'Survivor' its stuff
Pulls off switcheroo in season's first matchup
By Kevin Downey
Anyone looking for evidence that the reality TV fad is on its way out got plenty of it last week in the first matchup between "Friends" and "Survivor: Africa."
"Friends" beat "Africa" by over five million viewers, in a complete reversal from the battle between the NBC sitcom and last seasonís "Survivor: The Australian Outback."
Last Thursday, "Friends" had 29.2 million viewers to "Africaís" 23.8 million.
On Feb. 1, 2001, the first time that the two shows went head-to-head, "Friends" only managed 22.2 million to "Outbackís" 29.0 million viewers. And "Outback" went on to become the most-watched show of the season with an advantage of 10 million viewers.
"Africa," of course, did not do badly last week.
It ranked No. 4 in the adult 18-49 demo, a lot of viewers that CBS all but gave up on prior to the introduction of reality shows.
More troubling, though, is that "Africaís" rating in the demo was 4.4 points lower than "Friendsí" rating, which was up one-tenth of a point from the week before.
There is still a whole season of "Survivor" to go, however, with "Survivor 4" set to premiere early next year.
And perhaps the true test of the showís strength is yet to come. While "Friends" has rebounded from a minor slump last year, with some of its highest ratings in six years, both shows were preempted for nearly an hour for an address to the nation by President Bush.
That led to a reshuffling of schedules with a last-minute repeat of "Will & Grace," for example, filling in for the preempted "Inside Schwartz" on NBC on the West Coast.
With six of the top-10 shows in the adult 18-49 demo, NBC continued its winning streak for a third straight week in the demo, with a 5.3 rating.
CBS had a 4.4.
Thatís an improvement of nearly 26 percent from the previous week. The network was helped out by "Africa" and, perhaps surprisingly, the "Surviving Gilliganís Island" movie on Sunday, which ranked No. 13.
ABC had a 4.0, Fox had a 3.1, UPN had a 2.1, and the WB had a 1.8.
For the season so far, NBC and UPN are the only networks with ratings increases in the 18-49 demo.
NBC is up 8.9 percent to a 5.4. It has been helped by shows like "Scrubs," which is still a top-15 show, even though it fell 17 percent last week and lost over 12 percent of "Frasierís" lead-in rating.
After a slow start, "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" went up almost 46 percent. And even NBCís maligned "Emeril" held its 3.1 rating for a second week in a row.
"Weakest Link" is beating out "Millionaire" on Monday by two-tenths of a rating point. And "Ed" premiered last week with a rating that was 59 percent higher than "Lostís," the show it replaced.
UPN is up this season by 25 percent, to a 2.5, almost entirely on the strength of "Enterprise."
The latest in the "Star Trek" series fell another 9 percent, to a 4.2 rating, which doubled UPNís average in the demo last week.
UPN has some major problems, though.
"Special Unit 2" lost 55 percent of "Enterpriseís" lead-in. "Buffy" fell 32 percent from the prior week but still had an audience 25 percent higher than it averaged on the WB last year. And the season premiere of "Roswell" ranked No. 95 with an average audience that was almost 5 percent lower than it had been on the WB.
Meanwhile, ABCís 18-49 rating is down 14.6 percent this season to a 4.1.
The network has already canceled "What About Joan," put "The Mole" on hiatus, and moved the Jason Alexander sitcom, "Bob Patterson," to Wednesday.
That show dropped 33 percent from its premiere and ranked No. 63 last week.
CBS is down about 5 percent to a 3.9 rating and has been hampered by a slew of sinking new shows.
Despite heaps of critical praise, "The Education of Max Bickford" tumbled 30 percent from its last episode to tie at No. 68.
"Ellen" bettered its last performance by 9 percent but ranked a lowly No. 77.
That show tied with CBSís "Wolf Lake," which fell another 14 percent. And "Citizen Baines," at No. 90, was the lowest-ranked regularly scheduled show on the Big Four networks.
Much of CBSís strength in the demo comes from "CSI" and "Everybody Loves Raymond," which is now a top-10 show in both syndication and in network primetime.
Fox is down 22 percent this season to a 3.2, adult 18-49, rating.
The network is premiering many of its shows after the World Series. Fox had five baseball divisional playoffs last week but none ranked higher than No. 50.
Fox is also having trouble with its second season of "Dark Angel." That show, executive-produced by "Titanicís" James Cameron, was down 27 percent on Friday from its average audience last season, when it was still on Foxís strong Tuesday night.
The WB is down almost 16 percent, to a 1.6 rating, with none of its new shows ranking higher than No. 97.
In household ratings last week, NBC won with an 8.8 rating and 14 share. CBS had an 8.6/14, ABC had a 6.7/11, Fox had a 5.3/9, UPN had a 3.0/5, and the WB had a 2.9/4.
October 17, 2001 © 2001 Media Life
-Kevin Downey is a staff writer for Media Life.