+ Hey… Knock, knock. You out there? It’s your TV. Remember me? I’m awfully lonely in here.
Networks are airing new episodes of their top shows once again, but early ratings returns indicate that viewers might have left some programs for good. Serialized dramas, presumably because of their complex story lines, are suffering the most: Desperate Housewives just logged its four lowest-rated episodes of the season, while Grey’s Anatomy and Ugly Betty hit season lows on May 1 — 15.3 and 7.9 million, respectively. Even Gossip Girl couldn’t parlay considerable anticipation into a ratings surge. Its first two episodes after the three-month writers’ strike (both garnering 2.5 million) came in under the series’ average from last fall. Comedies, at least initially, seemed immune to the slump: The Office, How I Met Your Mother, and Scrubs all posted season highs their first two weeks back, and Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory were strong too. ”There was obviously a lot of pent-up demand for comedy,” says Mitch Metcalf, NBC’s head of scheduling. ”Closed-ended shows generally have been doing better as they’ve come back.” That, or the laffers benefited from faster production schedules that allowed them to get on the air sooner without much competition. But they, too, eventually succumbed to diminishing ratings. Facing new installments of Grey‘s and CSI, The Office dropped from its season high by 21 percent on May 1, while 30 Rock posted its lowest-rated episode this season. The lesson here? Depriving viewers of their shows is no joke. — Tanner Stransky
+ Hey, gamers: If Mom and Dad (or, if you’re of a certain age, your wife or husband) complain about the time you spend doing evil deeds on Grand Theft Auto IV, tell ’em you’re acquiring a cultural education. It’s kind of true: The hundreds of songs on GTA‘s faux radio stations include not just rap and rock but quick courses in jazz and Eastern European fare. Rockstar Games got a break on music licensing fees by setting up the game so players can use an onscreen cell phone to purchase MP3s directly from Amazon.com — helpful when you’re not sure whether to shoot somebody or look up that Miles Davis tune. At press time, the top game-song download was ”Schweine” by Russian thrush Glukoza — which has an advantage since the GTA protagonist is a Serb who listens to a station called Vladivostok FM in the game’s first scene. — Chris Willman
+ Just when you finally got over your fear of flying monkeys, here comes word that two studios are now working on new versions of The Wizard of Oz. Producers Wyck Godfrey and Marc Platt just received a script from Darren Lemke (Shrek Goes Fourth) that more closely follows L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel, which represents Oz as a real place — not a dreamland. (The book has been in the public domain for decades.) They’re now waiting to hear if Universal wants to proceed with the story. Producer Todd McFarlane (Spawn), meanwhile, has had his own project, simply titled Oz, set up at Warner Bros. since 2007. — Nicole Sperling
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