Memorial Day Programming Not So Memorable

Rash Report: Viewers Scarce for Kickoff of Summer Repeat Season

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Network programming often leads the public, but at times reflects it as well. Such was the case last night, with broadcasters programming Memorial Day the same way many Americans observe it, as the start of summer rather than a solemn observation of the sacrifices demanded by wars past and present.
So absent any special Memorial Day programming, network TV slid into summer with a grid replete with repeats, with the highest rating going to CBS's 'Two and a Half Men.'
So absent any special Memorial Day programming, network TV slid into summer with a grid replete with repeats, with the highest rating going to CBS's 'Two and a Half Men.' Credit: CBS/Greg Gayne

So absent any special Memorial Day programming, network TV slid into summer with a grid replete with repeats (CBS, Fox and the CW filled their slates with reruns) and reality (all of ABC's and two-thirds of NBC's schedule).

Looking for laughs
Sitcoms generally repeat better than dramas, with CBS as a prime prime-time example: The four sitcoms averaged two-thirds of the original episode average in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, as "Two and a Half Men" was the highest-rated show of the night, delivering a 3.3/8 rating and share in the Nielsen "Fast Affiliate Ratings" (final Live + Same Day ratings are holiday delayed). Lead-out "Rules of Engagement" had a 2.8/7, while the night started with a 2.0/6 for "Big Bang Theory" and a 2.3/7 for "How I Met Your Mother." CBS's "CSI: Miami," conversely, indexed lower, like most dramas, delivering a 2.0/5, which was 44% of its first-run average. For the night, CBS was first with a 2.4/7.

Second-place ABC (1.9/5), on the other hand, combined the common summer strategies by running a reality repeat, as "Vacation Swap" started off with a 1.5/4. This was followed by a 2.0/5 for "The Bachelorette," which might pine for its springtime coupling with lead-in "Dancing With the Stars" this summer, as the show fell 31% from last week's "Live + Same Day" number.

Fox went all-reality with the time-period debut of "So You Think You Can Dance," a summer show with a tone to match the frivolity of summer movies. But it, too, missed the immediacy of the end of the regular season, slipping 49% compared to last week's "Live + Same Day" rating to a 1.8/5, which matches Fox's overall nightly number.

NBC toed past Fox's dancers with its "American Gladiators," which had a 1.9/5. Lead-out "Dateline," however, slipped to a 1.6/4, putting NBC into fourth place with a 1.7/5.

And the CW, with a target audience that will be especially elusive during the barefoot months, ran repeats of "Gossip Girl" (.6/2) and "One Tree Hill" (.5/1), which was also the overall nightly delivery.

So, overall, at least from a programming perspective, it was a forgettable Memorial Day. This was perhaps a missed opportunity, at least for the networks to lead society, as those who have served the nation surely merited some space on the nation's airwaves.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Tuesday: Much was written about CNN smartly signing Newsweek international editor Fareed Zakaria to host a weekly show on international affairs. PBS, meanwhile, goes about its mission, including the best news magazine on TV, "Frontline," which this week explores cross-border human smuggling.
Wednesday: NBC's "Last Comic Standing" stands nearly alone as a reality show with real talent.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Fox's midseason monster (and at times monstrous) hit, "Moment of Truth," returns. Absent "American Idol" as a lead-in, will the viewers?

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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 a TV. 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 a commercial minute, live-plus-three-day viewing basis.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of broadcast negotiations for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.
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