From Must-See TV to Must Sample

Rash Report: Kelsey Grammer's 'Hank,' Courtney Cox's 'Cougar Town' Slip From Premieres

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- Three Thursday "Must-See TV" stars from NBC's heyday are now on Wednesday, in new series that create a compelling backdrop to the night's ratings race.

'Hank' Credit: ABC
Two of them, Kelsey Grammer, formerly of "Frasier" and "Cheers," and Courtney Cox, formerly of "Friends," now star in "Hank" and "Cougar Town," respectively, on ABC. The other, Julia Louise Dreyfus, one of the "Seinfeld" gang, is the center of "The New Adventures of Old Christine" on CBS.

Initial interest was high for each of them in their new series. "Cougar Town" roared in its broadcast bow three weeks ago, beating its comedic lead-in, the critically acclaimed "Modern Family." "Hank" debuted a week later, as it, along with lead-out "The Middle," were two sitcoms to hope to get great laughs out of the Great Recession.

And while "Old Christine" may seem old hat now, it was big news when it had its program premiere amidst March Madness in 2006.

But despite Dreyfus being a supporting actor while Grammer was a lead, "Old Christine" beat "Hank" in the ad-centric adult 18-49 viewers, as it delivered a 1.9/6 rating and share compared to "Hank's" 1.6/5.

"Hank" tumbled 24% from last week, and underperformed "The Middle" (2.1/6), by the same percentage -- a ratings rarity in a medium that usually sees lead-outs losing viewers.

"Cougar Town" (3.2/8) has similarly slipped, down 16% from last week and 27% from its program premiere.

As with all sitcoms, Dreyfus's, Grammer's and Cox's characters are broadly drawn. But at least by silly sitcom standards, "Old Christine" is perhaps a bit more relatable to viewers. "Hank" certainly seems familiar, but only because Grammer channels Frasier Crane. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite have "Frasier's" scripts, which were key to the series' multiple Emmy Awards.

And after the initial Courtney Cox curiosity, some viewers may have a hard time buying the attractive star as insecure about her ability to land a man.

ABC's other series had audience attrition, too. "The Middle" lost big, down 19% from its premiere last week. "Modern Family" (3.4/9) eroded 11% from last week and 19% from week one. And "Eastwick" (1.8/5) tumbled 22% from last week and has lost 40% of its premiere week audience.

This attrition meant ABC lost the Wednesday ratings race, falling to third with an overall 2.3/7. CBS, conversely, tied for first with a 2.9/8, as "Gary Unmarried" (2.2/6), just as ABC's "The Middle," outperformed its "Christine" lead-in by 16%. "Criminal Minds" (3.6/9) won the 9 p.m. hour, unseating ABC's sitcoms, and "CSI: NY" (2.9/8) won at 10 p.m. over both "Eastwick" and NBC's "Jay Leno Show" (1.7/5).

NBC, however, finished fourth with a 2.0/6, as "Mercy" (1.8/5) fell 14% from last week and is down 22% from its premiere and "Law and Order: SVU" locked up a 2.6/7.

The CW finished fifth with an overall 1.0/3, but could have been sitting prettier if "America's Next Top Model" (1.5/4) wasn't followed by a rerun (yes, already) of "Melrose Place" (0.4/1).

As for Fox, which tied with CBS for first, it decided not only to not rely on last decade's stars, it's trying to create new ones. First are the real life unknowns on "So You Think You Can Dance" (2.5/7), which beat both Grammer's "Hank" and Dreyfus's "Old Christine." Next up are fictional unknowns on "Glee," trying to get noticed and survive teenage social Darwinism. Whether they'll fit to William McKinley High School remains to be seen. But they've clearly fit in with viewers, because unlike the star vehicles on ABC and CBS, "Glee" held last week's 3.3/9.

Rash gridsEnlarge
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

Thursday: Even cynical, snarky shows like NBC's "The Office" need their sweet moments. Or at least as close as it will get on the sitcom, as Jim and Pam get married on a one hour episode.
Friday: Think people are paranoid about political conspiracies now? Watch "The Manchurian Candidate" on TCM, which only could have been made during the chilling Cold War era.

NBC's "Community" tries to form a new one as it moves to its new timeslot at 8p.m. It will miss its previous lead-out, "The Office."

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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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