Much of this was reflected Tuesday night, as three programs that are ostensibly about family dynamics had mixed ratings results. Winning the 10 p.m. ET timeslot was ABC's "Primetime: Family Secrets," an often over-the-top look at the underbelly of family life, including Tuesday's expose of "husbands' secret lives." It delivered a 2.2/7 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, beating repeats of NBC's "Law & Order: SVU" (1.8/5) and CBS's "Without a Trace" (1.4/4).
A more benign look at non-traditional groupings was provided by the celebrities and celebrity wannabes on NBC's "Celebrity Family Feud" (1.8/6) and CBS's "Big Brother" (2.2/6), which showcase media-manufactured "families" in order to induce real families to sit down and watch together.
For the most part, it didn't work. Instead of watching "Family Feud," for instance, about twice as many families -- or at least those of parental age, adults 18-49 -- watched ABC's "Wipeout," which once again was Tuesday's top-rated show with a 3.7/12. And beyond wiping out "Feud," it easily beat repeats of CBS's "NCIS" (1.5/5), Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares" (1.6/5) and the CW's "Beauty and the Geek" (.5/2).
And at 8 p.m. many of those moms and dads switched to NBC's "America's Got Talent" (3.4/10), as not only wasn't there much surveillance of "Big Brother" but ABC's "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" indexed at only 77% of its season average with a 2.1/6. On the CW, a "Reaper" repeat delivered a .5/1.
And relatively few households -- or those in the desired demo -- watched "House" (1.9/6), a repeat that delivered well below its original-episode average. For the night, Fox found itself in third with an overall 1.8/5 average as ABC won with a 2.7/8, followed by NBC's 2.3/7, CBS's fourth-place 1.7/5 and the CW's fifth-place .5/1.
Of course, while Nielsen measures these relatively low ratings, it can't measure if they're actually due to families -- both traditional and new -- having family time that for once wasn't in front of the set.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: Just because there's too much reality TV on, it doesn't mean some of it isn't enjoyable: Fox glides from repeats to reality with "So You Think You Can Dance."
Thursday: Need a laugh? NBC has "Last Comic Standing," which like all stand-up, can be uneven. So the best bet for laughs is on TCM, with Jack Lemmon in "The Out-of-Towners."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Ratings for "Flashpoint," CBS's latest cop caper. After a surprising, if not stellar, start, it moves from Friday to Thursday night. It's unlikely to be a breakout hit, a Rosetta stone for the network, but if it performs well, it could become one of the cornerstones of the fall schedule.
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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.