Dance Over to the Circus with a Nanny and a Farmer

Rash Report: Invasion of the Summer Reality Series

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- The big top came to the small screen last night, as NBC's "Celebrity Circus" became just the latest example of the networks working without a net as they try nearly every reality format to remain relevant during the summer. Indeed, the reality genre dominated, comprising 77% of prime-time programming. NBC, Fox and the CW ran all-reality slates; ABC ran two hours and CBS one.
NBC's 'Celebrity Circus' is the latest example of networks trying nearly every reality format to remain relevant during the summer.
NBC's 'Celebrity Circus' is the latest example of networks trying nearly every reality format to remain relevant during the summer. Credit: Chris Haston/NBC

While inexpensive, reality usually isn't as rewarding, at least commercially, as it rarely repeats well, and a significant number of viewers reject the genre. The 8 p.m. ET hour, for instance, was all reality and earned only an 8.1/29 cumulative rating and share in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic among the five networks. It did begin the night's highest-rated program, however, as a two-hour version of Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance?" delivered a 3.4/11.

NBC ran the first hour of a 90-minute "Deal or No Deal," which dealt the time slot -- and the night overall -- a 2.2/7. ABC, CBS and the CW also ran reality -- but in repeat form -- and had the expected results: ABC's "Wife Swap" (1.4/5), CBS's "Price Is Right Million Dollar Spectacular" (1.2/4) and the CW's "America's Next Top Model" (0.4/1) were all relatively uncompetitive.

The 9 p.m. ET hour was also replete with reality, as a rerun of "Supernanny" on ABC delivered a 1.5/4 and the CW's "Farmer Wants a Wife" yielded a 0.8/2, as the network finished the night with a 0.6/2. The first half-hour of NBC's "Circus" also ran within that time frame, delivering an overall 2.3/7, with the 10 p.m. portion winning its time slot. Overall, NBC was second with a 2.2/7.

One drama did run at 9 p.m., a rerun of CBS's "Criminal Minds," which delivered a 1.8/5, leading into a repeat of "CSI: NY" (2.1/6). CBS finished third, with a 1.7/5.

As for new episodes of the two genres most distinctive to network TV -- sitcoms and dramas -- there was only one, and it was a series finale: ABC's "Men in Trees," which died on the vine with a last-place 1.1/3. ABC finished fourth with an overall 1.3/4.

That poor performance probably shouldn't be a surprise. After all, first-run drama is but a summer sideshow compared to the season's main attraction, reality TV.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Thursday: Two teams -- the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers -- that defined basketball rivalry in the '80s are back at it tonight for game four of the NBA Finals, starting at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
Friday: If weather conditions permit, the sunset, with a loved one. If not, Friday the 13th should be as good a night as any to catch up on CBS's "Ghost Whisperer."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
CBS's "Swingtown" beat NBC's "Fear Itself" as both programs premiered last Thursday at 10 p.m. ET. Will viewers stay loyal to the drama about infidelity? Or will they opt for a small-screen version of a big-screen horror film?

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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.
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