one-fourth of the audience from its Sept. 17 premiere, "8 Rules
" in its second airing was beaten in households only by veteran CBS drama "JAG
." And it bested the debut of "The In-Laws
," a sitcom which NBC hoped would establish a beachhead Tuesdays at 8 p.m.
If "8 Rules
" maintains that level, "I think ABC would be pleased," said Brad Adgate, senior vice president of Horizon Media. "But will it? Or will it continue to drop?"
ABC, whose collapse in the overall ratings was one of last season's big stories, may still be on the slide.
"Many people thought ABC hit rock-bottom last year," said Berman. "But I think it's going to hit rock-bottom this year. They've got too many holes in the schedule to fill."
Steve Sternberg isn't so sure. A media analyst with Magna Global USA, he's withholding judgment until the end of "Monday Night Football
," which, he noted, has drawn more viewers than last year.
Can ABC maintain that audience with its post-football Monday programming?
If so, and if the new Bonnie Hunt sitcom "Life with Bonnie
" holds its own against "Frasier
" at 9 p.m. Tuesday, "then ABC might be in pretty good shape going into next season," Sternberg said.
Besides the respectable debut of "Without a Trace
," CBS enjoyed a red-hot reception Monday for its "CSI
" spinoff "CSI: Miami
," the most-watched September drama debut since "ER
" in 1994.
Also Monday, a strong second showing by "Everwood
" suggests this family drama may be the WB's long-sought companion to "Seventh Heaven
Monday's premiere of the UPN comedy "Half and Half
" retained the audience for its lead-in, "Girlfriends
," which is always a good sign. But the same network's new occult-crime drama "Haunted
" seemed exactly that on Tuesday, drawing a paltry 3 percent share of the audience.
NBC's new comedy "Hidden Hills
," following Tuesday's much-promoted season premiere of "Frasier
," got the expected heavy sampling, as did "Good Morning Miami
" in its plum spot after "Will & Grace
On Wednesday, Fox's variety half-hour "Cedric the Entertainer Presents
" had a healthy second airing, as did its high-rev action show "Fastlane
Against the second hour of NBC's "West Wing
" season premiere Wednesday, two new hospital shows were bloodied: ABC's "MDs
" took third-place in the time slot with a meager 8 percent share of audience, while CBS' "Presidio Meds
" was in second place with a 10 percent share — and lost 30 percent of its audience from a special "preview" the night before.
Next week, both contenders face continued tough competition with the season premiere of NBC's "Law & Order
" at 10 p.m.
The rationale for scheduling dueling doctor dramas had industry analysts scratching their heads.
ABC and CBS "are just splitting a very limited audience," said Sternberg, who sees the prospects for both shows as dim. "One will be cancelled and, even then, the other won't improve."