Fall Ratings Surprises: What the 'Chuck'?

TV Week's James Hibberd: Rated

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A select crop of heavily buzzed fall shows have premiered to merely average ratings in recent weeks, prompting industry head-scratching. The titles had fair-to-great press coverage and strong research tracking numbers to indicate significant pre-air viewer interest. Keep in mind this is very early in the season, all are considered viable and have the potential to gain in the coming weeks. Still, it's worth asking: What happened?

NBC's "Chuck"
Prior Consensus: All the geeks at Comic-Con loved it.
In Retrospect: Need more than just geeks to watch it. Still, it did pretty decent, and Saturday's encore picked up some healthy sampling that could pay off tonight.

CBS' "Kid Nation"
Prior Consensus: With all those headlines, everybody's gotta be curious, right?
In Retrospect: Do viewers really want to watch kids learning to cook macaroni?

The CW's "Reaper"
Prior Consensus: A clever and funny pilot that critics loved.
In Retrospect: Like "Chuck," the geek factor may be at play, and this time the show is on a network targeting young females. In other words, "Reaper" is a show for guys who get rejected by "America's Next Top Model" fans. But, also like "Chuck," its well-received repeat might help this week.

Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares"
Prior Consensus: A popular U.K. import format starring a proven Fox reality star.
In Retrospect: Some critics say the Fox version is a tad overcooked, and that time period is a killer.

CW's "Gossip Girl"
Prior Consensus: A demographic bull's-eye for The CW's target audience from proven showrunner Josh Schwartz.
In Retrospect: This one really is puzzling. As one reader wailed on this blog's comments section, "Leave 'Gossip Girl' alone!"
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