'The Closer' Closes Season Strongly

Rash Report: TNT Drama Finale Indicative of Summertime Cable Gains

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- At 9 p.m., the tale of two season finales told the tale of summertime prime-time approaches by broadcast and cable.

'The Closer'
'The Closer' Credit: TNT
For cable, it's been the best of times, as many networks have belied broadcast's scheduling strategy, which relies heavily on reality TV and reruns by running original scripted series. Some, such as AMC's "Mad Men," have grabbed so much attention as to not only supersede their small-screen rivals, but many big-screen premieres as well.

TNT's "The Closer" may not have as much media buzz, but it did have the same amount of viewers as ABC's series finale of "Dating in the Dark," the relationship reality program meant to give blind dates a whole new meaning. While "Dating's" finale under-delivered its average rating in the ad-centric adult 18-49 rating by 15%, "The Closer's" closer was up 13%.

But while the shows' 1.7/5 rating and share in the demo might be the same, the image and brand perception is decidedly different. "Dating in the Dark" is yet another interchangeable reality show driven more by the prospect of profit by being low cost (albeit low concept as well).

"The Closer," conversely, is just one of the shows that has made basic cable the basic destination for first-run fare during the dog days of summer. And it's been well-received critically as well, with lead Kyra Sedgwick nominated for a Best Actress Emmy for the fourth year in a row, mirroring her nomination streak with the Golden Globes (she won in 2007).

To be sure, network TV has had its share of scripted series tryouts this summer, and cable had its share of reality rip-offs as well. And in the end, it was neither "Dating in the Dark" nor "The Closer," but instead the close comfort some seem to get from the dark dating habits of "Two and a Half Men's" Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) and the non-dating habits of the guys in "The Big Bang Theory" that were the night's highest-rated programs. Despite both running repeats, each delivered a 2.9/8, which led CBS to a first-place 2.3/7. (Fox followed with a 1.5/4, with ABC's 1.3/4 and NBC's 1.2/4 close behind. Far behind was the CW, which finished fifth with a 0.3/1.)

As for Kyra Sedgwick, the upcoming Emmy Awards will tell if she can close the deal with Emmy voters. But with viewers, TNT, and much of cable, she already has won by realizing there is still an audience that will warm up to summertime prime time if the content is compelling enough.

Rash gridsEnlarge
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Tuesday: School's not back in session for another week or two, but bone up on the world around us with news/documentary programs "Nova scienceNow" and "P.O.V."
Wednesday: Those who really like reality TV, or those who think it's the dumbing down of TV (let alone culture), take note: ABC promises an "extreme driving course" on "Crash Course," for those who cannot get enough of the human spin-outs on lead-in "Wipeout."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Cable, if you want to watch any scripted series, as NBC runs three hours of "America's Got Talent," ABC counters with two hours of "Shaq Vs." while CBS hopes you are watching "Big Brother" and Fox counters with "Hell's Kitchen."

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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.

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