AxWatch: 'Cane' vs. 'Reaper'

TVWeek's James Hibberd: Rated

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Last night's two lowest-rated scripted shows were CBS' family drama "Cane" (a slight 2.3 rating among adults 18 to 49) and The CW's supernatural dramedy "Reaper" (an even slighter 1.3). Yet odds are more favorable that "Reaper" will earn a pickup than "Cane"—mainly because CBS sets a higher bar for series performance than the niche-targeting CW. "Power is sweet," but low expectations are sweeter.

Also, "Cane" has sunk three weeks in a row while "Reaper" has seemingly stabilized. Last night's "Reaper" bested the third-week performance of The CW's "Gossip Girl," which garnered a pickup Tuesday. The show still trails "Gossip" in The CW's core demo of 18 to 34, however (a 1.7 for "Gossip," a 1.4 for "Reaper").

CBS was the first network to fire a show last year, axing "Smith," which had the same troubled time period as "Cane." "Smith" averaged a higher rating, but it fell off faster than "Cane" week by week.

Plus, all sorts of other factors drift into the equation, such as whether the network has anything better to punch in a slot, a show's cost and even executive pride. In all three cases, things tilt toward "Reaper" outliving "Cane." The CW doesn't want to lose a quality show; CBS doesn't want to support a show that isn't competitive in its time period.

For now, network executives are playing a cautious game of wait-and-see, thrown off balance by this season's X factor of significantly increased DVR viewing (set at 20 percent penetration and counting). The general consensus on factoring in DVR viewership is that hit shows are still hits, flops are still flops, but middle-ground/borderline cases could shift due to the additional measurement.

With both "Reaper" and "Cane" arguably borderline, upcoming DVR viewership figures may decide the fates of both.
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