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'Survivor's' big 
tussle: Wisteria Lane

'Vanuatu' finale goes up against 'Housewives'

By Laura Nathan

   Come Sunday night there will be just two remaining contestants when the two-hour finale of “Survivor: Vanuatu" airs on CBS at 8 p.m. But the real combat won't take place on the South Pacific island but on Wisteria Lane back in the U.S.
 
“Survivor: Vanuatu" in its second hour will go against ABC's new hit show "Desperate Housewives," and we can expect some scratching and clawing for viewers, with "Survivor" likely getting the worst of it.
  The question: How severely with the "Survivor" finale be hurt?
  The special Sunday night airings of "Survivor" made lots of sense over the past three finales, with viewer anticipation still fresh from the Thursday night airing in which the cast of contestants was narrowed to the last two. But that was before this season and "Housewives." 
     Throughout November sweeps, ABC’s sweetheart hit was No. 1 among 18-49s for the rating period, and ABC now claims the show has pulled the best numbers in that demo since a May airing of "Friends." During sweeps the show was also N0. 1 among 18-34s.
   The episode for the Sunday prior to last night (the week ended Nov. 28),earned a 12.5.
    By contrast, "Survivor," though still every bit a hit show, ranks No. 5 season to date. 
     This past week's episode earned a 7.2/19 among 18-49s.
   Come Sunday, “Survivor” in its first hour will have only slightly less to worry about when it goes up against ABC’s other Sunday night staple, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” 
    But at 9 the real challenge begins. How many people will jump over to "Housewives?" That's anyone's guess.
   Certainly, much will be determined by  “Survivor's” momentum coming out of Thursday night's penultimate episode. 
  A good cliffhanger would certainly help. In the last "Survivor," one contestant proposed leading into the finale, and that had a powerful effect on the finale.
   Just two episodes before that series ended, the show had a 7.5 among 18-49s. Then came the proposal, which pushed ratings among 18-49s up to 8.2/23. It turned out to be the best ratings for any “Survivor” finale among 18-49s since May 2002.
    With
“Survivor: Vanuatu," there's certainly cliffhanger potential. On Thursday, contestants voted off Ami Cusack, who led an alliance among the women on the island to prevent them from getting voted off. Will a new leader emerge? How will the dynamics of the cast change as a result? Will enough viewers care either way? Or will Ami's exile remove much of the suspense?
   The show, perhaps because of Cusack, has maintained fairly consistent ratings from the season's premiere episode Sept. 16, when it earned a 9.2/21 among 25-54s, a 7.6/20 among 18-49s, and a 5.4/16 among 18-34s.
     Remaining contestants include a 33-year-old highway construction worker, Chris Daugherty, 21-year-old pre-law student Eliza Orlins,  41-year-old highway repair worker Twila Tanner, and 59-year-old rancher/entrepreneur Scout Cloud Lee.
  Certainly, the show should do decently in the 8 p.m. hour, when it airs in the timeslot normally occupied by “Cold Case,” the hit CBS Sunday night show which normally finishes second in its timeslot. The show earned a 4.1 among 18-49s for the week ended Nov. 28, behind “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’s” 7.5 (“Cold Case” ran until 9:33 p.m. last week due to CBS’s NFL football runover).
   "Survivor" should pull an 8 among 18-49s for that first hour.
    At 9, the story changes up against "Housewives." When both series aired new episodes during the week of Oct. 17, “Housewives” led “Survivor” handily, bringing in 570,000 more viewers among 18-24s, 5.26 million more among 18-34s, 3.26 million more viewers among 18-49s, and about 540,000 more among 12-24s.
  The best hope for “Survivor” is that those who switch to “Housewives” will switch back during commercial breaks, and that they’ll stick around for the “Survivor” reunion at 10.
  


Dec. 6, 2004 © 2004 Media Life


 - Laura Nathan is a New York writer.


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