The Latest News from the TV Beat
REALITY’S BITE They’re the Krazy Glue for network schedules — stick ’em anywhere and they generate rock-solid ratings. Still, despite the success of such fare as Fox’s Guinness World Records: Primetime and CBS’ Kids Say the Darndest Things, the reality genre is still the Rodney Dangerfield of TV.
”We’re the cousin they hate that wins the lottery,” says Eric Schotz, CEO of LMNO (Leave My Name Off) Productions, producers of Guinness, Kids, and Behind Closed Doors With Joan Lunden for ABC, as well as New Attitudes for Lifetime.
But considering the low production costs and the eye-opening ratings (Guinness, for example, averages 12.2 million viewers), these shows are increasingly tough to ignore. While many in the industry are bemoaning reality overkill (what with countless newsmags, World’s Scariest Whatevers, and magic-secrets-revealed type specials), Schotz is quick to point out that ”Saturation is when the audience says they don’t want to watch it.”
For nets, airing this stuff is a no-brainer. A reality hour such as Guinness can cut more than half off the $1 million-plus price tag of a typical drama. It’s also a lot easier for Fox to promote Guinness than, say, a complex new show like Brimstone. ”The world’s biggest tumor” is simple, says Schotz. ”Either you want to watch it or you don’t.” This month, Guinness loses its Tuesday slot to Brimstone, but it may find a new home if Fox’s Friday comedies (Living in Captivity, Getting Personal) keep tanking.
What’s next for Schotz’s burgeoning company? LMNO has signed a deal with CBS to produce Pets IQ, a sort of stupid-pet-tricks special that could become a regular series for the net next year. Can an all-reality cable channel be far behind?
FLIPPING OUT The theory in TV scheduling used to be that a good lead-in could carry a not-so-good show in the ratings. But during this fall’s premiere week, viewers proved to be a finicky bunch.
Take CBS’ Monday lineup. Everybody Loves Raymond beat NBC’s Caroline in the City at 9 p.m., which should have helped CBS’ 9:30 entry, The Brian Benben Show. Instead, viewers jumped to NBC’s Will & Grace before returning to CBS at 10 p.m. for L.A. Doctors, No. 1 with women 18-49. Then, on Tuesday, viewers left NBC after Just Shoot Me (the 9 p.m. time-slot winner) to sample ABC’s Sports Night debut, skipping NBC’s Working season opener.
Chalk one up for the art of discriminating TV viewing.