MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- As pop culture, "Peanuts" was never really counterculture. But there was a time during the 1960s when the stark, existential neuroses of children like Charlie Brown and Linus -- at least juxtaposed against "Blondie" and "Dick Tracy" -- could be considered cool (or "Joe Cool," as Snoopy -- whose sidekick was named Woodstock, after all -- might say).
But times -- and teens -- change: Fox's "American Idol" had a 17 share with teens last night, compared with a 1 share for "It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown" and "Charlie Brown All Stars." Even in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic, which features many who came of age when "Peanuts" went from the funny pages to the cover of Time magazine, "Idol" beat the "Peanuts" hour, delivering an 8.1/22 rating and share compared with a 1.2/3 for "Peanuts." Fox followed "Idol" with "Fringe" (4.0/10), and won the night with an overall 6.2/16. CBS (3.3/9) and NBC (3.2/8) competed closely for second place, while ABC (2.1/5) and the CW (1.0/3) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Of course, the coarsening culture has made "Peanuts" quaint, if not cool, and the specials performed better among their new intended audience of kids and (mostly) moms. But even with kids 2 to 11, "Idol" out-rated Beethoven-playing Schroeder and the gang by a two-to-one margin, as "Idol" delivered a 4.0/14 with kids 2 to 11 compared with a 2.1/7 for Charlie Brown.
Ratings rose for ABC's shows, however, after the "Peanuts" specials. But there still was audience attrition for the "Dancing With the Stars" recap show (3.3/8), which was off 13% from its season average, and "Cupid" (1.6/4), which lost the love of 30% from its premiere last week.
NBC also underperformed its season averages, as "Biggest Loser: Couples" (3.2/8) slimmed down 16%, and "Law and Order: SVU" (3.3/9) fell 8%.
CBS was the only network with consistency, as "NCIS" (3.6/10), "The Mentalist" (3.6/9) and "Without a Trace" (2.7/7) were each down only one-tenth of a rating point from their original-episode averages.
To be sure, it's not just the genius of Charles Schulz that lately doesn't looking quite so current as it once did. "Idol" itself was down 15% among adults 18 to 49, and many younger viewers may have had a hard time relating to the episode's revival of 1980's tunes.
Even an entire network built around tweens, teens and young adults, the CW, lost to the more august CBS among teens and women 18 to 34, let alone adults 18 to 49, the demo in which "Reaper" and "90210" counted a .9/2 and 1.1/3, respectively.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: Fox's "American Idol" and PBS's "American Masters" offer two different video versions of music culture, with "Masters" portraying composer Philip Glass.
Thursday: Talk about a tough act to follow: "Southland" inherits "E.R.'s" time slot just a week after the seminal show had its series finale. But even though the show is new, the subject matter isn't, as "Southland" is another take on the cops 'n' robbers genre.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Ratings for the premiere of ABC's "The Unusuals" and the season (series?) finale of NBC's "Life," which will set the tone for whether either will be considered for the fall schedule.
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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population 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.