NFL Is King of the Hill

Rash Report: Season Kickoff Beats Last Stand of Fox Series

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Our outburst culture kicked into overdrive late last week, with South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson, tennis star Serena Williams and music star Kanye West just the latest examples of people losing their cool during our long, hot summer of town-hall discontent.

'Sunday Night Football'
'Sunday Night Football'
Hank Hill, the laconic, conservative character at the center of Fox's "King of the Hill" probably would have just taken it all in, silently shaking his head about today's coarsening culture.

Indeed, contrary to Fox's "animation domination" Sunday sitcoms, Hank wasn't very animated. That is unless it was about Texas, taxes, his family or selling propane. This made him different from Fox's other colorful characters featured in the successful block, such as Homer Simpson or "The Family Guy's" family guy, Peter Griffin.

Reflecting Hank's reticence, "King of the Hill's" viewers didn't seem to get too worked up either, as the series finale didn't see the spike most show-enders get. Indeed, two back-to-back "King of the Hill" episodes averaged a 2.9/8 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic for the 8-9 p.m. timeslot, which was its exact original episode average for last season. (It did, however, beat repeats of fellow Fox animated sitcoms "Family Guy," 2.3/6 and "American Dad," 1.9/4.)

And it also beat the type of show that probably puzzled Hank Hill, CBS's "Big Brother" (2.2/6), as well as an interview with a president it's unlikely Hank pulled the lever for, as "60 Minutes'" chat with President Obama only was elected by a 1.6/5. Overall, CBS finished third with a 1.6/4.

ABC, with repeats of reality -- "America's Funniest Home Videos" (1.5/4), "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (1.4/4) -- and an original episode of "Shark Tank" (1.4/3) and drama "Defying Gravity" (.8/2), finished fourth with a 1.3/3.

Rash grids
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See how all the shows did in the ratings.
But Hank Hill probably would have been doing what most guys his age were -- watching football. It was the season kickoff for the NFL, after all, and his own network had an NFL overrun, which scored a 6.1/18 from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and post-game "The O.T." delivered a 4.5/13.

But it was NBC that made the most of the season opener, as its schedule grid was undergirded with four hours of football, which delivered an overall first place 6.2/16. "Football Night in America" ran from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and averaged a 3.9/11, leading right into the game between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, which averaged a 7.5/18, from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., right about where last year's game one delivered (final ratings will reflect its actual post-11 p.m. end time).

So unlike the rest of society, there was no outburst needed, or received, for "King of the Hill" on its finale. And it seemed to go out at the right time, as it didn't seem to want to overstay its already remarkable 12-year run. And besides, there's 16 weeks left in the regular NFL season, and Hank's Dallas Cowboys may once again be competing for a playoff spot.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: A seminal shift in network TV's cultural and commercial models, "The Jay Leno Show" takes its broadcast bow at 10 p.m. on NBC.
Tuesday: OK, granted, sitting on the couch isn't exactly the best place to get inspired to lose weight or gain control over your retirement. But two shows try to do just that with the program premiere of NBC's "Biggest Loser" and PBS's "Retirement Revolution."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Smiles on the faces of NBC execs, as the pre-booking of Kanye West, the hip-hop star who hopped up on stage to steal the mic -- and the moment -- from country crooner Taylor Swift, is exactly the kind of serendipitous scheduling needed to seize the pop-culture news narrative.

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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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