TV News

TV's long, hot summer

Jun 21, 2001 | 12:36pm EDT

Joe Rogan of "Fear Factor"

Many of the networks' new summer series have already debuted--but are people watching? Some critics certainly are, and the consensus is: wait until fall.

To date, NBC's reality show Fear Factor has scored the highest ratings among new series, according to Nielsen Media Research. The week of its premiere--June 11 through June 17--the show scored an admirable 13 share on June 11, achieving the No. 12 ranking in the Nielsen top 25.

Where is NBC's Kristin in the top 25 throughout June? Nowhere to be found. How about Fox's resurrected Freakylinks? Or ABC's drama The Beast? Ditto.

Hal Boedeker, television writer for the Orlando Sentinel in Florida, says that it all boils down to quality.

"It has been a boring summer so far, with the networks burning off the series they realized were duds," he said. "If this is the way programmers think they're going to keep viewers tuning in, they should snap out of it. Kristin and The Beast are disasters of unusual ineptitude.

Kristin Chenoweth

of "Kristin"

"I guess Fear Factor is a success in the ratings, but it's not a success anyone should be happy about. The program shouts, 'We're creatively bankrupt.' The same thing goes for the horrible Spy TV. You're watching the end of Must-See TV on NBC."

Elsewhere, on the pay-cable networks, series both new and old have been making their mark, most notably HBO's Sex and the City, which claimed the top spot in the cable ratings last week. Sex... outperformed HBO's premiere of Chicken Run and The Replacements, which finished at No. 3 and No. 4 for the week, respectively.

The Sarah Jessica Parker series scored a 3.4 rating, with the new HBO series Six Feet Under in tow in the No. 2 spot for the week with a 2.8 rating. In an effort to boost Six Feet Under's future Nielsen showings, HBO recently decided to move the series from 10 p.m. EST Sundays to 9:30 p.m. EST on the same night, riding on Sex...'s impressive coattails.

As for the Nielsen ratings for basic-cable networks, TNT's new series Witchblade--airing Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST--made an impressive showing last week, grabbing the No. 7 spot. TNT executives expect its fan base to quickly broaden.

"It would be early to judge [Witchblade], but the returns thus far are very favorable," TNT Publicity spokesman Walter Ward said. "It is averaging a 2.4 rating for its time slot.

"Most important, Witchblade ratings and delivery increase each quarter hour for both weeks. In key demos--viewers 18-49 and 25-54--the series is pacing well ahead of TNT year to date in prime time."

New summer series, of course, are still on the way. They include CBS' Big Brother 2, NBC's other reality program, Spy TV, and Showtime's quirky time-twisting drama Leap Years.

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