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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Death of the American City

“If Charles Dickens was alive today, he would watch The Wire, unless, that is, he was already writing for it.”

-New York Times

Television has long been cast into the shadows of the media, viewed as the inferior offspring to film. Three years after HBO put television on the map with The Sopranos (1999), they would revolutionize the medium by green lighting a criminal drama set in the parts of Baltimore that shared more in common with the war torn streets of Baghdad than Tony Soprano’s plush North Jersey existence.

With no interest in providing a light hearted voyeuristic journey into a world of organized crime, this was a show about the piece of America we left behind. About the decay of the American city. Uncompromising, unapologetic, uncomfortable, horrifying, heartbreaking and brilliant, this was The Wire.

The partnership that pitched The Wire was far from the standard fare. David Simon, author of the award winning non fictional look at the Baltimore City Homicide Division titled ‘Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets’ (which later spawned the NBC series) had been a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun for twenty years. Ed Burns, Simon’s co-author on the award winning book and HBO mini-series ‘The Corner’ was a war veteran turned homicide detective turned inner-city public school teacher.

As it slowly gained momentum in critical circles, The Wire was able to draw critically acclaimed novelists Richard Price (Clockers, Freedomland), Denis Lehane (Mystic River, Shutter Island) and George Pelecanos (Soul Circus) to its writing staff. Spike Lee, a huge fan of the show, is projected to direct the first episode of season five, due out in early 2008.

What is The Wire exactly? With each season focusing on a different aspect of the American city, David Simon’s ultimate premise is that, “…capitalism, without social restraint decreases the value of human beings. Human life is simply less valuable in the America we’ve built.”

The first season examines how the war on drugs transformed into a war against the underclass and the way that it has destroyed police work. Following a police detail assigned to chase down the fictional Barksdale drug organization, the show wastes no time in destroying the dichotomy of right and wrong. Without the preconception of good versus evil we are able to see that both the police and the dealers play their part in this destructive war, leaving the city as the only truly innocent victim.

The similarity between the Baltimore City Police Department and the Barksdale crew is stunning. The police department as an institution is failing those they are required by law to serve. The pursuit of the Barksdales, a very real and dangerous drug organization is not bred out of a desire to save the city’s streets. It is the combination of the self aggrandizing crusade of a homicide detective by the name of Jimmy McNulty and the police brass’ inability to shut him up that finally leads to a detail being formed.

The detail itself is largely made up of good, solid police who want to do more than lock up a few street level dealers. Unfortunately, they are hamstrung by the bureaucracy of the police department and the length to which they must fight in order to do their jobs is horrifying. When it becomes known to the bosses’ that the detail is not only chasing the Barksdale drugs, but following the money, the department begins a relentless onslaught to bury the unit.

Meanwhile, over on the other side of the law, we see that the majority of dealers are also beholden to the institution they serve. Any actions that may go against the interests of the organization are met with an efficient and deadly resolution. That the brutal murder of a witness is nothing more than a pragmatic act of violence is disturbing. But each decision they make serves an institutional purpose. To kill the witness was to instill a level of fear in the community under which the organization could strive.

Yet consider the retaliation by police when a cop is killed. Is the life of an officer any more valuable than that of a child or parent? Or is the reaction used only to dissuade further violence against police officers? Violence as an act of self-interest varies greatly based on the governmental body that creates these policies. From the law enforcement methods in Rome to Abu Ghraib prison, the organizing principles remain constant.

These institutions do not serve the individual. They adapt and adjust like a two headed beast, serving only themselves. The arrangement under which the war on drugs operates is a lie agreed upon. The drug dealer is the police officer’s natural ally just as much as the war on drugs is to a dealer. Without the criminalization of drugs, the conditions under which selling them is such a valuable economic trade disappear. As a result, both the dealer who profits and the police officer hired to chase him see their value decrease. Neither institution can ever let this occur, whether or not it’s to the benefit of the people they are intended to serve.

So we are left with one hell of a mess on our hands. After deindustrialization, we systematically segregated parts of our cities and eliminated the working class. The only commodity these areas had to anyone of means was drugs and as a result the only viable economic engine was the drug trade. The government response was to go to war with those it had earlier marginalized and the results have been a disaster.

