Wallflowers and Couch Potatoes

Rash Report: Most Don't Think They Can Dance, But They Sure Like to Watch

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- After Chris Brown assaulted his then-girlfriend Rihanna on the way to the Grammy Awards, it seemed it would be a long time before any of his songs would top the charts again.

'So You Think You Can Dance'
'So You Think You Can Dance' Credit: Fox
But it just happened, as "Forever" cracked the iTunes top 10, according to Nielsen, after a viral video of a Minnesota couple's wedding party dancing down the aisle to the tune became an instant internet sensation, and was quickly picked up by the mainstream media.

It seems the scene in the St. Paul church might have been divine inspiration. But maybe the fun couple noticed how much people like to watch video versions of dancing. After all, as witnessed at so many weddings, most couch potatoes are also wallflowers who prefer to sit back and watch others dance.

Fox and ABC certainly picked up on that. Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" even relegated last week's presidential press conference to Fox News Channel last week, and last night it had all the right moves in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic, as a 3.0/9 rating and share for a two-hour episode led Fox to first place. While "Dance" dipped slightly compared with its season-to-date 3.1/10, the show routinely routs repeats on rival networks and not only holds its own against other reality shows, last night it even beat summer hit "America's Got Talent" (2.8/8) on NBC. (For the night, NBC finished second with a 1.8/6, as a "Talent" repeat, 1.4/5, and "The Philanthropist," 1.3/4, bookended the original episode of "Talent.")

ABC has danced to a different beat with its hit. Instead of having amateurs cut a rug, it has celebrity contestants cut it up with both the judges and their professional partners on "Dancing With the Stars." But the formula works, mostly because it humanizes usually inaccessible celebrities by tapping into the same fear that seizes many in junior high gyms: dancing in public.

The resulting vulnerability of normally cool celebs makes this the one reality show that does not embrace the genre's cult of the amateur. And based on the ultimate judge (no, not Len Goodman but Nielsen) there won't be a last dance anytime soon. Monday's competition round averaged a 4.9/13 this spring, up from fall's 4.4/11, while Tuesday's results round was reversed, with spring's 3.6/9 below fall's 4.1/10.

Rash chart July 29, 2009Click for PDF
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

As for ABC last night, it finished third, with a 1.6/5, as "Wipeout" (2.2/7) wiped out its recent gains by running a repeat, and "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" mustered only a 1.2/4. Of course, "Japanese Game Show" just features silly stunts -- nothing compared with the dangers of dancing in public.

CBS and the CW finished fourth and fifth, with 1.4/4 and .5/2, respectively.

Thursday: "Wild Russia" sounds like a PBS expose of Kremlin politics or a CNBC examination of crony capitalism. But it's the real thing, as Animal Planet explores nature in Siberia and the Caucasus.
Friday: Sure, you might feel bad about watching TV on a summer Friday night. But it might make you feel better to know you're not spending any money. And indeed, you might feel downright grateful if you watch ABC's "20/20," which goes inside the country's only treatment center for money disorders.

Thursday's "So You Think You Can Dance" to step all over rivals' repeats.

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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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