MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- After ratings tanked for last year's strike-struck awards shows, the next two months will determine if people still choose "The People's Choice Awards" and other star-studded events such as Sunday's "Golden Globe Awards" on NBC and next month's "Academy Awards" on ABC. Last night was the first test and the results were mixed.
CBS's "People's Choice Awards" delivered a 3.0/8 rating and share, which was 88% higher than last year's truncated show. But it was 14% and 12% lower than the 2007 and 2006 versions, respectively, suggesting that some may have rolled up the red carpet.
It's not that viewers aren't still obsessed about stars: ABC's Barbara Walters special with Patrick Swayze had the same delivery as "The People's Choice" (as well as NBC's venerable "Law and Order").
Indeed, maybe it's because with such a lackluster TV season, there doesn't seem like there are too many shows to choose from, let alone honor.
Take last night's schedule. Viewers could be excused if it was unclear whether the writers had returned. The 8 p.m. hour had two repeats of "Scrubs" on ABC, just the night after the former NBC show made its debut on its new network. The 1.5/4 and 1.7/5 were about half of Tuesday's new network premiere. And the "Scrubs" repeats were below the two reruns that won the timeslot, CBS sitcoms "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (2.1/6) and "Gary Unmarried" (2.2/6).
Indeed, indicative of the media malaise network TV seems to be in, even a repeat of Fox's "Bones" (1.7/5) tied an original episode of NBC's "Knight Rider" and easily beat the program premiere of The CW's "13: Fear Is Real" (1.1/3).
The 9 p.m. hour wasn't worthy of many -- or any -- bows either, as ABC's "20/20," a 31-year-old newsmagazine, tied a rerun of NBC's 18-year-old "Law and Order" with a 2.2/6. Still, that was higher than yet another second showing of "Bones" (1.9/5) and a "90210" repeat on the CW that could only count on a 0.5/1.
Overall, CBS won the night with a 2.7/7, followed by a second-place tie between ABC and NBC, which each had a 2.3/6. Fox was fourth with a 1.8/5 while the CW finished fifth with a 0.8/2.
But the biggest winner may be the big screen, as box-office receipts have been relatively robust despite (or perhaps because of) the recession. Maybe matching the mood, "The Dark Knight" won the most People's Choice Awards.
As for the small screen, the big scripted-series winners were Fox's "House," CBS's "The Mentalist" and NBC's "Heroes. As for sitcoms, "The Simpsons" and "Gary Unmarried" were honored.
The shows' stars and creators may have appeared on TV collecting kudos last night. But as shown by the relatively low ratings, their programs didn't, except for "Gary Unmarried" (which, fittingly, ran a repeat) on a night few people chose any show network TV had to offer.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Thursday: It's not the result of the college football playoff even President-elect Barack Obama is pushing for, but Fox's FedEx Bowl Championship Game between the Oklahoma Sooners and Florida Gators should be entertaining nonetheless.
Friday: CBS's Canadian import, "Flashpoint," isn't flashy, but its successful summer run is indicative of how CBS has defied ratings gravity this season. It returns -- and has a good chance of staying -- this Friday.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: A gender fight for the remote as ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice" play against the big game on Fox.
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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.