What do American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, Survivor, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, Hell’s Kitchen, Big Brother, So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Got Talent and Wipeout have in common? They are broadcast TV’s biggest reality franchises of the past decade. And they all launched in the summer. Summer used to be a time for the networks to try out innovative reality formats that had never been done on the Big 4 broadcast nets (ballroom dancing or singing competitions, shows about castaways on an island or strangers locked in a house) or had been gone from primetime for a long time (game shows). Now the broadcast networks are throwing on retreads of over-exposed formats from June through August, so it’s no surprise that nothing has stuck since Wipeout launched on ABC in June 2008. A slew of newcomers came and went over the past three months: ABC’s Expedition Impossible, Take the Money & Run, Karaoke Battle USA and 101 Ways To Leave a Game Show; CBS’ Same Name, NBC’s Love In the Wild and the similar It’s Worth What?; and Buried Treasure on Fox. The only new offering on broadcast to show a pulse this summer was ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, helped by a solid lead-in and the fact that it is an offshoot of a popular franchise. Things looked as bleak on the scripted side, with ABC’s Combat Hospital, Fox’s sketch comedy In the Flow With Affion Crockett and NBC’s burnoff Love Bites barely registering.
Once again, the fast nationals for last night have to be taken with a grain of salt as some ABC, CBS, and NBC stations preempted network programming for NFL coverage, leading to possible ratings inflation. With that in mind, CBS’ Big Brother, which featured double elimination, posted its largest audience (8.5 million) and matched its best 18-49 rating (3.2/9) this season, up 10% in the demo from last week. CBS easily won the night with the three highest-rated programs – Big Brother and two repeats, comedies The Big Bang Theory (2.1/7) and Rules of Engagement (1.8/6), which beat ABC’s original Wipeout (1.9/6, flat vs. last week) in the 8 PM hour. At 9 PM, the finale of ABC’s Expedition: Impossible (1.5/4) was up 15%, while Rookie Blue (1.3/4) at 10 PM was up 8%. NBC and Fox aired reruns.
The season finale of So You Think You Can Dance (2.1/7, 6.3 million) was up 24% in 18-49 and 17% in total viewers from last week but down 13% in the demo from last summer’s finale. In the preliminaries, Fox (2.1/7) is running behind CBS (2.3/7) for the night in 18-49, but CBS’, ABC’s and NBC’s numbers were inflated by local NFL preseason preemptions, and Fox is projecting that it will win Thursday in the demo when the finals are released this afternoon. Without adjustments, CBS’ Big Brother (3.2/9) grew 13% from last week and was the night’s the highest-rated program by a mile. ABC’s Wipeout (1.9/6), Expedition Impossible (1.6/4) and Rookie Blue (1.4/4) were all on par. NBC ran all repeats.
After rebounding last week, Mark Burnett’s new reality series for ABC Expedition: Impossible (1.4/4) slipped again, down 13%. Meanwhile, its lead-in, Wipeout (1.9/7), and lead-out, Rookie Blue (1.3/4), were both even with last week. Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance result show (1.6/6) was down 6% and followed by a Glee rerun. CBS’ Big Brother (2.7/8, 7.3 million) at 9 PM was up a tenth from last week to once again rank as the top program of the night and lead CBS (1.8/6, 6.3 million) to a nightly victory despite featuring reruns in two of the three hours of primetime. NBC aired all repeats.
ABC’s new reality series Expedition: Impossible (1.6/5) rebounded from last week’s low, up 23%. Still, the adventure series remained the lowest-rated unscripted offering for the night. On ABC, it was flanked by Wipeout (1.9/7) and scripted drama Rookie Blue (1.3/4), both flat with last week. CBS won the night paced by Big Brother (2.6/8) at 9 PM, which was also even with last week and once again the top-rated program on the night. The reality’s lead-in and lead-out were reruns. Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance result show (1.7/6), which featured a performance by this week’s guest judge Lady Gaga, was up 6% from last week. NBC aired wall-to-wall repeats to finish a distant fourth for the night.
Overall usage was down 6% last night versus last Thursday, and ratings were down by at least as much across the board. At 9 PM, CBS’ Big Brother (2.3/7) was the top-rated program of the night by a mile, but it was down 18% from last Thursday’s premiere. Paced by Big Brother and helped by strong rerun numbers for The Big Bang Theory (1.6/6), CBS won the night in both adults 18-49 (1.6/5) and total viewers (6.2 million).
ABC launched its summer Thursday lineup last night with the official season premiere of Wipeout (2.3/8 in adults 18-49, down 12% from its Thursday premiere last summer), the debut of Mark Burnett’s new reality series Expedition Impossible (2.3/7), which held onto its Wipeout lead-in, and the second-season premiere of drama Rookie Blue (1.6/5, down 16% from its debut last summer, when the series ran in the Thursday 9 PM slot, directly following Wipeout.) Facing Wipeout and Expedition: Impossible, Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance (1.9/7) was down 14% week-to-week, with the NBA Draft coverage on cable also probably a factor. The only other original program last night was NBC’s Love Bites (0.8/2) at 10 PM, which was down 20%. ABC (2.1/6, 6.8 million total viewers) easily won the night in 18-49, while CBS’ all-rerun lineup (1.4/4, 7.4 million) still managed to finish first in total viewers.
The summer premiere of ABC’s 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show is shifting to Tuesday, June 21 at 9 PM, the network announced today. It also said that the series premiere of Expedition Impossible and the Season 2 premiere of Rookie Blue will move to Thursday, June 23 at 9 PM and 10 PM, respectively. Wipeout will air a special original episode June 21, with the season premiere airing June 23, both at 8 PM. The series premiere of Take the Money and Run moves to Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 9 PM.
After a string of smaller cable series and gigs as awards show producer, Mark Burnett is back on network TV with a big adventure competition reality series at ABC. At first blush, the series, titled Expedition Impossible, looks very similar to CBS veteran The Amazing Race with teams of 3 instead of 2. From Expedition Impossible’s official description: “Teams of three will solve problems while racing across deserts, over mountains and through rivers. Each week a new stage of the expedition will be revealed. After ten stunning legs of competition, one team will cross the finish line first to claim victory.” Burnett, who is executive producing the series with Lisa Hennessy, describes it as “an epic Indiana Jones-style experience.”
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