Viewers Watch Love, Not War

Rash Report: ABC's 'Dating in the Dark' beats NBC's 'The Wanted'

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- "Make love, not war," went the '60s slogan. Forty years later, based on Nielsen ratings for the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic, it could be amended to "Watch love, not war." The premiere of ABC's "Dating in the Dark," the most recent relationship show to hook up with lead-in "The Bachelorette," had three times the viewers of NBC's "The Wanted," a new news-division show about chasing war criminals.

'Dating in the Dark'
'Dating in the Dark' Credit: ABC
"Dating" debuted with a relatively strong 2.4/7 rating and share, just below the 2.8/9 for a two-hour episode of "The Bachelorette." That power couple led ABC to a first-place finish, as the network averaged a 2.6/8.

"The Wanted," conversely, was largely unwanted, as it only could arrest a .8/2, , which made it the lowest-rated program on the Big Four networks (the CW's "One Tree Hill" and "Gossip Girl" averaged a fifth-place .3/1).

Of course, some of that may be due to subject matter, as relationship reality TV is often the antidote to the big bad world of war, and war criminals.

But some of it could be critical reviews scaring off viewers from "The Wanted," which played more like a sensationalist "Dateline" than a sensational "Frontline," PBS's Peabody Award-winning documentary series. "The Wanted" has become controversial for many reasons, including the jumble of journalism and reality TV styles that at times made the premiere look more like a TV remake of "Mission Impossible" than a responsible look at those responsible for crimes against humanity.

'The Wanted'
'The Wanted' Credit: NBC
Not that the show's heart wasn't in the right place. Indeed, the conclusion indicated the investigative team may have pressured the Norwegian government to accelerate extradition to Iraq of an alleged inciter of terrorism. But the news division's head doesn't seem to be in the right place, as it apparently didn't think through the contradictory signals of "The Wanted" -- namely, the subject and treatment were too serious for entertainment viewers yet not professionally prepared enough for those interested in investigative journalism worthy of NBC.

And it wasn't just "Dating in the Dark" that was more wanted in the time slot but a repeat of CBS's "CSI: Miami" as well, which delivered a 2.0/8, just below the network's second-place 2.2/7. Fox was third with an overall 1.3/4.

As for NBC, "The Wanted" combined with two shows that seemed to sum up the show's reporting approach -- "Great American Road Trip" and "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" -- to finish fourth with an overall .9/3.

Rash chart July 20, 2009Click for PDF
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

Tuesday: OK, so the 40th anniversary of the moon landing has passed. But science class isn't over! PBS, which hasn't strayed far from its educational mission, has episodes of "Nova" and "Nova ScienceNow."
Wednesday: After today's announcement that Tyler Perry will pick up the bill to send the 65 daycare kids spurned from a Philadelphia pool to Disney World, the least we can do is to tune in to "House of Payne" and "Meet the Browns" on TBS.

Fox's ratings to heat up with the season premiere of "Hell's Kitchen."

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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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