We have an entire generation of police officers who know nothing more than street level enforcement and police parts of the city where the war on drugs has turned into a war against the very communities they’re supposed to protect. There is an entire generation of kids who have never seen a feasible economic opportunity outside of drugs. A generation and now their offspring who have been made to feel as if they don’t matter.

And thanks to The Wire, we might actually end up having the long overdue conversation as to whether or not they actually do matter.

Keywords: The Wire, HBO, David Simon

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Why TV Is Better Than Movies

Fantastic article from Devin Gordon at Newsweek.

Why TV Is Better Than Movies
Film has always been the Four Seasons to television's Motel 6. Not anymore. Here's how the small screen ended up so much bigger—and bolder—than the big one.
By Devin Gordon
Newsweek

Feb. 26, 2007 issue - Denis Leary remembers the exact moment when all his notions about what television could be got blown to smithereens. It came during the first season of "The Sopranos." "It was the episode where Tony Soprano is driving Meadow to visit colleges and he runs into the snitch along the way," says Leary, the star and co-creator of FX's firefighter dramedy "Rescue Me." Tony (James Gandolfini) happens upon the turncoat, who'd been placed in witness protection, at a gas station on some leafy country road. The next day, after dropping off his daughter for a campus interview, Tony tracks down the snitch and brutally strangles him to death with a coil of wire. "I remember watching that and thinking, 'Oh, my God ... '," Leary says. "I don't think I blinked that entire episode. The show ended at 10 o'clock, and at 10:05 the phone in my apartment started ringing off the hook. That's when I thought, 'If they can do this, you can do anything in this format'."

For other people, maybe it was another moment. Maybe it was the two-hour pilot episode of "Lost," which opened with the nightmarish aftermath of a plane crash on a deserted, and deeply peculiar, tropical island. It cost ABC a small fortune—reportedly $12 million—but it proved that network TV could match the scope and storytelling electricity of a feature film. For me, my "moment" is every single episode of "The Wire," the astounding HBO series that's been labeled a crime drama but is actually a sprawling, visual novel about the decline and fall of an American city. "Our model when we started doing 'The Wire' wasn't other television shows," says David Simon, the Baltimore Sun crime reporter turned TV scribe who co-created the series. "The standard we were looking at was Balzac's Paris, or Dickens's London, or Tolstoy's Moscow. In TV, you can actually say that out loud, and then go do it."

It's dangerous to make broad generalizations about TV versus film without sounding as though you're comparing apples and tubas, but let's do it anyway: television is running circles around the movies. The Internet age has put both industries into a state of high anxiety, with everyone scrambling to figure out how money will be made in a digital future where people watch movies on their phones and surf the Web on their TVs. But while the major film studios have responded by taking shelter beneath big-tent franchises, the TV industry has gone the opposite route, welcoming anyone with an original idea. The roster of channels has ballooned into the hundreds, creating a niche universe where shows don't need to be dumbed down in order to survive (because the dummies have their own channels). DVDs, meanwhile, have upended how we watch television, transforming shows from disposable weekly units into 8-, 12-, sometimes 22-hour movies. "We get a lot of people who tell us they don't even watch the show when it airs," says Joel Surnow, co-creator of "24." "They wait for the DVD and watch it all at once."

Sure, TV still makes plenty of crap. And, yes, film is peerless when it comes to grand spectacles like "Lord of the Rings." But how many recent Hollywood comedies have been as lacerating as NBC's "The Office" or Comedy Central's taboo-blasting "Sarah Silverman Program"? (OK, "Borat"—a movie based on a character created for ... television.) The film industry is in love with serial-killer stories, but it took Showtime's "Dexter" to breathe new life into the genre. And roll your eyes if you want, but nothing out of Hollywood generates anything close to the hysteria of a single episode of "American Idol."

