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.