MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- As the scientific debate over climate change heats up, the social science is increasingly clear: For most Americans, global warming is an abstract compared to the global financial meltdown, as two recent Gallup polls show. Gallup's March 11 poll tracks how concern over global warming has cooled, as a record 41% of Americans now think global warming is exaggerated. A week later, Gallup reported that for the first time since it began to ask about the trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth 25 years ago, a majority now favor protecting their wallets over their wetlands.
A different kind of polling, the nightly Nielsen ratings, weighed in on the matter today, giving a further indication that while some maybe outright hostile to holistic, environmentally friendly lifestyles, most are apathetic. It also has to be concerning to ABC's green eyeshades that green lifestyles -- even when they're lampooned -- aren't of much interest, at least compared to the easy escapism of the singing, dancing and absurdist obstacle course that rated higher than the program premiere of "The Goode Family."
Meant to mock the earnest, honest efforts of a politically correct, environmental family, "The Goode Family" is a kick in the pants to those trying to reduce their carbon footprints, done by the same creator as Fox's "King of the Hill," whose Hank Hill might have been the type of Texan listening to Rush Limbaugh refer to the Goodes as "environmental wackos."
But based on the 1.6/4 rating and share in the ad-centric 18-49 demographic delivery, which wiped out half of the lead-in audience for the premiere of "Wipeout" (3.3/10), environmental ennui couldn't create enough passion to tune in.
Conversely, the here and now of listening to country music artists play to Hank Hill and the millions who have made the genre radio's most listened to format, with 1,683 stations combining for 12.7% of the 12+ audience, made CBS's "George Strait: ACM Artist of the Decade All Star Concert" not only the most watched show of night with 10.6 million viewers overall but was competitive in adults 18-49 with a 2.2/6.
Fox played it less straight than CBS's Strait tribute with the funkier "So You Think You Can Dance," which was broadcast's best in the demo with a 3.5/10, which put Fox first for the night overall.
CBS was second with a 2.1/6, as a "Criminal Minds" rerun (2.0/6) played backup to the country concert. NBC (1.5/4) locked up fourth by running reruns of its "Law and Order" franchise ("CI," 1.1/3; "SVU," 1.7/5 and the original "Law and Order," 1.8/5). ABC (1.9/5) ended third, as ratings were even worse for "Goode Family's" lead-out, "Surviving Suburbia" (1.0/3), which led into "The Unusuals" (1.2/3). And the CW's "Hitched or Ditched" and "America's Next Top Model" each delivered a .5.
And, indeed, it wasn't the new show's contempt for concern over the melting polar ice caps, but the Lakers beating the Nuggets that had the highest delivery overall, as TNT's NBA Playoff Game 5 scored a 4.0/12.
To be sure, most experts -- including diplomats wearing white lab coats over striped pants with the United Nations -- overwhelmingly offer objective evidence that global warming is real, and is a real problem. But now the movement faces the challenge of charging forward with legislation like cap and trade in an economy when trade itself is under assault by many countries trying to protect workers and wages.
Passing that legislation will require public support. And while it's easy to dismiss the bad ratings for "The Goode Family," the apparent apathy about environmentalism reveals the inconvenient truth about reenergizing efforts to slow global warming is that it needs a pop culture pop like "An Inconvenient Truth," the seminal documentary that won Al Gore both an Academy Award and a Nobel Prize, but most importantly, public support for an existential, but existing threat.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Thursday: Sure, school's almost out, but not before finals, like "The National Spelling Bee" that runs on ABC, starting at 8 p.m.
Friday: OK, so maybe a show called "Un-Broke: What You Need to Know About Money" should have Nouriel Roubini instead of Rosario Dawson and Joseph Stiglitz instead of the Jonas Brothers. But despite featuring stars with champagne tastes, the ABC special could help viewers keep within their beer budgets.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Rerun ratings for ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" to reconfirm why the networks need a new business model that doesn't depend on half the year being second showings.
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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.