Stephen Battaglio

Cruel Summer
Ratings haven't been pretty for NBC, CBS and WB

Brat Camp

Remember how some broadcast network execs said they can't take the summer off anymore and have to be in the business of year-round original programming? Well, there may be fewer summer repeats, but viewers are still trained to go cable once Memorial Day rolls around.

In the first nine weeks of the summer, the combined rating for all six networks is 43 percent lower than it was during the official TV season that ended on May 25. That's in line with last summer's decline of 40 percent. This summer, however, has been rougher for some networks than others. Here's how each of them is doing so far:

ABC – After a spectacular comeback season, it makes sense that the network of Desperate Housewives and Lost should be stronger. The summer audience is up 8 percent from a year ago, thanks to having the biggest reality hit, Dancing with the Stars. Brat Camp has also performed well, although it's faded a bit lately aga read more

Court TV Paulagate has an independent counsel, and ABC cuts off David E. Kelley's lawyers

Paula Abdul

It just wouldn't be a Television Critics Association press tour without a Fox reality-show controversy.

So while the rest of America hasn't thought much lately about American Idol contestant Corey Clark's charges that he had a sexual relationship with Paula Abdul and that she gave him a few pointers to help him advance in the competition — the story was alive and well among the reporters who showed up Thursday to hear Fox entertainment president Peter Liguori's press-tour debut.

Liguori said the Clark-Abdul matter was being investigated by an "independent counsel." Not a great choice of words. Independent counsel conjures up visions of Kenneth Starr, Archibald Cox, stained blue dresses and Oval Office tapes. (He meant "outside counsel," we were told later. A Fox insider said the place has been crawling with lawyers looking into the matter.)

So the questions kept coming from read more

Must-Revise TV
No longer No. 1, NBC tries to regroup

My Name Is Earl


How does NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly describe a season in which his network tumbled from first to fourth place?

"[It] was kind of a colonic," he told the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., Sunday.

Is that covered by parent company General Electric's health plan? ("I think it's 80 percent," one exec told us.) But seriously, folks, Reilly is trying to look at his network's sudden biggest-loser status as a cleansing experience that will prepare all involved to take on the task of rebuilding a prime-time schedule.

"It literally took any residual sense of entitlement or complacency at our company and blew it out, so to speak," he said. "I do feel a thirst for creativity and a focus for getting NBC back on the leading edge. This is what it's going to take ultimately to fuel our comeback."

In a rare admission for a programming executive, Reilly said NBC has been "in denial" about its downward m read more

TV-Movie Madness CBS will battle Desperate Housewives with edgier fare

Spring Break Shark Attack

How do you take on a hot show like Desperate Housewives? With some vampire bats, a time bomb and a serial killer, of course. And if those don’t do the job, there’s always a "superstorm" to destroy the world.

Welcome to the new CBS Sunday Movie, long the network-TV home for the tearjerker or spiritually uplifting Hallmark Hall of Fame film. A steady diet of those movies simply isn’t doing the job to attract younger viewers away from ABC’s Sunday lineup. CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler said at the Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday that it’s time to change course with more B-movie-esque thrillers.

"We know we’re up against a juggernaut on Sunday nights," she said. "As a result, we’re trying some high-concept and popcorn movies to go along with our traditional female films and star-driven vehicles. You’ll also see a somewhat different scheduling strategy."

In other words, Tassler will put those movies read more

Info Superhighway: Round 2

John Roberts

The news division of CBS, which once flirted with the idea of merging with CNN, has expanded its website,, into a 24-hour news service for Internet users with high-speed connections.

It isn't a "linear" news network where an anchor sits at a desk reading news and introducing video packages, says CBS News president Andrew Heyward. It's going to be your job to pick and choose what you want to see. It won't just be reports that have already aired. CBS News will continuously post its reporting on the site, and some of the coverage will be live. And if a correspondent has something to report before the CBS Evening News airs, you'll see it sooner on the broadband channel.

Heyward says the on-demand aspect of the service means CBS News doesn't have to be "live for live's sake" and to fill up time the way cable news channels do. It will offer an online version of the CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer and regular original features, such read more

Hail to the Chief White House drama and other new shows get ad guru's vote


We're still two months away from the new TV season, but TV research chief Steve Sternberg of the ad-buying firm MAGNA Global has already issued his picks for the fall. Why should we listen to him? Last year he touted Desperate Housewives and Lost, the two ABC megahits.

