Viewers Forget 'Samantha Who?'

Rash Report: But Will Emmy Voters Remember Christina Applegate?

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Amnesiac Samantha (Christina Applegate) tried to recover her memory. But it was viewers -- and to some degree, ABC -- who seemed to forget how promising this comedy once was. After a dazzling debut as a partner to "Dancing With the Stars" in fall 2007, "Samantha" fell once it was shuffled off to other time slots.

Viewers -- and to some degree, ABC -- forgot how promising 'Samantha Who?' once was.
Viewers -- and to some degree, ABC -- forgot how promising 'Samantha Who?' once was. Credit: ABC
Last night the sitcom concluded, with a penultimate episode at 8 p.m. and a series finale at 8:30 p.m. Both delivered a .9/3 rating and share in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic, which was only 20% of its program premiere rating. For the year, original episodes of season two averaged a 1.4/4, just 39% of season one's 3.6/8.

Last night's dismal delivery resulted in ratings that were the lowest among the Big Four networks, as ABC was closer to the CW's "Smallville" (.5/2) than "Big Brother," the CBS reality show, which won the hour with a 2.0/7.

But the top-rated show of the night was on Fox, as a star that shined on "Dawson's Creek" on the old WB, Katie Holmes, returned to network TV to channel her inner Judy Garland on "So You Think You Can Dance" (2.9/9). Combined with a rerun of "Bones" (1.4/5), Fox finished first with a 2.2/7. CBS (1.9/6) was second, at it bookended "Big Brother" with an equal 2.0/6 for a second showing of "The Mentalist" at 10 p.m. NBC was fourth with a 1.1/4 and the CW fifth with a .5/2. (All ratings reflect Nielsen fast-affiliate data, with final live-plus-same-day data released later this afternoon.)

Of course, yet another canceled comedy is no laughing matter to ABC, which continues to search for the seminal sitcom that will help redefine the genre -- and the network. It will try again next year, led by the well-received "Modern Family," but it has a long way to go in this postmodern age when snarky sitcoms such as NBC's "30 Rock" seem to have everything -- well-deserved critical acclaim and a record 22 Emmy nominations -- but a big, breakout-hit rating. Two "Rock" reruns ran last night, and although they beat "Samantha Who?" its rating of 1.1/4 at 8 p.m. and 1.2/4 at 9:30 p.m. were also proportionally low.

One of "30 Rock's" Emmy nods is for Tina Fey as best actress in a comedy. She may face keen competition from Christina Applegate, who was also nominated. But even if Applegate wins, it's a Pyrrhic victory: "Samantha Who?" has been canceled, and even original episodes amidst rivals' repeats couldn't lift ABC past a fourth-place .8/2 last night.

Rash chart July 23, 2009Click for PDF
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Friday: Finally, a newsmagazine with news: ABC's "20/20" puts journalistic energy into examining the oil industry and the efforts to harvest and harness alternative fuels in "Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil."
Saturday: Then set aside the oil market's cutthroat capitalism for Marx. No, not Karl, but Groucho, as well as the rest of the brothers, as TCM screens the classic "Night at the Opera."
Sunday: Lance Armstrong's comeback and an absence of major doping scandals has made it a good year for the Tour de France. Say au revoir as the final stage runs on Versus.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
NBC's "Survival Sundays" are so named for the disaster dramas, such as this week's "The Storm," but could also be a media metaphor for how the network is trying to stay relevant amongst the calm of summer repeats and reality.

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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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