This is supposed to be Hollywood's biggest moment of the year. It's Oscar time, in case you forgot. But anyone who actually wants to go see a movie this week will have a choice between Paramount's Eddie-Murphy-in-a-fat-suit comedy "Norbit" and Sony's comic-book adaptation "Ghost Rider," starring Nicolas Cage, which wasn't screened for critics—industry code for a movie so lousy that the best review it can hope for is no review at all. Soon it'll be summertime, and the annual march of the sequels will resume. "Spider-Man 3." "Shrek 3." The third "Pirates of the Caribbean." The fourth "Die Hard." The fifth "Harry Potter."

If that list excites you, there's probably a simple explanation: you're 12. But for everyone else, it's hard to shake the feeling that Hollywood has lost interest in us. "Whenever I see a movie that impresses me, I always wonder how it occurred. Like, how did they thread that one through the needle?" says Simon. "And inevitably, you find out it was made quietly, and for very little money." Consider this year's Oscar nominees for best picture. Only two are the products of major studios, Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" and Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima," and both men are legends who've earned the right to tell their studio bosses to butt out. The other three came out of "specialty" satellites to the big studios, such as Fox Searchlight and Paramount Vantage. In essence, the job of quality moviemaking has been outsourced.

For decades, if film was the Four Seasons, TV was a Motel 6. You worked in television for the money, or to reboot your career, or just to hang on. Now actors like Alec Baldwin, Steve Carell and Salma Hayek go from hit movies to network-TV gigs, and no one thinks they're nuts. Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco ("Crash") went straight from the best-picture Oscar to creating "The Black Donnellys" for NBC. Steven Spielberg is doing a reality show for Fox. David Mamet—David Mamet!—created a drama for CBS. "The people working in television right now are the Shakespeares of the medium," says Ira Glass, host of the public-radio program "This American Life," which has been turned into a jewel of a TV series on Showtime and will start airing on March 22. "That's probably a pretentious thing to say, but I also think it's true. It's true in the same way that Leonard Bernstein was figuring out what you could do with a Broadway show when he wrote 'West Side Story,' or in music when Sinatra recorded his Capitol albums."

This obviously isn't the first "golden age of television." In the 1950s, Milton Berle and "I Love Lucy" reinvented comedy. In the 1970s, Norman Lear did it again with socially conscious shows like "All in the Family." The difference now is TV is challenging movies on their own turf—narratively and visually—and winning. The best shows tell their stories slowly, carefully and with exquisite detail, putting viewers inside the experience of another person with unparalleled intimacy. This is the grand achievement of "The Sopranos," and it's why the show's final season, which begins on April 8, is a safe bet to be the cultural happening of the year. In television "the writer is king," says Carlton Cuse, an executive producer on "Lost." "We're at the top of the food chain." In the film world, the director is in charge, or the star. "It's almost impossible to write a movie with a big star and not have that person put his or her thumbprint on top of it," Cuse says.

To some, the notion of TV as a writer's Eden is more of a recruiting poster than a reality. "Nobody ever really feels all that in charge," says Jon Turtletaub, who directed Disney's hit movie "National Treasure" and created "Jericho" for CBS. "If you want control, write a book." Others believe that Hollywood's failing isn't creative, but technological. "The movie business is still caught up in how it's always been done," says Todd Wagner, co-president of 2929 Entertainment ("Good Night, and Good Luck"), which has been leaning on studios to release films on several platforms—in theaters, online and on DVD—at once. "Film is still built around a business model where they're trying to get as many people as possible to see something on the very first weekend, at very select locations, for months before it's available any other way. Television isn't doing that. The realization they've come to is, why wouldn't you put it out there?"

One reason is piracy. The studios don't make many films, so they need to wring out every last penny. But there's another reason they're so reluctant to sell "Shrek 3" DVDs at Wal-Mart on opening day: image. Hollywood is determined to protect the "specialness" of movies, and if you can get them any time, anywhere, how special can they be? "There's always going to be that excitement where you think, 'Oh, I made a movie! And it's gonna be at a theater! And people will be eating popcorn!' " says Tina Fey, who wrote the 2004 hit "Mean Girls" and created the NBC sitcom "30 Rock." "It's just different." Hollywood wants to be consumer friendly, but not too friendly, because that arm's length exclusivity is the essence of glamour. And without glamour, what is Hollywood? Yup—television. Last year, when Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana shared a screenwriting Oscar for "Brokeback Mountain," McMurtry thanked his typewriter. During an interview, he grumbled while Ossana sang the praises of modern TV. "It's not a question of quality," McMurtry responded. "It just means the prestige is still with film, and I suspect it always will be. Put it this way: I'd rather have an Oscar than an Emmy." The man's got a point.

