So maybe it shouldn't be shocking that once prime time started, startled American audiences preferred a rerun of ABC's "America's Funniest Home Videos" over NBC's "The American Dream With Jim Cramer" by a 4:1 ratio, as the dream has turned into a nightmare for so many homeowners and for an economy built right alongside the subprime subdivisions.
Actually, maybe it was all just too depressing to watch anything, because "Videos" was funny only to a 1.6/6 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, compared to a .4/1 for "American Dream," a 0.8/3 and 1.0/4 for two repeats of Fox's " 'Til Death," a 0.3/1 for the CW's "One Tree Hill" and a 1.1/4 for CBS's "60 Minutes," which months ago ran a remarkably prescient report on the dismal state of the housing market. (All ratings are based on the Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings. Final live-plus-same-day numbers will be released tomorrow.)
Reality with a happy ending
Indeed, it seems the only shelter-related programming that viewers could stomach was ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," the reality fantasy where housing is the solution, not the problem. The two-hour "Home Edition" delivered a 1.7/5, beating a rerun of "America's Got Talent" on NBC, and "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Aliens in America" (both 0.3/1) on the CW. But "Home Edition" lost to the dysfunctional households of Fox's "The Simpsons" (1.8/6) and "King of the Hill" (1.8/5).
But the big winner at 8 p.m. ET was "Big Brother" (not, as some conservative commentators claim, the feds meddling with Fannie and Freddie, but the CBS reality show, whose goal is to be "head of household"). Unlike the housing and financial markets, its stock stabilized, winning with a 2.1/7, which is even with last year's summer premiere.
Of course, it's times like these that cause brokers to advise clients to diversify, usually into international markets. NBC did just that at 9 p.m., with the 2008 "Miss Universe Pageant." But here, too, America stumbled -- or at least Miss USA, Crystle Stewart, who recovered after slipping onstage, but ultimately lost to Miss Venezuela, Dayana Mendoza.
Beauty pageant takes the tiara
The ratings stumbled, too, down 20% from last year. But it was still good enough to win the two-hour timeslot, beating the second hour of ABC's "Home Edition" and "Desperate Housewives" (1.0/3), CBS's repeats of "Cold Case (1.3/4) and "Flashpoint" (1.4/4) and "The Game" and "Girlfriends' on the CW (both 0.5/2).
The only half-hour "Miss Universe" didn't win was up against Fox's "Family Guy" (2.2/6) at 9 p.m. "American Dad" followed a 1.9/5. Overall, Fox won a close race to win the night with an average of 1.6/5, edging CBS and ABC (1.5/5), NBC (1.4/4) and trouncing the CW (0.3/1). But Fox delivered by not diversifying, and instead running its steady slate of animated comedies.
It wouldn't be the first time an expert was wrong this year.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: OK, so enough about the stock market. How about the sock market, better known as the All-Star Game "Homerun Derby" on ESPN?
Tuesday: Reality's rise has made it a starless summer, at least on TV. Take a break and watch the Major League All Stars on the midsummer classic on Fox.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
TNT has had dynamite success with "The Closer" and "Saving Grace," which both have their season premieres tonight. How much share will they steal from the broadcast networks?
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NOTE: A share is a percentage of TV households that have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all TV households, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)
John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.