June 24, 2004 -- SUMMER used to be known for hot weather, vacations and repeats.
Now it's all about reality series, and they seem to pop up everywhere, like seasonal weeds.
For many of the higher profile shows, it's a good thing they're on during summer, because they probably wouldn't survive more than a week in the fall.
"The problem now that the networks face is that there's just so much reality programming," says Mediaweek Online's Marc Berman.
"Just a few years ago, there was very little of it, and then CBS introduced 'Survivor' and the other networks realized 'we can also do reality in the summer and get ratings' and it just started up everywhere.
"The challenge is getting your product to stand out — to make it look original and appealing, and that's very hard to do," he says.
Among the two biggest disappointments so far have to be NBC's "Next Action Star" (5.1 million viewers) and Fox's "The Casino" (5.4 million viewers)
The two shows, both heavily promote d by the networks, are only drawing about half as many viewers as the most successful reality shows of the summer so far, Fox's "The Simple Life 2" (9.8 million) and NBC's "Last Comic Standing" (9.3 million).
Viewers are giving ABC a big fat F for "The Ultimate Love Test," a show in which committed couples are wooed away from each other by singles. A paltry 3.9 million viewers are tun ing in — a disas ter by broad cast net work stan dards.
On cable, in which success is judged by much smaller audiences than the big broadcast networks, Discovery's hit, "American Casino," is drawing about 922,000 viewers and growing each week.
Bravo on the other hand is suffering more bland results from "Blowout" (686,000 viewers), a show that follows the trials of running a beauty parlor.
"It has the same problem 'The Restaurant' had," says Berman. "It tells a story but nothing really happens. There's nothing appealing about it."
The Simple Life: 9.8 Million A
Last Comic Standing: 9.3 Million A-
For Love Or Money: 6.9 Million C+
Casino: 5.4 Million D-
Next Action Star: 5.3 Million D-
Ultimate Love Test: 3.9 Million F
American Casino: 922,000 B+
Blowout: 686,000 C-