Then again, it's possible to win an Oscar only if your film actually gets made, and good luck with that. The economics of the movie business have created a climate of "paranoia" in Hollywood, says megamovie producer Brian Grazer, an Oscar winner for "A Beautiful Mind" whose company, Imagine Entertainment, also co-owns "24." The average film budget, according to the latest Nielsen figures, is about $60 million, with an additional $36 million in marketing costs. That means the typical Hollywood film is a $100 million bet—with the money paid upfront, before anyone sees a penny in return. That kind of environment has a stultifying effect on artists. "They begin to worry that their movie will never get made, that they'll never hear 'yes' again," Grazer says, "so they end up being much more accommodating to an executive's opinions." Increasingly, Hollywood is making only two types of films: lavish blockbusters ("Superman Returns" cost $204 million) or thrifty, $15 million genre bets like horror flicks and lowbrow comedies. The midrange $60 million drama has all but vanished—at least from theaters.

With all those channels and all those hours to fill, television has charged into the void. In five years, according to Adams Media Research, the number of digital-cable subscribers in the United States tripled, from 10 million in 2000 to 30 million in 2005. In such a crowded market, you either evolve or die. "Desperation breeds inspiration," says NBC president Kevin Reilly. And thanks to iTunes and TiVo, networks can afford to be patient with a quality show, knowing an audience has multiple ways to find it. NBC hopes that will happen with its Texas high-school football drama "Friday Night Lights," a superb show that's only incidentally about football. The series actually surpasses the 2004 film because the long form of TV has given its writers leeway to explore an entire small-town orbit. Freed from the need to sell tickets, the TV show doesn't have to swell to a crowd-pleasing gridiron drive.

It's not just the stories on TV that are improving; they look better, too. "Some of the action that 'Lost' and '24' are doing compares to almost any feature out there," says ABC president Steve McPherson. "We're making the investment in these shows. They're not cheap. But the production gap is closing." TV is spending more money on us—and we're spending more money on TV. Gradually, homes are filling with high-definition sets that rival the cinema experience, only without the nasty carpets sticky with spilled Coke. "I still occasionally hear someone say that they don't watch television," Leary says, "and I always tell them, 'Look, I don't care what book you're reading—put it down and watch these five shows, because you really, truly don't know what you're missing'." He's right, except for one thing: only five?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Tale Of Two Mysteries

While concern over ABC's Lost has grown louder, NBC's new hit Heroes has become an instant fan favorite and critical darling. In the face of increased criticism, fans have begun to jump ship, with Lost hemorrhaging viewers at a rapid pace. The biggest question facing Lost is whether or not the writer's have any idea how the story is going to end. And with each episode that provides more questions than answers, the issue becomes as much a mystery as the show itself.

Truth be told, it is very unlikely that the writer's have any idea of how or when they'll end the show. Unlike subscriber based channels like HBO or Showtime, network television lives in a perpetual state of uncertainty. Nielsen ratings decide their fate and Studios don't hesitate to axe a show if it doesn't perform. As a result, writers of any serialized drama are at the mercy of the bosses. When Lost began, no one had an inkling of how popular it would become. The pilot was written with no idea it would last beyond one or two seasons. But it caught on like wildfire, becoming a pop culture sensation, teaming with Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy to take ABC to the top.

But Lost's popularity would also become its curse. As quickly as a poorly performing show will be cancelled, network's would sooner die than let a financially viable series go. Given the contractual terms of a television series, a show can go on as long a network wants. And so the writers of Lost are forced into an impossible situation. How exactly do you extend a mystery past its natural conclusion? The answer is what has become the fundamental flaw in the show. As plot points and story arc's thin out, the writer's must come up with new questions, new characters and expand their story. And given the epic scope of Lost, that expansion has proved to be fatal.

This lesson was not lost (no pun intended) on NBC with its own supernatural thriller, Heroes.

