Real Survival Stories Take on Reality TV Survival Stories

Rash Report: 'I Survived a Japanese Game Show,' Jailed Journalists' Return Show

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- Cable news network ratings aren't yet available for yesterday morning and afternoon. And once released, maybe they'll indicate that more people watched prime-time's "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" than daytime's survival story from another Asian location, North Korea. But beyond ratings, surely the memorable media moment from yesterday was the live coverage of the life-affirming reunification of jailed journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee with their families, which showed that when it comes to reality TV, nothing beats the real thing.

American journalists Laura Ling (top) and Euna Lee arrive in California after being freed by North Korea.
American journalists Laura Ling (top) and Euna Lee arrive in California after being freed by North Korea. Credit: AP
As for the unreal (if not absurdist) "Japanese Game Show," unlike the contestants, the show itself might not survive, given last night's season (series?) finale, which only delivered a 1.3/4 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, which was 28% lower than last summer's finale. As for the second season as a whole, its demo decline was 40%. With the two-hour "Game Show" squandering 54% of the lead-in audience from another Japanese inspired reality show -- "Wipeout" (2.8/10) -- ABC was second with an overall 1.8/6.

First place went to Fox, as the penultimate "So You Think You Can Dance?" walked away with a 2.8/9 for a two-hour episode. NBC was third, as its reality hit, "America's Got Talent" (2.9/9) was bookended by a 1.3/4 "TV's 50 Funniest Phrases" and a 1.1/3 for "The Philanthropist."

CBS and its corporate cousin, the CW, finished fourth and fifth, respectively, with a 1.4/5 and .4/1, as each ran reruns.

Up against CBS's and CW's second showings, Fox, NBC and ABC used one of reality TV's advantages: No repeats. Of course, real reality's indelible images of families reunited can't be rerun, either, except in the memory, as a rare recent example of breaking news that doesn't break your heart. Although it would be nice to try a repeat, starting with Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari, who is imprisoned by the theocratic thugs cracking down on those reporting on the contested Iranian election. Or the 176 journalists, 10 media assistants and 83 cyberdissidents that Reporters Without Borders estimates are jailed worldwide for practicing journalism. Their emotional embraces with family members would make good TV, too.

Rash grids

See how all the shows did in the ratings.

Thursday: His historic election aside, how's he doing? CNN takes a look at President Barack Obama with a two-hour special, "The CNN National Scorecard: The Second 100 Days."
Friday: ABC's "Surviving Suburbia" won't survive past this summer, so if you're one of the few fans remaining, the series finale runs Friday.

The season finale of Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" to waltz 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

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