Culturally, the big story was Don Draper and his fellow "Mad Men" sporting starched shirts and loose morals. The multi-Emmy Award nominee, already a critical smash, is now gaining commercially as well: Sunday night's season-two premiere rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic nearly doubled last summer's series premiere.
The next night, the evolution (devolution?) of Don Draper -- jingle writer Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) of CBS's "Two and a Half Men" -- was the focus of the highest-rated show of the night, as "Two and a Half Men" delivered a 2.9/8. Its lead-out, "The New Adventures of Old Christine," was almost as strong with a 2.5/7, while "The Big Bang Theory" and "How I Met Your Mother" both delivered a 1.7/6 and 1.8/5, respectively.
At 10 p.m., CBS's "CSI: Miami" police officers -- a profession held in much higher regard at seventh on the Harris list, incidentally -- won with a 2.0/6, beating NBC's "Dateline" (1.8/5) and ABC's "The Mole" (1.2/3).
For the night, CBS delivered a 2.2/6. This tied it with Fox, which led with a doctor (the fourth most prestigious position), as "House" delivered a 2.5/7 for a repeat. This was up 31% from lead-in "Bones" (1.9/6).
Of course, much of summertime prime-time TV has been about being -- or becoming -- an entertainer. Hopefully the contestants of ABC's "High School Musical: Get in the Picture" (1.0/3) and NBC's "Nashville Star" (1.6/4) are in it for the money, because they shouldn't count on prestige, as entertainers are ranked fifth from the bottom with only 12% claiming it's a profession of "very great prestige" and 31% believing there is "hardly any prestige at all."
Gladiators beat gamblers
Two other shows rounded out NBC's and ABC's night, with NBC's "American Gladiators" battling for an 8 p.m. win with a 1.9/6, helping NBC to finish third with a 1.8/6. On ABC, "Wanna Bet" (1.2/3) wasn't so lucky, finishing fourth in its timeslot, the same position as the network overall (1.1/3).
Like CBS, corporate cousin the CW ran scripted series repeats. But it finished fifth with a .4/1, as "Gossip Girl" delivered a .5/2 and "One Tree Hill" scored a .4/1.
Both networks' fates shows the fickle respectability-rating equation, as actors -- despite being the public's and thus the paparazzi's obsession -- were the second-lowest profession on the list, with a poll-high 38% saying it had "hardly any prestige at all."
As for the two admen, both Jon Hamm (Don Draper) and Charlie Sheen are nominated for best actors in their respective categories, and the shows are contending for best drama and comedy. To be sure, it may not raise the public's esteem of business executives in Harris' next poll, but it could help the actors.
Either way, at least business executives can hold their heads high knowing that at least they are more admired than one other key group of professionals – journalists, who fall just below them on the list.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Tuesday: It's not really reality TV most people want to watch, but PBS's often excellent "Wide Angle" series reports on child soldiers in war-torn Uganda in "Lord's Children."
Wednesday: Get up and dance! Sure, maybe on Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance." But if you really want to swing, TCM runs "The Glenn Miller Story" and "The Benny Goodman Story" back to back.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Programming flow works -- even when it's on different networks. Watch for audiences to watch "Wipeout" on ABC and then flip to NBC's "America's Got Talent."
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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.