Stephen Battaglio

No Laughing Matter So far, new comedies are faring better than their older siblings

My Name Is Earl

The state of returning comedies has not been pretty in the new TV season. Consider the year-to-year decline in these shows:

 — ABC's According to Jim, which moved from 9 pm to 8 pm on Tuesdays, is off 26 percent compared to the first three weeks of last year. Its 8:30 companion, Rodney, has dropped 22 percent.

— CBS' Two and a Half Men has had an uphill battle trying to the big shoes of Everybody Loves Raymond. The network is down 20 percent in the time period from a year ago.

— As for NBC's much-maligned Joey? Ugh. It's off 46 percent compared to last year and has taken the Must-See TV network to new lows on Thursday nights.

But before this turns into another "Is the sitcom dead?" column, let's look at the bright side: Last week N read more

And They're Off!
An early peek at the fall ratings race

Commander in Chief

Can ABC be stopped?

Two weeks into the 2005-06 prime-time season the Alphabet network has taken a commanding ratings lead among viewers aged 18 to 49, the group advertisers covet most. The network's hot new shows from last season, Desperate Housewives and Lost, are even hotter this year. And while none of its new shows look like they'll be breakout hits, they at least show the potential to improve the network's performance on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Of course, the race for No. 1 in the prized demo will tighten once Fox's American Idol rolls in again come January. But here's how each of the networks has performed so far and what they'll need to do to improve.

ABC: With two consecutive weekly wins among viewers aged 18 to 49, the network is off to its best start since the 1994-95 season. read more

A Fanfare for Peter Jennings remembered by family, colleagues and his favorite musicians.

Peter Jennings

During the 41 years Ted Koppel and Peter Jennings worked together at ABC News, Koppel knew where each one stood in the universe.

"He was known as the handsome one, and I was known as the smart one," Koppel said at a memorial service for Jennings held Tuesday at Carnegie Hall. "Over the course of the decades he was still known as the handsome one, and also as being very, very smart. I still was known as being the smart one."

Viewers knew Jennings as the confident, sophisticated and authoritative anchor of ABC World News Tonight. But at the service to celebrate his life — which ended Aug. 7 after a battle with lung cancer — he was most remembered as a devoted father who truly cared about the human condition.

Koppel recalled walking with Jennings in Manhattan's Upper West Side and being stopped by a homeless man who asked for money. "Peter stayed and talked to the man for about 10 minutes," he said. "He asked about his life and he listened." For year read more

Love for Raymond (and Friends) Will Last

Everybody Loves Raymond

On Monday CBS aired its last rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond. Last year Friends and Frasier left NBC. In the new TV season that starts next week, Will & Grace will be heading into the prime-time sunset, and we'll all wonder what happened to the network sitcom.

According to a new study from media ad-buying firm Magna Global, people are watching more comedy on TV than ever. In the 1994-95 season, a TV household watched an average of 4.14 hours of sitcoms per week. This past TV season, that average was up to 4.58 hours, but compared to 20 years ago, the bulk of that viewing is now on cable. Viewers are spending an average of 2.19 hours a week watching comedy on cable and less than an hour per week on the broadcast networks. They're also spending more ti read more

Legal Eagle

Just Legal

Just six years ago Jonathan Shapiro was working as an assistant to the lieutenant governor of California and thinking about running for statewide office. But he underwent a major career shift after he wrote a script for The Practice and was hired by producer David E. Kelley. On Sept. 19, Shapiro's own creation, Just Legal, will premiere on WB. Based on Shapiro's family experiences, the show stars Jay Baruchel as an 18-year-old prodigy who passes the California bar exam but can't get a job with a decent law firm. He gets his break when he's hired by an ambulance chaser with an alcohol problem (Don Johnson). The Biz recently spoke with Shapiro about his new show and about how TV may have saved him from a life of unsuccessful political fundraising. Before you got into television, you were counting on having a career in politics.
Jonathan Shapiro:
I planned my entire life to run for office. I was a speechwriter fo read more

Hemmer's at Home on Fox

Bill Hemmer

Seeing Bill Hemmer in the anchor chair during Fox News Channel's coverage of Hurricane Katrina might have been a jarring experience for viewers who watched him on CNN for the last 10 years.

Hemmer left CNN earlier this year after a stint as anchor of American Morning, and because he wanted to stay in New York City, he joined Fox News instead of taking a reassignment as CNN White House correspondent. The Biz caught up with him to talk about how Mother Nature forced him to hit the ground running on his first week at Fox and his other activities since leaving the morning grind at CNN. You weren't supposed to show up on Fox News Channel until Monday, but you were on Sunday night. When did you find out that you were going on?
Bill Hemmer:
I got a call early Sunday morning to move up the debut by a day. I was more than happy to. Stories like these are what we do. When you were working at CNN, what did you thi read more

UPN Banks on Rock to Roll

Chris Rock

UPN thinks everybody is going to love Everybody Hates Chris. In the weeks leading up to the show's Sept. 22 premiere, it will be hard to avoid it.

The show created by Chris Rock and based on his childhood years is getting the biggest promotional blitz in the history of UPN. You'll see the usual stuff — ads that run before movies in theaters and on DVDs, posters on every New York City bus and tons of radio ads. But UPN thinks Rock's show deserves extra-special treatment.

Starting in September, the entire pilot episode will be shown on American Airline flights that carry CBS programming. That amounts to 4 million captive viewers. George Schweitzer, marketing chief for CBS and UPN, says no new show has ever been given that kind of exposure before its premiere.

UPN has also sent "street teams," outfitted in Chris T-shirts, to urban centers to distribute up to 1 million DVD copies of the pilot. They were at the X Games earlier this month and are read more

World News Tomorrow

Charles Gibson

America said goodbye to ABC World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings in a big way last week. The program topped NBC Nightly News in the weekly ratings for the first time since July 2004. The Aug. 8 edition, anchored by Good Morning America's Charles Gibson the day after Jennings' death, was watched by 10.5 million viewers. Only the top five prime-time shows had higher ratings last week. (On Monday, the first day World News Tonight aired without Jennings' name in the title, NBC regained the ratings lead.)


The official line at ABC News is that it read more

Peter Jennings Dies at 67

Peter Jennings

ABC World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings, who died Sunday night at age 67 after battling lung cancer, leaves a 40-year legacy of bringing world events into America's living rooms.

"He was as much at ease with a microphone and in front of a camera as anyone I will ever know," said former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw.

Jennings' natural ability as a broadcaster was something to emulate. As a young correspondent, Bill O'Reilly studied Jennings while the more-experienced newsman prepared for a broadcast. "I could see how he handled the camera, used the TelePrompTer, what kind of inflections he made,'' says the Fox News Channel host. "It was important for me to digest that."

He was a demanding boss, too. Once, O'Reilly recalls, he told Jennings he had a piece that was good enough to lead that night's newscast. The anchor's reply: "You'd better be right."

Jennings was just as tough on himself. Ex-wife Kati Mar read more

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

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