for a Tuesday fix
Axing 'Joan' and 'Mole' and moving 'Patterson'
By Elizabeth White
Another name for Tuesday this TV season would be free-for-all, with all six broadcast networks scrapping over a night that has become suddenly more competitive than even Thursday for viewers.
Eight freshman series and six relocated series are struggling for a foothold against such stalwarts as ABC’s "Dharma and Greg," CBS’s "JAG," and NBC’s "Frasier."
"There’s just so much an audience can be split up," says Shari Anne Brill, vice president and director of programming services at Carat.
"Everything’s up for grabs. On Thursday, it’s just CBS going after NBC. On Tuesday, there are more networks involved in the shootout."
It's not pretty, and even before two of the new series have debuted, Tuesday already has a clear loser: ABC.
The network’s two rookies, "Bob Patterson" and "Philly," have tumbled in the ratings since their premieres, and this week ABC failed to win a single half-hour in either households or adults 18-49.
"What About Joan," a midseason replacement from last year, also dropped over 20 percent of its lead-in audience from "Dharma and Greg."
Rumors have been circulating that ABC would move quickly to shore up its Tuesday lineup, and it is doing just that.
The network is canceling "Joan," along with "Mole."
"Patterson," rumored to also be facing the axe, is instead being moved to Wednesday, for airing after "Drew Carey," starting Oct. 24.
Sliding into the 9 p.m. slot on Nov. 6 will be "NYPD Blue," with "Philly" staying in its 10 p.m. slot. "Spin City" will move from 9:30 to 8:30 p.m.
In some ways, ABC's stumbling might seem all but inevitable. It had ridden out the success of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," many felt far too long, even as it showed clear signs of aging. In doing so, it eased off on efforts to develop scripted shows.
"ABC is tanking. I never anticipated they would fall off this way," says Brill. "They made a miscalculation last year too, because they only had four new shows, and they were relying on 'Millionaire.'"
"Philly’s" weak showing is particularly painful for ABC, since it took "NYPD Blue’s" plum spot at 10 p.m. The show has dropped 32 percent in household rating and 30 percent in adult 18-49 rating since its debut three weeks ago. This past Tuesday, "Philly" finished last in its time slot, behind CBS’s "Judging Amy" by seven household shares and a full rating point among adults 18-49.
"I’m surprised at ABC’s decline," says Brad Adgate, senior vice president and corporate research director at Horizon Media. "‘Spin City’ and ‘Dharma’ have been pretty good shows for them, and ‘Philly’ is in ‘NYPD Blue’s’ slot, so I thought it would do better. It’s always been a strong night for ABC, and now it’s not so much."
Picking up the slack has been CBS in households and total viewers and the upstart networks--Fox, the WB, and UPN--in the younger demographics.
NBC still wins the night among adults 18-49 and 25-54, with "Frasier" as an anchor, but the network appears to have failed again in developing new programming around it.
All three of its other sitcoms, "Emeril," "Three Sisters" and "Scrubs," are leaking viewers and seem destined for early cancellation.
"From 8 to 9 p.m., there’s really something for everyone," says Brill. "The mini-nets are having their own fight, and CBS is taking the older viewers. The men are going for 'That '70s Show' and 'Undeclared.' CBS will keep on winning homes and persons 2+, and NBC will continue with the demos. Between Fox, the WB, and UPN, they’ve siphoned off the younger viewing component."
On Tuesday, CBS won five out of six half-hours in households, losing only the 9 p.m. half-hour to "Frasier." The five-year-old "JAG," which NBC canceled and CBS picked up, topped NBC’s 8 p.m. sitcoms by 10 household shares and a full rating point among adults 18-49.
That same night, the WB and UPN combined for over 12 million viewers with "Gilmore Girls" and "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer." That hold could get stronger next week, when the much-anticipated "Smallville" debuts at 9 p.m. on the WB.
And then there’s Fox, which should get a late premiere boost when "24" joins its schedule in November. Fox’s 8 to 9 p.m. hour is already winning adults 18-49, drawing an average of nine million viewers with "That '70s Show" and "Undeclared."
With all that competition, there will probably be a few more losers before the season is out.
October 12, 2001 © 2001 Media Life