"...from before Day 1. When the show was just a diagram on paper, I drew strings between the various characters, a plan for how they would ultimately become connected. Though some things have since changed, I've stuck to major parts of that blueprint."
-Tim
Kring (Creator of Heroes)
While Lost was forced to jump into the unknown terrain of a serialized drama, Heroes has had time to sit back and observe what worked and what didn't for two years. The results have nothing short of fantastic.

Heroes
tells its story in much the same way as a novel. Using a formula mastered by David Simon in The Wire, each episode is not self contained and the show is as much a serialized supernatural thriller as Lost. Where they differ, however, is in their pacing.

It is a given that in each story, new characters must be introduced before a conclusion can be reached. The major difference is that Heroes establishes these characters before introducing them into the main story arc.


The greatest example of this contrast comes in the form of Ali Larter (in a brilliant performance) whose character(s) Nikki and Jessica spent fourteen episodes isolated from the rest of the cast (drawing the ire of fans along the way) before the connection to the other heroes was revealed.

Meanwhile, in the first season of Lost, Mr. X (for those that might be moved to catch up via DVD's) was revealed to be one of 'The Others.' While it was essential that the survivor's learn they were not alone on the island, the audience knew nothing about Mr. X. Had Lost introduced the character prior to the revelation, the impact would have been far greater.

It is these small differences that give Heroes the upper hand. While Lost has been forced to open door after door, creating a muddled maze of convoluted storylines, Heroes has structured itself in a way that with each new mystery comes a satisfying conclusion. And in the end, that's what makes Heroes a more rewarding television experience.

Keywords: NBC, ABC, Heroes, Lost, Serialized, Television

Monday, February 12, 2007

Writer's Guild Awards - Television

Yet another awards show came and went on Sunday (Feb. 11th) when The Writer's Guild of America announced the award winners for 2007. A huge step up from their Screen Acting counterparts, the Writer's Guild provided very little to complain about (Arrested Development should have won what is likely the last awards show it will be eligible for, SNL had no business beating out any of the other nominees). It did, however bring about a strange development. For the first time in recent memory, an entire network was shut out as CBS received no nominations. The network instantly began production on CSI: The Sudan in hopes that a socially relevant locale for their franchise series would raise them in the eyes of their peers.

BEST DRAMATIC SERIES
24 (FOX)
Deadwood (HBO)
Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
Lost (ABC)
The Sopranos (HBO)

BEST COMEDY SERIES
30 Rock (NBC)
Arrested Development (FOX)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Entourage (HBO)
The Office (NBC)

BEST NEW SERIES

30 Rock (NBC)
Friday Night Lights (NBC)
Heroes (NBC)
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC)
Ugly Betty (ABC)

BEST EPISODIC DRAMA (Any Length, One or Two Airing Parts)
Election Day, Part II (The West Wing)
Occupation/Precipice (Battlestar Galactica)
Pilot (Big Love)
Pilot (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip)
Two for the Road (Lost)

BEST EPISODIC COMEDY (Any Length, One Airing)
Bomb Shelter (Malcolm in the Middle)
Casino Night (The Office)
Don't Look At Me (Desperate Housewives)
It Takes Two (Desperate Housewives)
Jump For Joy (My Name Is Earl)

ANIMATION (Any Length, One Airing)
Church Hopping (King of the Hill)
Girls Just Want To Have Sums (The Simpsons)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore (The Simpsons)
Simpsons Christmas Stories (The Simpsons)
The Italian Bob (The Simpsons)
Who's Your Daddy? (The Life and Times Of Juniper Lee)

COMEDY/VARIETY SERIES
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)
Late Night with Conan O'Brien (NBC)
Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (Showtime)
Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)
Saturday Night Live (NBC)

Keywords: Writers Guild, Television, Awards,

Entertainment Weekly Feature On 'Lost'

For anyone who is a fan of Lost, used to be a fan of Lost or is on the fence about Lost, the current issue of Entertainment Weekly has a huge feature that addresses the new season, previous hiccups, future plans and concerns over the series direction. While it's not a ringing endorsement or scathing indictment, it does provide the creator's of Lost a forum to respond to the growing criticism.

