Some hope amid the gloom for broadcasters

Tue Oct 7, 2008 6:48am EDT
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By James Hibberd

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Here's a refreshingly sunny statistic for broadcasters: It's barely October, and 22% of new scripted series already have been picked up for full seasons.

With Fox ordering more of "Fringe," and the CW wanting more "90210," about one in five new fall shows has demonstrated enough ratings strength to warrant a full season. There's also a strong chance of a pickup announcement soon by CBS for "The Mentalist."

Despite doom-and-gloom ratings headlines for broadcasters this fall, three viable scripted shows among the scant nine launched isn't half bad, especially out of the gate.

Granted, some freshman series are struggling. Fox quickly canceled its Jerry McConnell comedy "Do Not Disturb," and neither of CBS' new comedies, "Gary Unmarried" and "Worst Week," has inspired much confidence. Also, the premiere of CBS' Friday dramedy "The Ex-List" fell 17% from the bow of "Moonlight" in the same slot last year.

Things are worse on the unscripted side, where Fox's "Hole in the Wall" is the walking wounded on Thursday and ABC's "Opportunity Knocks" has limped along in fourth place during its time period.

If there has been a lesson for broadcasters, it's that it's easier to launch a show than to relaunch a show viewers barely remember. The CW's "Gossip Girl" (up 6% among adults 18-49) and CBS' sophomore comedy "Big Bang Theory" (down 3%), which returned with fresh episodes last season after the writers strike, are off to solid starts.

Meanwhile, the entire crop of freshman shows cut short by the Hollywood writers strike has suffered steep declines. Perhaps the strike victims are too deeply in an audience twilight zone: The titles are not unfamiliar enough to inspire curiosity, but they have not aired long enough for viewers to feel invested in what happens next.

Last week, ABC's Wednesday block set the most dramatic example. "Pushing Daisies," "Private Practice" and "Dirty Sexy Money" launched together last year as a bold plan to unveil a new night of programing for that network. It largely worked, with all three shows initially earning healthy ratings, though their numbers declined as fall turned to winter.   Continued...

<p>Cast members Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson attend the Fox Premiere Party of "Fringe" at The Xchange in New York August 25, 2008. REUTERS/Joshua Lott</p>