Saturday, September 11, 2004

Fun With Numbers!

When numbers lie

When you narrow the parameters enough, any performance can be record-breaking. What’s telling is how far publicists are willing to reach for a record to be broken. NBC must’ve been feeling pretty desperate to reach for this one:

NBC notes that "Joey" gathered the largest audience among the advertiser-friendly 18-to-49-year-old age group of any other entertainment show since May. It was also the best-rated 8 p.m. comedy premiere for NBC in 14 years.

Putting aside the obviously pathetic first “record” (if Joey couldn’t beat summer re-runs of C.S.I. and fresh Method & Red, it’d really be in trouble), the second one may sound impressive at first, until you look at all the memorable comedies Joey had to top to come in second to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Remember these gems? The Adventures of Mark and Brian, Here and Now, Saved by the Bell: The College Years, The Mommies, Something Wilder, The Tony Danza Show, The Michael Richards Show, Emeril, In-Laws and of course, Whoopi.

That’s not a selective list. That’s every freshman half-hour comedy NBC has scheduled for 8 p.m. since 1991 [in the fall, since I couldn’t find mid-season schedule grids]. Among these classics whose premieres the spin-off of one of the most popular series of the last decade managed to surpass, the longest lasting was The Mommies, with a whopping 38 episodes! That’s a whole season and a half! Congrats, NBC, you’ve really outdone yourself!

But wait, their publicists are working overtime, spinning straw into yet another record:

NBC says that with a 7.5 rating among adults 18-49, "Joey" had the highest demographic rating for a premiering 8 p.m. series on any network since Sept. 16, 1996 (that would be CBS' "Cosby," if you're scoring at home).

Again, sounds impressive. Then you look at Joey’s competition for that title. In addition to The Tony Danza Show, The Michael Richards Show, Emeril, In-Laws and Whoopi, that includes the ABC, CBS and FOX (why bother with WB and UPN?) series: Two of a Kind, Living in Captivity, Ally, Bette, The Ellen Show, Bram and Alice and 8 Simple Rules – a(n ever so) slightly more distinguished crop, but notice Joey could only manage to top them in the 18-49 demographic.

The point of this is not to beat up on Joey. I actually liked the pilot. I even laughed (not out loud, but in my head, which is more than I do with most sit-coms). I had a lot of the same problems that most people have had, but I’ll keep watching and I hope it succeeds. I was just amused by NBC’s proud assertion regarding its performance relative to other 8 p.m. comedy premieres, knowing just how rare it is for a network to lead-off a night with an unproven commodity.

For some reason though, the press seems to be focusing much more on the not-all-that-bad ratings for Joey than on the truly disappointing numbers The Apprentice 2 brought in. Granted, both shows had to deal with competition from football and the fact that the season hasn’t really started yet – but it’s not going to get much easier with Survivor and C.S.I. around the bend, and that prized 18-49 demographic audience Joey pulled in may be chipped away by The O.C. more than expected. We can only hope that this (ever so slightly) cools The Donald’s ego.

But NBC still has something to brag about: Joey was the highest rated premiere of a sit-com spin-off starring Matt LeBlanc ever, trumping even Top of the Heap and Vinnie & Bobby!


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