Ana Claudia Talancon Is Whitney

HBO has cast Ana Claudia Talancon as the lead in the upcoming pilot Whitney. In what might be described as the anti-Sex and the City, Whitney follows a group of sexually confident and manipulative women through their exploits in Miami. No time table has been set for production.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Thursday Night: CBS Tries To Survive Against 'Grey', 'Betty'

In the a night devoted almost exclusively to comedies, ABC and CBS go blow for blow each and every hour. ABC's most critically hailed and commercial viable new show this season, Ugly Betty, starts off the night at 8 pm against CBS's premiere of the latest installment of Survivor (Fiji). 9 o'clock sees ABC trout out its ace in Grey's Anatomy and CBS does what it can to remain competitive on the hour with CSI. At 10, CBS's Shark goes up against ABC's Men in Trees.

While NBC has by far the best two hour block of comedy of the season, the network can only take solace in the critical acclaim it's earned. From 8 pm to 10 pm, each half-hour, single camera comedy comes absent a laugh track and with enough awards to take out any other thirty minute shows all week. Starting with My Name Is Earl, NBC moves to the best comedy on television The Office, followed by Scrubs and rounded out by 30 Rock. At 10 pm, NBC's old faithful ER comes in to close off night.

In a very un-NBC like performance, viewers are forced to endure yet another hour of FOX's comedy line-up (which seems stuck in a state of arrested development) with Till Death and The War at Home, before an hour of The OC.

FOX's lineup, a shoe in for last place on the night got 5 million viewers, 2/5 (rating/share) in the 18-49 demographic, from Till Death (for whom death is coming soon) and 4.4 million (1.9/5 in 18-49) from The War At Home. The OC, in its final season, pulled a horrendous 3.6 million (1.6/4).

NBC, which draws the non CBS/ABC viewers for the night performed as expected in the first hour given the return of Survivor. My Name is Earl drew in 9.6 million viewers (4.2/11 in 18-49) and The Office followed with 8.8 million overall (4.4/11 in 18-49). Against the imposing 9 pm competition, Scrubs was also down, (although still up after being grouped with NBC's other comedies) with 6.2 million (3.1/7 in 18-49) while 30 Rock finished the two hour block with 5.1 million (2.5/6 in 18-49). ER won the 10 pm spot for NBC in the 18-49 demographic with 4.8/13 and drew 11.5 million viewers.

CBS and ABC's dogfight played out roughly as expected. Ugly Betty did its best to stave off the premiere of Survivor with 14.3 million viewers (4.7/12 in 18-49) in the 8 pm slot and did a good job, holding Survivor to its lowest season premiere totals ever of 16.7 million (5.8/15 in 18-49).

9 pm saw CSI get no bump from the premiere of Survivor but still do well in second place with 22.3 million (6.8/16 in 18-49). Meanwhile Grey's Anatomy, ABC's best performer, drew 25.1 million viewers and an impressive 10.7/25 in the 18-49 demographic.

At 10, it was ABC's turn to try holding down the fort with Men in Trees. Trees did so, giving ABC 10.3 million (3.9/10 in 18-49). Those numbers were good enough that CBS, in spite of taking the victory in total viewers for the night with Shark's 14.4 million (4.1/10 in 18-49), couldn't beat out ABC in the 18-49's.

The final averages for night saw 17.8 million (5.6/14 in 18-49) for CBS, 16.7 million (6.5/16 in 18-49) for ABC, 8.8 million (4/10 in 18-49) for NBC and CW like averages of 4.1 million (1.8/5 in 18-49) for FOX.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Wednesday Night: 'Lost' Returns To Battle 'CSI', 'Idol' Continues Dominance

For the second night in a row, FOX's schedule relies on its powerhouse, American Idol. As opposed to Tuesday night where Idol starts out the night, FOX's series Bones takes the 8 pm slot with Idol moving back an hour to 9.

ABC's gears up for Lost's return with George Lopez Show and Knights of Prosperity at 8 pm and 8:30 respectively, before trotting out its Lost related programming. Starting out at 9 is the special, Lost: A Survival Guide, which recaps the first six episodes of the season. In Case of Emergency will take over the time slot starting next week. At 10, Lost returns after its long hiatus.

