Saturday, June 21, 2008

TV: Half-Hour Comedies with the Best Ratings

About two weeks ago EW published this year's TV ratings in an effort to show the progress of each series--whether to compare to its performance last year or to sum up its debut. Several of the shows were canceled, yet surprisingly rated higher than others that weren't. Here's the order of which all 22 half-hour comedies (minus the 3 animated ones) appear on that list.
[** are canceled]

1. Two and a Half Men (CBS)
2. Samantha Who? (ABC)
3. Rules of Engagement (CBS)
4. The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS)
5. The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
6. How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
7. The Office (NBC)
8. My Name is Earl (NBC)
9. Back to You (FOX) **
10. Cavemen (ABC) **
11. 30 Rock (NBC)
12. Welcome to the Captain (CBS) **
13. Til Death (FOX)
14. Carpoolers (ABC) **
15. Notes from the Underbelly (ABC) **
16. Scrubs (NBC)
17. Unhitched (ABC) **
18. The Return of Jezebel James (FOX) **
19. The Game (CW)
20. Everybody Hates Chris (CW)
21. Girlfriends (CW) **
22. Aliens in America (CW) **

You'll notice that two of the top 10, "Back to You" and "Cavemen," were canceled, despite having more viewers than "30 Rock" and "Til Death." I enjoyed both of those shows and I love "30 Rock," so it surprises me that they would cancel them. Then again, there were some shows that were justifiably axed--either because they had nowhere to go plotwise ("Unhitched" or "Carpoolers") even though they were funny, or were just not that entertaining ("The Return of Jezebel James") no matter how much you wanted them to be.

What is also surprising is what people choose to watch. Critics were clubbing "Cavemen" for its gimmicky premise, yet it made it into the top 10 over "30 Rock." It's also remarkable that there are more viewers for niche programs like "Girlfriends" than for a wholesome teen comedy like "Aliens in America"--I guess the "wholesome" part kills it when there are shows like "Gossip Girl" on.

One must also wonder what if these canceled shows were presented on a different channel. Hey if NBC can sell "Scrubs" to ABC, then I think "Notes from the Underbelly" can get a second life on TBS on the same night as "My Boys" and "The Bill Engvall Show" that are airing during the summer. It would be a nice transition from one show to the next. Speaking of ABC, they are a tad trigger happy. Of the 9 comedies canceled, 4 of them are from ABC. And oddly enough, three of them "Cavemen," "Carpoolers," and "Notes from the Underbelly," were rated higher than "Scrubs."

We must also take into consideration that most people record with their ancient VCRs or get TiVo/DVR season passes for their favorite shows which throws off ratings. Check out by how much. This is the top 22 DVRed shows:

1. The Office
2. 30 Rock
3. Scrubs
4. My Name is Earl
5. How I Met Your Mother
6. The Big Bang Theory
7. Two and a Half Men
8. Samantha Who?
9. Back to You **
10. Notes from the Underbelly **
11. The Return of Jezebel James **
12. The New Adventures of Old Christine
13. Carpoolers **
14. Til Death
15. Rules of Engagement
16. Cavemen **
17. Everybody Hates Chris
18. Girlfriends **
19. Welcome to the Captain **
20. Unhitched **
21. The Game
22. Aliens in America **

By these calculations, the highly underappreciated "The Office" and "30 Rock" are in the top two spots. And it turns out, that more people preferred to watch "Notes from the Underbelly" and "The Return of Jezebel James" either at their leisure or when they were bored--depending on how you look at it.

I guess what it all comes down to is connections--as in who's schmoozing the higher-ups--and budget. "Back to You" was rumored to be canceled because of the overly bloated salaries of Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton. Although, I doubt that was the specific problem for the rest of the shows that had rather B and C list cast members. However, I guess you could blame the expensive makeup team on "Cavemen," the increase in gas prices for "Carpoolers," and the extra security on set for "Aliens in America" due to its politically racy content. Not to mention, salary increases on shows like "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" could cause budget gouging on other shows. Or we could just blame trigger happy executives who can't even give a show a season before it gets the boot.

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