MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Reality TV: Sociologists have tried to explain it, and schedulers have tried to exploit it. But what dissertations and demographic studies about the decade's dominant genre couldn't capture, Susan Boyle, a down-to-earth singer with a heavenly voice, did. Her appearance on "Britain's Got Talent" -- in which she astounded the judges as well as the public with a stirring, stunning rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" -- has been watched on YouTube more than 7 million times, and encapsulates the power of everyday people becoming overnight sensations.
While "Fringe" won its time slot (aided in part by CBS's "The Mentalist," 2.4/6, running a repeat and losing a third of its usual audience), the Fox drama only held half of the viewers from "Idol," which was a pattern repeated for each network that ran reality. The reality roller coaster was also apparent on fourth-place ABC (2.2/6), as the "Dancing With the Stars" results show (3.5/9) was watched twice as much as lead-out "Cupid" (1.7/5). The lead-in to "Dancing," the never-say-die "According to Jim" (1.2/4 and 1.2/3 for two episodes) didn't fare well with its return to ABC's schedule either.
And on second-place NBC (3.3/9), the biggest ratings winner was "The Biggest Loser" (3.8/10), which was watched by 37% more viewers than the 2.4/6 for lead-out "Law and Order: SVU" (although SVU was a repeat).
CBS and the CW, conversely, didn't run reality TV and had flatter -- and, at least in the CW's case, lower -- delivery: On third-place CBS (2.7/7) "The Mentalist" held 92% of a repeat of "NCIS" (2.5/7). "Without a Trace" (3.0/8) was 25% higher than "The Mentalist," although that may have been due to "Trace" being an original episode. And on fifth-place CW (0.9/2), "Reaper" (0.9/2) and "90210" (1.2/3) had nearly identical delivery.
To be sure, one video of one performance -- no matter how astounding -- can't account for reality TV's success. Indeed, those sociologists and schedulers may be particularly puzzled that on the same day Susan Boyle became a reality TV star, it was announced that Illinois' impeached, indicted former governor, Rod Blagojevich, may be a contestant in this summer's "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!" on NBC.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: With CBS's police procedurals "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY" in repeats, those who want to watch cops 'n' robbers dramas can turn to a classic, "Double Indemnity" on TCM, or a series in its second week, "The Unusuals" on ABC.
Thursday: Police procedurals are what most consider prime-time cop shows. But it wasn't always that way, as witnessed by seminal series such as "Dragnet," "Adam-12," "Hill Street Blues" and "NYPD Blue." NBC's "Southland" is far from achieving that type of cultural and commercial success, but at least last week's series premiere was promising as a beat-cop show.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Ratings for week two of "The Unusuals," which faces two other cop shows without help from the premiere-week hype.
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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population 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.