Using the Super Bowl hype generated for Criminal Minds, CBS goes with a repeat of the post-Super Bowl episode at 8 pm, followed by its conclusion at 9. At 10 CBS's CSI: NY is forced to deal with the return of ABC's Lost, making for best match up of the night.

NBC opens up the night with their critical darling Friday Night Lights at 8 pm, followed up by its nightly dose of reality television with Deal or No Deal and closes out the night with Medium at 10.

The opening hour was won by FOX's Bones, which has seen its performance skyrocket since the return of American Idol, as it drew 12.6 million overall viewers and 4.4/12 (rating/share) in the 18-49 demographic. CBS's repeat of Criminal Minds came in second with 10.3 million overall (2.8/8 in 18-49). George Lopez Show's 7 million (2.6/7 in 18-49) was good enough for third while NBC's Friday Night Lights, the best show of the night, came in last with 6.5 million (2.4/6 in 18-49).

9 pm went just as expected with American Idol's 27.6 million (11.8/27 in 18-49) trouncing the competition. Idol's only real competition for the night came in the form of a new episode of Criminal Minds, up nearly 20% on its season average with 17.2 million (5.1/12 in 18-49). ABC's Lost special performed respectably with 9.1 million (3.7/8 in 18-49) but it was not enough to keep NBC from taking third place with Deal or No Deal.

With FOX dropping out in the final hour, NBC's Medium felt the backlash of the Lost's return and mustered up only 8.6 million viewers (2.8/7 in 18-49), putting it in last place for 10 pm. CSI: NY won over Lost in overall viewers with 14.97 million to Lost's 14.49 million. CSI: NY still couldn't pull out the win as Lost dominated in the key 18-49 demographic, taking 6.4/15 to CSI: NY's 4.5/11. Despite the win there was still cause for concern at ABC. With it maintained its season average in the 18-49 demographic, Lost was down 2 million in overall viewers, posting its lowest totals of the season.

All drama aside, the evening averages were still a resounding victory for FOX with 20.1 million (8.1/20 in 18-49). CBS came in second with 14.4 million (4.3/10). ABC beat out NBC for third place on the night.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Tuesday Night Ratings: FOX Embarrasses Competition with 'Idol', 'House'

Tuesday nights are owned by FOX. In what is probably the most one sided outing of the week, American Idol acts as an 8 pm lead in for FOX's most popular scripted show, House.

CBS, which doesn't even come close, still puts forth the best effort to compete with NCIS in the 8 pm slot opposite Idol and follows it up with back to back episode of The Unit at 9 and 10.

Once again, NBC starts off its schedule with an unscripted program at 8 pm, Dateline. It's followed up by two one-hour variations of Law and Order, Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit.

ABC concedes the first two hours of its time slot for the second consecutive night with America's Funniest Home Videos at 8 pm, Primetime: The Outsiders (which replaces the failing comedy Big Day at the slot) at 9 and its sole scripted show and only competitor, Boston Legal, rounding out the schedule at 10.

As expected 8 pm wasn't even close with Idol absolutely crushing the competition, pulling in an obscene 33.1 million overall viewers and a 13.2/3 (ratings/share) in the 18-49 age bracket. CBS put up the best fight with 16.2 million overall viewers (3.9/9 in 18-49) but still couldn't muster up half the viewers of Idol. As expected NBC pulled in paltry numbers with 5.8 million (2.1/5) watching Dateline while ABC did even worse with America's Funniest Home Video's 5.6 million (1.5/4 in 18-49).

For the second straight hour, FOX dominated with House's 25 million viewers (10.2/24 in 18-49). In the feeble attempt to compete, CBS once again came closest but could not manage half the viewers with a new episode of The Unit drawing 12.3 million (3.6/9 in 18-49). NBC and ABC improved, with NBC grabbing 8.9 million (2.7/6 in 18-49) with Law and Order: Criminal Intent and ABC's Primetime: The Outsiders drawing 7.6 million (2.6/6 in 18-49).

