The news was grim in Motown, where the automotive industry reeled after the Japanese models performed much better than the American ones.
Things (as usual) were much sunnier in L.A., as the audience industry saw ABC's Japanese model, "Wipeout," hold its own, while NBC's American model, "America's Got Talent," enjoyed a slight increase.
The commercial impact of car sales has, of course, much greater macroeconomic importance. And in the advertising microeconomy, the sagging sales might even affect commercials themselves, as car manufacturers adjust messaging and media spending and join consumers in scrambling to adapt to $4 a gallon of gasoline.
But while much less critical, the cultural impact of whether "Wipeout" would become the summer's breakout hit was also important, as broadcasters try to break out of the media malaise of stalled labor negotiations and stalled audience engagement.
Well, it wasn't a wipeout. Either way, "Wipeout" did what few of its muddied contestants could do: hold steady.
The Japanese-inspired game show, which showed its potential when last Tuesday's premiere achieved the week's highest ratings (a rerun even beat NBC's U.S. Olympic trials broadcast on Sunday), delivered a 3.6/12 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic. This was 97% of its debut, suggesting that despite the big buzz, it didn't build into an instant summer sensation like Fox's "American Idol," CBS's "Survivor" and ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." But it wasn't a one-week wonder, either.
'Wipeout' wins time slot
"Wipeout" easily won its time slot, as did reality shows at 9 p.m. (Fox's "Hell's Kitchen") and 10 p.m. (the second hour of NBC's "America's Got Talent"). Less promising was "Wipeout's" lead-out, "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" (2.6/7), which fell 16% from its debut last week. "Primetime: The Outsiders" (2.0/6) fell even further, 20%, as ABC finished in second place with an overall 2.7/8.
"America's Got Talent" (3.3/10) saw a 6% ratings rise, which compensated for a 17% drop for week two of "Celebrity Family Feud" (1.9/7) to give the network a tie with Fox. Both networks averaged a 2.8/9 for the night.
Fox's share of first place was mostly due to "Hell's Kitchen" (3.7/11) being more than twice as hot as lead-in "Moment of Truth" (1.8/6).
The SUVs of TV
Meanwhile, CBS and the CW were like all the unsold SUVs in yesterday's auto sales report: well built, but with about half the demand of just a few months ago. Indeed, a rerun of CBS's "NCIS" (1.3/4) indexed at 38% of original-episode averages. "48 Hours Mystery" (1.7/5) was new (if not necessarily "news") and indexed better at 85% of its season average, leading into "Without a Trace" (1.5/5), which was also the network's fourth-place nightly average.
CW's "Beauty and the Geek" (0.4/1) and "Reaper" (0.5/1) repeats indexed at 50% and 42% of their original-episode averages as the network itself averaged a 0.4/1.
The auto and TV-audience industries have a lot in common: Born in this country, both deal with imports and are crucial to the economy. And both are key components of America's view of itself and its image abroad.
But the audience industry has a defining difference. Unlike the auto industry, which can take years to turn out new models, the audience industry can roll out new programs in months. And sometimes, they can be instant hits, which ABC still hopes "Wipeout" is becoming.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: Escape with Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance." Or engage with PBS's "Nova ScienceNOW."
Thursday: Reality TV doesn't have to mean amateur hour(s). Instead, the professional medical miracle workers on ABC's hospital reality show "Hopkins" are just as, if not more, interesting.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Very low TV usage as the three-day Fourth weekend stretches into five days for some.
~ ~ ~
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.