He's a bit more cautious this year. In fact, he dispensed with his annual list of hits and misses for his report on the 2005-06 fall season. "In today's TV world of low-rated renewals and increased network ownership of programming, it is more difficult than ever to try to figure out which new shows will last the full season," he says. Besides, he adds, "our hits and misses labels were more relevant to the press than our clients, anyway." Thanks, Steve.

But Sternberg's report does list what new shows he likes most. Here they are, along with his take on how they'll fare.

Commander-In-Chief: ABC's White House drama, starring Geena Davis as president of the Un read more

Dynamite Numbers TNT scores this summer with The Closer and Into the West

The Closer

So what are you watching when Dancing with the Stars isn't on? Probably TNT. The cable network topped rerun-laden broadcasters UPN and WB in viewers aged 18 to 49 during the month of June. Overall, TNT was the most-watched cable network for the month with all viewers, averaging 3.3 million, and with the coveted 18-to-49 crowd.

Monday-night cop drama The Closer, which stars Kyra Sedgwick, is now the most-watched original series on cable. Steven Spielberg's Into the West ranks next, just edging USA's sci-fi hit The 4400.

Here's a look at what's hot and what's not on cable this summer:

Rescue Me: Game 6 of the NBA finals dinged the second-season opener of the FX firehouse drama. It scored 2.9 million, down 21 percent from its premiere of 4 million last summer, but the audience level was on par with what the show was doing throughout last season.

The Closer: The TNT hit has settled in at 5.4 million view read more

Yay! The Biz

Cable business channel CNBC has been getting bashed lately for having ratings lower than dot-com stock values, but that hasn't stopped it from doing some award-winning journalism. This past year CNBC's original documentary team won a Peabody Award for The Age of Wal-Mart, an insightful look at the retailing behemoth.

The same crew is back again on June 29 at 8 pm with The eBay Effect — Inside a Worldwide Obsession. Veteran CNBC correspondent David Faber looks at how the Internet auction company grew into a Wall Street juggernaut, a pop-culture touchstone and a means of livelihood for thousands.

Inside the company's network operations center, we learn how eBay's online traffic dips when American Idol is on. There's also a fascinating fly-on-the wall look at a meeting of the company's "Rules, Trust and Safety Team," which decides what kind of items should be sold on the site. ("I'm kind of uncomfortable with the notion of people renting out th read more

Dancing Judges' Pasts Revealed

How many hit shows star an acerbic Brit, a Hollywood choreographer and a guy you've never heard of before? Well, now there are two. ABC's Dancing with the Stars, which turns celebrities into ballroom dancers within weeks, has become a summer sensation. Here we look at the judges who will help decide which couple will walk off with the winners' trophy.

Len Goodman, 61, took up ballroom dancing when he was 20 years old after a soccer injury. "My doctor suggested it because it would exercise my foot," says Goodman, who comes from London. He soon became a top competitive dancer and owner of a successful dance school, but he became a star as a judge on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing, on which Dancing with the Stars is based.

Who had the steepest learning curve on the U.S. version? "Definitely Evander Holyfield. John O'Hurley is from a period where men did some sort of dancing. Ladies are always quicker at picking up the steps."

read more

Dance Fever Dancing with the Stars gives ABC a summer-ratings sizzle.

Dancing with the Stars

This could be another one of those "Who knew?" TV summers.

Ballroom dancing? Evander Holyfield? Seinfeld's J. Peterman? Trista Sutter! It's an unlikely mix that helped make Dancing with the Stars last week's No. 1 show, with 15 million viewers. It also led the competition in viewers 18 to 49.

If you've missed it, here's the premise: Each week a celebrity (and that term is used loosely) performs with a professional ballroom dancer who has helped train them in the rumba, cha-cha and other steps that haven't been seen on the networks since the advent of color TV. Then viewers and a panel of experts judge the pairs and award the winners a trophy. That's right, a trophy.

Dancing with the Stars has given ABC its best summer ratings for an original episode of an entertainment show since Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was still on fire in 2000. Despite its unlikely format, the show has been a huge hit in the U.K. (as S read more

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