FOX ended its prime time schedule with local news at 10 and opened up the competition. NBC led the pack with another Law and Order, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit's 13.4 million (4.8/12 in 18-49). CBS, placed second for the third consecutive hour with a repeat of The Unit dropping viewers from its lead-in but still maintaining a respectable 10.4 million (3.3/8 in 18-49). ABC's best performance of the night still only managed 3rd with Boston Legal's 9.8 million viewers (2.9/8 in 18-49).

FOX crushed the competition with a nightly average of 29 million viewers (11.8/28 in 18-49). As was the theme of the night, CBS came in second with 13 million (3.6/9 in 18-49), NBC came in third 9.3 million (3.2/8 in 18-49) and ABC dropping a bomb with 7.7 million (2.3/6 in 18-49).

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Monday Night Ratings: Heroes, Mothers and Brothers

Without question, Monday night has established itself as the most compelling night of the season in the ratings battle. Prison Break and 24, two of FOX's most popular scripted shows, run back to back at 8 and 9 pm respectively.

NBC uses its general formula of one part reality, two parts television with a Monday night schedule of Deal or No Deal at 8 pm, followed by Heroes at 9 and Studio 60 at 10.

Meanwhile CBS rolls out its two hour block of sitcoms at 8 pm (Which, sans How I Met Your Mother, are not funny) and CSI: Miami at 10.

ABC, which has thrown in the towel for Monday nights this season, lines up a slew of reality programming, none of which is worth naming.
*The CW
, hardly a player in the ratings war, gets mention for the night because of its best show, Everybody Hates Chris.

The 8 pm time slot saw both Prison Break and How I Met Your Mother do their best numbers of the season. While How I Met Your Mother won in overall viewers with 10.8 million to Prison Break's 10.1 million, it could not beat it out in the coveted 18-49 age bracket where the brothers of Prison Break pulled a 4.1/10 (rating/share) against the much less stressed cast Mother's 3.9/10. CBS's The Class did its best since the season premiere, 9.7 overall 3.6/9 in 18-49, but when 9 pm rolled around, the show stunk as much as it did at 8:30.
*Everybody Hates Chris pulled a paltry 1.1/3 in 18-49 at 8 pm, which thankfully is okay by CW standards. The total viewers is unknown but was reported to be somewhere between 175 and 400 people. If you are one of the other 174-399, thanks.

The most compelling match up of the season came at 9 pm where Jack Bauer of 24, now in its sixth season squared off against the cast of Heroes, who probably wouldn't mind a hint or two from Bauer. When TV source suggested this to Bauer he was unreceptive,
"I never eat or sleep, my only super power is my good looks, and I've saved the world five times. Meanwhile these idiots are running around looking for cheerleaders? Get real."
Unfortunately for Jack, Heroes came out on top in the ratings with 14.6 million overall (6.4/14 in 18-49). 24 still performed well with 13.6 million viewers (5.0/12 in 18-49). While CBS managed to trump them both in overall viewers with 17.8 million watching Two and Half Men, it couldn't overcome Heroes in the 18-49's, pulling in a 5.8/13.

10 pm was easily won by CBS with its seventeenth variation of CSI, CSI: Miami with 18.4 million overall (5.7/14 18-49). NBC's Studio 60, which is in the initial stages of a spin off located in East St. Louis, came in a distant second with 7.2 million (3.2/8 18-49). ABC's reality show, Skating with Retards, came in third and FOX aired its local news, ending its prime time schedule.

CBS won the night overall with an average of 14.9 million (5.0/12 18-49), NBC came in second with 13 million (4.8/12 18-49), FOX followed with 11.9 million (4.6/11 18-49) and ABC with 8 million (3.3/8 18-49).

Monday, February 5, 2007

The Ratings War

If the Super Bowl is considered the top television event of the year, the week following is as good a time as any to assess the ratings. With Lost (ABC Wed 9 PM) returning this week, the spring schedule is pretty much set in stone. In light of that, this week will see a short daily analysis on the previous night's ratings.

To date Daybreak (ABC), The Nine (ABC), Smith (CBS), The O.C. (FOX), Vanished (FOX), Kidnapped (NBC) and Six Degrees (ABC) have all been officially cancelled or put on hiatus (i.e. are waiting to be cancelled).

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