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ANALYSIS: Lessons Of The Fall & What Lies Ahead For The Big 4 Broadcast Networks

Nellie Andreeva

As broadcast network executives were leaving for their holiday destinations last week, most of them were certainly glad to get away, and not only because of  the dreary wet Los Angeles weather. The broadcast networks had little to cheer about this fall, which failed to produce breakout hits of the size of Modern Family or Glee a year ago. This year, the breakout hits were all on cable: The Walking Dead on AMC and Rizzoli & Isles on TNT, which ranked as the top basic cable series of 2010 among adults 18-49 and total viewers, respectively. The biggest new reality hit was also on cable, MTV’s Jersey Shore, which launched at the very end of 2009. Here are some notes on the fall season, evaluation of the performance of the individual networks and a look ahead at midseason.

- The biggest thing on TV this season has been football, which set ratings records for NBC and ESPN. It dwarfed the entertainment competition not only in live viewing but also in Live+7 where scripted series gain a significant chunk of their viewership.

- It’s nearly impossible to launch a new series at 8 PM. Two of the 3 new 8 PM series, NBC’s Undercovers and ABC’s My Generation, are history, while ABC’s No Ordinary Family was on a ratings decline until moving to 9 PM where its numbers stabilized. NBC’s new reality series School Pride barely registered in the Friday 8 PM slot, raising concern over CBS’ plan to launch new drama Chaos in the slot in midseason.

- Big-name producers don’t guarantee success unless the name is Chuck Lorre. While the Lorre-produced new CBS sitcom Mike & Molly is the highest-rated new series this fall in the 18-49 demo, J.J. Abrams’ Undercovers went bust as did the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced ABC legal drama The Whole Truth, while another Bruckheimer series, Chase, is fading. The jury is still out on Dick Wolf’s Law & Order spinoff Law & Order: Los Angeles, which has had so-so ratings so far. Next up are Shonda Rhimes with ABC’s Off the Map and David E. Kelley with NBC’s Harry’s Law.

- Texas proved the unluckiest setting for new series. Of the four freshman series set and filmed in the Lone Star state, My Generation, Lone Star, The Good Guys and Chase, 3 have been already been canceled and one, Chase, is struggling. Read More »

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R.I.P. Denise Cramsey

By and | Wednesday November 24, 2010 @ 9:35am PST

2ND UPDATE: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition host Ty Pennington was among Denise Cramsey’s closest industry friends. He worked with her on two series, Trading Spaces and EMHE. The note he sent today to the EMHE crew is below.

UPDATE: Cheryl Hines, who executive produced NBC’s reality series School Pride with Cramsey, weighs in on Cramsey’s passing below.

9:30 AM: Emmy-winning reality TV producer Denise Cramsey died of a brain aneurysm while exercising yesterday. She was 41. She most recently executive produced the school makeover series School Pride, which airs Fridays on NBC. Cramsey, who had a first-look deal with Warner Horizon, previously created, executive produced and ran the ABC primetime reality series True Beauty alongside Tyra Banks and Ashton Kutcher. Earlier this year, she exec-produced the Jeff Probst/Mark Burnett special Live For The Moment. An impressive track record with TLC led her to take the helm of Trading Spaces for over 100 episodes. She moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles in 2003 and helped produce USA’s House Wars, Bravo’s Manhunt, and ABC’s long-running Extreme Makeover: Home Edition where she rose to executive producer/showrunner. She received 4 Emmy nominations, 2 Emmy wins, and a Producers’ Guild Nomination. Cramsey also recently produced her first feature, a documentary entitled Expedition Inspiration which tells the story of the non-profit group that takes breast cancer survivors up mountains after their treatment.

Ty Pennington’s e-mail to the crew:

As you all know I was very close to Denise. She was like a sister, a mom, a

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Ratings Rat Race: ABC Tops CBS On Friday; Are Scripted Series On The Night Doomed?

Nellie Andreeva

After gaining on CBS for the past few weeks, ABC topped the eye network last night for its first Friday win among adults 18-49 this season. Kudos to ABC for assembling a solid Friday lineup of Supernanny, Primetime: What Would You Do and 20/20. But, after ABC and NBC abandoned scripted programming on Friday this fall, it was comforting to see CBS’ all-original scripted lineup winning the night week after week, proving that it was still worthwhile for the networks to try to program Friday night with scripted series. Will the change of the guard on the night further undermine Friday as a viable scripted night? NBC already announced its midseason schedule, which features only reality/newsmagazines on Friday. Fox, which also just unveiled its midseason plans, is going down from 2 to 1 hour of scripted programming on the night – banished sci-fi drama Fringe. With ABC’s unscripted lineup doing so well, I doubt the network will mess with it. So all eyes will be on CBS, which still packs large audiences on Friday, and whether the network will stay all-scripted on the night following the departure of Medium in January.

For a second consecutive week, an ABC program was the highest-rated on Friday night. Last week, it was Primetime, this time it was 20/20 (2.0/6, 6.8 million), which posted its highest demo rating in 10 months with a Cher interview. Primetime (1.6/5, 5 million) was tied for second place in … Read More »

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NBC Cancels 1st Fall Series – From Conan

Nellie Andreeva

NBC today pulled the plug on legal drama Outlaw after putting the freshman series on production hiatus last week. It hails from Conan O’Brien’s once NBC-based production company Conaco. Conan and company were shocked when, in the middle of his fight with NBC Universal brass over The Tonight Show hosting gig last January, the network picked up their pilot. NBC gave Outlaw a solid sampling after America’s Got Talent but the series never took hold in its permanent Friday 10 PM time period where it was crushed by CBS’ Blue Bloods. Starting this Friday, NBC will air a second hour of newsmagazine Dateline in the time slot. (NBC had been airing a 2-hour Dateline from 8-10 PM, leading into Outlaw.) This Friday, the network will premiere new reality series School Pride at 8 PM, which will now be followed by a 2-hour Dateline.

The remaining 4 original episodes of Outlaw will air Saturdays at 8 PM over the next five week (preempted on October 30th for a previously scheduled Shrek special). The Jimmy Smits-starring Outlaw in its do-or-die airing this past Friday was only able to match its underwhelming 1.0 rating in adults 18-49 from the week before and drew 4.2 million viewers, down 11%. On the other hand, Outlaw‘s lead-in, the two-hour Dateline (1.6/6) spiked 23% from the previous week, which probably helped NBC brass’ decision to stick with a 2-hour edition of the primetime newsmagazine on the night. Earlier today, Outlaw gained some ratings … Read More »

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