The Boys (and Dads) Are Back

Rash Report: Thanks to NBA Finals, Men Tuned In This Week

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- Sunday is Father's Day. But it seems like it's been Father's Week, at least according to the week's Nielsen Top Ten programs, which is comprised of more shows than usual about -- or at least watched by -- guys.
Some sitcoms with dads as lead characters did well this week, like Fox's animated 'Family Guy,' which finished 10th.
Some sitcoms with dads as lead characters did well this week, like Fox's animated 'Family Guy,' which finished 10th. Credit: Fox

Nielsen, of course, doesn't have a paternity demographic distinction, as it only reports gender. But it's safe to assume that among the 64/36 male/female ratio of viewers for Games Two and Three of the NBA Finals, a fair amount of fathers were watching, perhaps reminiscing about watching the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers back in the day with their own fathers, when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson created sports magic with memorable series.

The fix is in
This one has been pretty good, too, including last night's Celtic comeback to take a 3-1 series lead. Thursday's Nielsen "fast affiliate ratings," which only track until 11 p.m. ET, project a 4.1/12 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, which currently places it fourth. But it's a safe bet (maybe not a word the NBA wants to hear right now, given the allegations of game fixing by disgraced ex-referee Tim Donaghy) that once the "live plus same day" ratings are revealed, it will rank higher, as an average ratings rise of 55% is reflected in Game Three (6.0/18) and Game Two (5.5/16) taking the top two spots this week.

(Conversely, the "Fast Affiliates" would put last night's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "NBA Countdown" in this week's Top Ten, but their numbers decline an average of 65% and 41% once "live plus same day" data is available, due to these shows running from 5 to 6 p.m. on the West Coast.)

Some sitcoms with dads as lead characters also did well this week. Fox's animated "Family Guy," whose father, Peter Griffin, would probably have been rooting for the Celts from his Rhode Island living room, delivered a 2.5/7 to finish 10th. The subversive series also had a strong male skew -- as does most of the network's animation-domination Sunday lineup -- with 61% of the demo delivery made up of men 18-49.

Guy stuff galore
And the guys on the CBS sitcoms "Two and a Half Men" (3.3/9, sixth) and "Rules of Engagement (2.9/8, seventh) -- who all seem stuck between fatherhood and childhood -- were watched by a more gender-balanced audience, with the audience for "Men" 47% male and "Rules" engaging a 46/54 split.

This was about the same divide for Fox's "House," the hit drama about a medical malcontent who could use a cute kid to get him to crack an occasional smile. A Monday repeat finished ninth with a 2.7/7.

The real network prime-time demographic disconnect is with reality TV. Sure, it can have competitive intensity, and many men are either judges or contestants. But fewer men are viewers, as many males reject the entire genre, which is one of the many challenges facing network TV. This is even more pronounced in the summer, such as Wednesday night, when 77% of available network hours were some form of reality show.

So while three reality episodes made it to the Top Ten this week -- Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" (third with a 4.2/12) and two installments of "So You Think You Can Dance" (fifth, with a 3.4/11 on Wednesday and an eighth-place 2.8/8 for last night's "Results Show") -- it was mostly women watching.

Dance phobia
"Kitchen," with macho chef Gordon Ramsay more Bobby Knight than Bobby Flay, still only connected with a 38% male audience. And if you think it's hard to get a guy to dance at a wedding, try getting him to watch dancing on TV: "So You Think You Can Dance" split genders 35/65 on Wednesday. Last night's gender data is not yet available, but up against the slam dance of the physical finals on ABC's NBA, it will probably be even lower.

As for the official Father's Day, Sunday's prime time seems especially geared for dad to (once again) work the remote: The NBA's Game Five runs on ABC, and NBC takes advantage of the San Diego sunshine -- and Pacific time zone -- to run the U.S. Open Golf Championship in prime time. And the gifted athletes who can sing, act and dance all at the same time will be honored on CBS's "Tony Awards."

And if none of those shows pop for pop, he can always flip to Fox. "American Dad," with a 61% male skew, just missed this week's Top Ten, finishing 14th with a 2.3/6.

Saturday: With oil and corn futures at record highs, maybe driving to a movie for a $9 ticket and a tub of popcorn isn't in your budget. No worries. Stay home, rediscover the modern miracle of microwave popcorn and watch "Monsters, Inc." on ABC.
Sunday: Champions will be crowned on NBC's final-round coverage of the U.S. Open and CBS's "Tony Awards." And maybe even on ABC, if Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics can contain Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Five of the NBA Finals.

The USGA and PGA to schedule as many Californian contests as possible, if the prime-time performance of the U.S. Open beats previous daytime averages.

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NOTE: A share is a percentage of TV households that have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all TV households, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households 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
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