Basic cable is a mercurial, ephemeral world where even the lowest-budget productions can succeed on zeitgeist-tapping alone (see: Logo’s RuPaul’s Drag Race), and the ineffable star quality of Mark-Paul Gosselaar (TNT’s Raising the Bar) gets its due. And nowhere is that better reflected than MediaWeek’s second-annual Cable Hot List, which is meant to help media buyers figure out which networks deserve their multi-millions most, but also provides a TV geek-friendly snapshot of the landscape over the past year.
USA’s still No. 1 — Monk may be tired, but Burn Notice is blazing hot, averaging a now-prime-time-worthy 6.6 million viewers. The Disney Channel cracks the list at No. 2 this year, and for good reason (her name is Hannah Montana, pictured) — the kids’ net has swept pop culture this year, bringing us chart-toppers Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers, not to mention the enduring stardom of the High School Musical alums. Its older sister, ABC Family, comes in at No. 6, thanks in no small part to pregnant-teen drama The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which has been known to beat Gossip Girl in its Monday time slot. Fox News (No. 3) thrived despite/because of the changing of the political guard from conservative to liberal (remember, Comedy Central’s Daily Show rose to power when it had a national government to buck up against). But its chief rival, at least ideologically — MSNBC — made a splash as well (thanks, Rachel Maddow!), coming in at No. 8. As for drama, there’s plenty of that, too, with TNT (home of The Closer, Saving Grace, and Gosselaar) at No. 4 and Mad Men net AMC at No. 10.
What do you think, PopWatchers? Do Disney, ABC Family, and Fox News rule your cable viewing? Anything you’re surprised not to see (MTV, Nickelodeon, or my fave, the History Channel)?