For Tuesday, TV Gets By Largely Without Actors

Rash Report: 'Wipeout' and "Hell's Kitchen' at Top of the Heap

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- Wipeout! (For scripted series, that is.) On the night that the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists approved its contract with the producers, network TV produced a night of non-actors in reality shows trouncing reruns of scripted series.
The finale of 'Hell's Kitchen' was the highest-rated show of the night, and helped Fox edge ABC for first place.
The finale of 'Hell's Kitchen' was the highest-rated show of the night, and helped Fox edge ABC for first place. Credit: Fox

Reality series accounted for every show but one at 8 p.m. ET, with ABC's "Wipeout" wiping out not just the competition, but its slight demographic dip of last week's second episode. The 4.0/13 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic was 21% higher than its strong starter episode, making it the one potential surviving series -- if not, eventually, the breakout hit -- of the season.

'Wipeout' rolls over competition
"Wipeout" not only beat "Beauty and the Geek" (.3/1) on the CW, but nearly doubled NBC's "Celebrity Family Feud" (2.1/7) and Fox's "Moment of Truth" (2.0/6). And in one of several moments of truth for scripted series repeats, CBS's "NCIS" was in fourth place in the timeslot with a 1.5/5.

The 9 p.m. ET hour was even more of a reality check for summer scripted series, as only one -- the CW's repeat of "Reaper" -- ran, delivering a last-place .4/1. Instead, the hour belonged to Fox's finale of "Hell's Kitchen," which since warming up the summer season in 2005 with a series average of 3.5/10 has heated up into a top-10 program. Last night's 4.2/12 made "Kitchen" the highest-rated show of the night, and helped Fox (3.1/9) edge ABC (3.0/9) for first place.

But it was also a relatively good reality hour for ABC and NBC, as "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" (2.7/7) increased 4% from last week and "America's Got Talent" (3.4/9) was up 3% from last week's two-hour installment. On CBS, a version of network TV's original reality programming -- news -- delivered a 1.7/5 for "48 Hours Mystery."

ABC's news division did even better at 10 p.m., as "Primetime: The Outsiders" (2.3/6) won the hour, as unscripted fare once again topped penned programs. Repeats of NBC's "Law & Order: SVU" (2.1/6) and CBS's "Without a Trace" (1.3/4) finished second and third, respectively, in the timeslot.

For the night, that left NBC in third with a 2.5/7 and ABC in fourth with a 1.5/4. The CW, as usual, finished fifth with a .4/1.

Actors under pressure
But those aren't the most important numbers for AFTRA -- or now, especially, SAG (Screen Actors Guild). These are: 62.4, the announced percentage of AFTRA members who voted to ratify the contract. And 2.7/8 vs. 1.3/4, which represent the rating and share averages for Tuesday night's seven hours of reality compared to four hours of dramas.

Both will increase the pressure on SAG to settle, as it's now less likely their member actors would authorize a strike. Instead, given economic and TV trends, it's likely most actors just want to get to work.

Assuming there are any roles left, that is.

Wednesday: First, eat your peas: PBS's "Nova scienceNOW" features a profile of Dr. Alfredo QuiƱones-Hinojosa, a Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon and oncologist.
Thursday: Then, your dessert: The more accessible TV treatment of Johns Hopkins Hospital: "Hopkins," the reality/news series on ABC.

As the borrowers return the babies in exchange for toddlers, will viewers stick with the semi-successful "Baby Borrowers" on NBC?

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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. As a media analyst for WCCO-AM radio in Minneapolis, he is also a member of AFTRA. For more, see
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