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When Ho-Hum Shows Are Hits Overseas

Shows with unimpressive U.S. ratings find additional fans internationally

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Ratings for Beauty and the Beast may look somewhat bleak here in the U.S., but boy, do they look good in Spain! The CW drama is one of a handful of shows in prime time that actually perform better overseas than they do Stateside — a phenomenon that helps keep cult (or ratings-challenged) shows around a heckuva lot longer than they might be otherwise. Foreign sales of dramas like Beauty — which averages 1.1 million viewers in Spain — help pay production costs back in the U.S., where the show pulls in 1.03 million. A similar success story is CBS’ Simon Baker drama The Mentalist, which ranks 29th here in the U.S. but is No. 1 in France, beating all local series. (Unforgettable, the CBS procedural starring Poppy Montgomery, pulls in 7.6 million in France, compared with the 6.7 million who watched it here in America this past summer.) The CW’s superhero series Arrow (and Stephen Amell’s abs) currently charts at No. 63 in the U.S., but it’s No. 1 in the U.K., Hungary, and the Netherlands. TBS, meanwhile, shouldn’t get all the credit for grabbing Cougar Town from ABC’s trash heap — some of it belongs to the good people of Italy, where the Courteney Cox comedy averages 100,000 more viewers than it does in the U.S. A show’s international popularity doesn’t always ensure a long shelf life in the U.S., though: CSI: Miami was canceled by CBS in 2012, but it still ranks as the No. 1 series in Poland. That said, foreign audiences sometimes spot a hot property before U.S. fans do. If it weren’t for those early fans of NCIS in the U.K., France, and Italy, CBS probably wouldn’t have stuck with the Mark Harmon procedural for so long. Merci beaucoup?