NBC banks on “Weakest Link”

Hello, NBC is not weak.

At least not in last week’s prime time Nielsen Media Research, anyway. The peacock network came in second to CBS and first among young audiences, largely due to the performance of the new hit game show The Weakest Link and its acerbic host, Anne Robinson. Its ranking makes the show NBC’s “most watched series behind ER.

The show’s premiere last Monday drew 15.1 million viewers, a number that increased to 17.5 million on Wednesday. Viewership slipped back to 14.1 million this past Monday, April 23. However, with such a strong opening, NBC announced Tuesday it’s ordering 13 more episodes, bringing the total to 26 shows.

NBC also removed the XFL, most assuredly their “weakest link,” from the Saturday night lineup. The championship game played last Saturday rebounded a tad from the ratings doldrums, but the show is still one of the lowest-rated programs out there. Time to say goodbye.

With the success of The Weakest Link, NBC is also considering launching a syndicated version to air weekdays, with Ellen DeGeneres and Survivor‘s Richard Hatch as possible hosts.

“I’m thrilled it’s transplanted better than we could’ve possibly hoped” host Anne Robinson told USAToday.com on Tuesday. She commented that American contestants are less modest than the British, and “that makes it feistier, which I think is fun.” However, she is aware of the burnout factor that could occur if the show airs more than once a week, which is what has happened to ABC’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire. She’d prefer to stick to the Monday night schedule.

The Queen of Mean is also enjoying her notoriety-and seemingly growing popularity–even if some of her critics think she is a waste of time. And she can’t keep her mouth shut. She publicly responded last Wednesday to one critic, sending a letter to the New York Post‘s TV critic Adam Buckman, who called Robinson “rude” and “a disaster.” Buckman only replied, “Why don’t you go buy some contaminated meat?”

It didn’t end there.

She retaliated by calling Buckman on the phone. In the transcript of the call, which the Post printed on Friday, Robinson repeatedly asked Buckman what he didn’t like about a show that got a 21 percent share, saying that he obviously was not in “tune with the public.”

His answer: “Because I don’t like the way you come here with your ill-mannered British quiz-show hosting ways and besmirch the reputations of our great television shows and our wonderful game-show traditions that we have here in broadcasting in America.” Well, O.K., then.

Regardless, Robinson is cashing in on her newfound fame. She and her husband are leaving their middle-class lifestyle and lavishly renovating their cottage in Gloucestershire with an indoor swimming pool and tennis courts, the Post reports. She is also looking to buy houses in Los Angeles and New York. Robinson is also reportedly shopping a big-bucks autobiography, chronicling her career and personal life, including a bout with alcoholism.

Not bad for a day’s work, but she should be careful with American audiences-they can be fickle.