Strong Wednesday for NBC
Wednesday night has become a sure thing for NBC, which yet again ran away with a win in households and adults 18-49 with its regular lineup. The peacock network averaged a 6.2 adult 18-49 rating, Fox had a 4.1, ABC a 3.2 and CBS a 2.5, based on preliminary Nielsen ratings. ABC took the 8 p.m. hour by a hair, as a rerun of "My Wife and Kids" and a new "According to Jim" topped NBC's "Ed" by a tenth of a rating point. Fox's "That '80s Show" and "Grounded for Life" came in third place by another tenth of a point. NBC's "The West Wing" easily topped the Fox duo "Bernie Mac" and "Titus" with a solid 7.0 adult 18-49 rating to their 4.4. ABC struggled with a 3.5 in adults 18-49 from a rerun of "Drew Carey" and a new "The Job." At 10 p.m. NBC's "Law & Order" tripled its nearest competitor, CBS's "48 Hours," with a strong 7.6 among adults 18-49. The average household rating and share for Wednesday night were: NBC 11.3/19, CBS 6.1/10, ABC 5.5/9 and Fox 5.1/8.On Tuesday night, though suffering a sizable drop from its debut viewership of last week, NBC's "Watching Ellie" featuring "Seinfeld" alum Julia Louis-Dreyfus still performed well enough to give the network a clear win in adults 18-49. NBC garnered a 4.5 in the demo, Fox had a 4.0, ABC a 3.7 and CBS a 3.6, based on preliminary Nielsen ratings. Though its 27 percent tumble is not unexpected for such a heavily hyped offering, any further drops for "Ellie" may prove troublesome. In another dose of bad news for ABC, the return of its "Dharma and Greg" and "Spin City" drew only a 3.0 among adults 18-49 for the hour. At 9 p.m. ABC's "NYPD Blue" regained some ground for the network with a strong 4.7 adult 18-49 rating, not far off with a 5.4 from NBC's usually dominant duo of "Frasier" and "Scrubs." Fox's "24" managed only a 4.0 in the demo for a third place finish. At 10 p.m. CBS's "Judging Amy" edged NBC's "Dateline" with a 4.2 to its 3.8 in adults 18-49. The average household rating and share for Tuesday night were: CBS 9.6/15, NBC 8.0/13, ABC 6.6/11 and Fox 5.0/8.

ABC takes 'The Chair' off the air
ABC has had its fill of "The Chair." The "extreme" quiz show, whose lousy reviews were surpassed only by its awful Nielsen ratings, will air for the last time on March 18 before turning its time slot over to another, as yet unnamed, reality show the following week. Hosted by retired tennis ace John McEnroe, "The Chair" this week set an ABC record for the smallest measured audience ever in the Monday 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. hour, with 4.8 million total viewers. Early on, ABC had high hopes for the show, even going so far as to sue Fox over the similarity of "The Chamber," which was canceled in January. Both shows challenged contestants to answer trivia questions while enduring adverse conditions.

Oscar ad time sold out but prices down from '01
Commercial time during the Oscars is going, going, gone, but while inventory for the March 24 event sold out several weeks ago, spots are a bit cheaper than they were last year. The top price for a 30-second spot during this year's Academy Awards was about $1.3 million, down from about $1.4 million last year, when advertisers were still buying time right up until the day of the broadcast. Some perennial Oscar advertisers have cut back this year, notably American Express, which lost its status as the sole credit card company sponsoring the event, with rival MasterCard taking out 90 seconds of ad space. Last year's Academy Awards broadcast drew 42.9 million viewers.

Clueless Fox taps humorist as Poundstone pundit

Booking gasbags to hold forth on cable news shows is not an exact science, as Fox News recently learned the hard way. On Feb. 22, a producer for the network called Ray Richmond, co-founder of an entertainment-news web site called the Hollywood Pulse. Richmond was invited to appear on the network and to participate in a discussion of the legal difficulties facing comedian Paula Poundstone, who was charged with child abuse and endangerment last summer. Richmond accepted. He was interviewed Feb. 25, with the footage airing last Friday. This week he pointed out something that the Fox News folks seemed not to know when they booked him: The Hollywood Pulse isnít a serious news site but one whose entire mission is "satire and spoof." "Apparently, the Fox producer simply put the words 'Paula Poundstone' and 'court' into a search engine and one of the Poundstone stories on our site popped up," said Richmond in an "exclusive interview with himself" published on the Pulse this week. "If they'd have checked out Hollywood Pulse last week, they'd have seen that our lead story was headlined, 'Poundstone Granted Supervised Child Abuse.' I mean, duh!" In reply, a spokesman for Fox News told the San Francisco Chronicle, "It's a well-known fact that Ray Richmond is a media whore." 

Carey, 'South Park' rapped for edgy jokes
After Sept. 11 many wondered when it would be OK to laugh again. Drew Carey thought that time had long since come, but executives at ABC disagree, at least when the object of laughter is airport security. The network threatened to halt production unless Carey and his writers excised certain jokes from an episode in which the protagonist's doofus buddies become airport security guards. "I've never had a threat like that from the network. ... Everybody was kind of in shock," Carey told the Los Angeles Times. "If you can't satirize authority institutions, what's the point?" The funnyman relented, and the episode tapes tomorrow. Over at Comedy Central "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were asked by execs to cut references to network advertiser Subway in their "Subway Sandwiches Gave Jared AIDS" episode. Meant to ridicule the sandwich shop giant's series of commercials with Jared, the man who credits his dramatic weight loss to a diet of Subway subs, the episode was finished at the last minute to escape network oversight. It aired last night with numerous references to the Subway brand name, including "And with the proper mix of AIDS and Subway sandwiches, anything is possible." Good luck hearing that one again in a rerun.

March 7, 2002 © 2002 Media Life

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