Mixing some bed-clothing metaphors, it's curtains for NBC's spy show Undercovers. The network has canceled the J.J. Abrams adventure-comedy, though it will air six more episodes that have already been shot. The show about a charismatic and attractive husband-and-wife spy team -- which featured two black leads, which even now is a rarity in broadcast TV -- started slowly in the ratings and has been tailing off for several weeks now.
I don't think Chris Matthews still gets that thrill up his leg. Tuesday night's beating wasn't only for the Obama administration, but MSNBC. Anyway you dice the Nielsen points -- by demo, by daypart, and most of all, by total viewers -- MSNBC took a shellacking Tuesday. And not just by Fox News, either.
CNN, running a poor third (and sometimes even fourth behind corporate cousin HLN) the past several months, rose up to pound MSNBC Tuesday. The biggest margin between the two was during the most important part of the day, the 8-to-11 p.m. primetime slot: CNN had 2.4 million viewers to MSNBC's 1.9 million. In the 25-to-54 age demo that cable news channels value, CNN has 1.03 million to MSNBC's 669,000. The same pattern repeated itself all day long.
The strong suggestion is that when left-leaning viewers want run-of-the-mill ranting, they tune in MSNBC, but when there's actual news, they switch to CNN. Or maybe Fox News, which as usual had a bigger audience Tuesday than the other two networks combined. The Fox News audience during primetime was a gigantic seven million viewers, with 2.2 million in the demo.
All these numbers are preliminary and could change slightly when Nielsen releases final figures later Wednesday. But the message they carry won't.
UPDATE, 5:30 p.m. Thursday: Turns out Fox News wasn't just the most-watched cable new channel on Election Night, it was the most watched coverage, period. It bested ABC (6.8 million viewers), NBC 6.4 million) and CBS (5.9 million) in the various periods between 9 and 11 p.m. when the broadcast networks dropped entertainment shows to cover the election. The Fox broadcasting network, which offered election coverage from 9 to 10 p.m. hosted by Fox News' Shepard Smith, drew 2.8 million viewers.
AMC's zombie apocalypse series The Walking Dead drew 5.3 viewers Sunday, making it a, heh heh, monster cable hit. "It's a good day to be dead," AMC president Charlie Collier said. Speaking of the walking dead, Nielsen division, the World Series lost to an NFL game in prime time for the first time every on Sunday. Yeah, interleague play and the DH and wild-card teams really juiced interest in baseball, just as promised by Bud Selig, speaking of the walking dead, intellect division.
NBC has suspended production of Outlaw, the Jimmy Smits legal drama. Officially that's not a cancellation -- NBC will air the five remaining episodes that have already been shot, in hopes of a ratings miracle -- but the 4.7 million viewers who watch the last one are not going to keep it afloat. NBC executives are consoling themselves with the fact that Outlaw is still in the running for a Nobel Peace Prize for successfully bring two adamantly hostile groups -- TV critics and TV viewers -- into peaceful accord on at least subject: that Outlaw reeks.
Spitzer and Parker had fewer viewers than Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, too. Well, except in a few lurid dreams, nobody's really surprised by that, either.
And Spitzer and Parker had fewer viewers than Nancy Grace on HLN. Well, at least it's all in the corporate family.
But...Spitzer and Parker had fewer viewers than RICK SANCHEZ? Now that's humiliation. But it's true. During the same time slot in September, Rick averaged 491,000 viewers. (Remember, he hadn't kicked out all the Jews yet.) Spitzer and Parker managed only 454,000.
Audiences for the others: O'Reilly, 3.11 million; Olbermann, 1.16 million; Grace, 468,000.
Watching the Dolphins-Patriots game Monday night? You won't be alone. Nielsen ratings for NFL games are shooting through the roof on every network this season, and not just in the afternoon. NBC's prime-time telecasts have led the ratings for four Sundays in a row, and ESPN's Monday Night Football is once again a national viewing party.
Last week's Monday-night game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers has 17.5 million viewers, the biggest audience on cable this year and the fifth-biggest in all of all time. Overall, Monday Night Football is averaging 15 million viewers.
"It's really been a fantastic year to date," says Leah LaPlace, ESPN's vice president for programming. "Monday Night Football is DVR-proof -- you know it will be the talk around the water cooler the next day. And we've benefited from great matchups that came down to wire, that have kept fans tuned in down to the bitter end."
It's tempting to surmise that a rocky economy has kept viewers home and planted in front of their TV sets. But overall TV ratings are not up -- the new fall season is shaping up to be one of the least successful in years, at least from a Nielsen standpoint -- and LaPlaca thinks other factors play a much bigger role. A key one: social media, which allow fans to link up with one another as they watch. ESPN.com, which includes a site that collects Twitter feeds and live-log entries, is drawing hundreds of millions of page views on the NFL's Sunday-Monday game days.
Whatever the reason, Monday Night Football has allowed ESPN to elbow its way into the traditional battle among broadcast networks for the biggest prime-time audience. "On Mondays, that ratings gap between cable and broadcast is becoming non-existent," says LaPlaca. "Fans these days are not differentiating between cable and broadcast."
Incidentally, LaPlaca denies that Monday Night Football has a favorite city. But the Dolphins-Patriots game will be the 31st Monday night telecast from Miami. The only city with more: San Francisco, with 33.
ABC's twentysomething mockumentary My Generation is the second casualty of the fall season. The show debuted to a small audience, then lost more than 30 percent of it for the second episode. I thought My Generation might bring in a young audience that isn't ordinarily that interested in TV. But pulling 3.9 million viewers, especially for a show with a large, expensive cast, isn't going to cut it on a broadcast network.
Miami homeboy Rick Sanchez, who often comes in for a beating on Jon Stewart's Comedy Central show, fired back Thursday -- but his ammo may have exploded in his face. Sanchez was appearing on comedian and sometimes-CNN-contributor Pete Dominick's XM Sirius Radio show when the subject turned to racism in the news business. Sanchez, expressing some irritation at being lumped in with other Hispanic TV journalists by one of his own bosses at CNN, said that racist attitudes aren't necessarily rooted on the political right but also extend to “elite, Northeast establishment liberals.”
“Deep down, when they look at a guy like me, they see a guy automatically who belongs in the second tier, and not the top tier.” Sanchez said. Then he added: “I think to some extent Jon Stewart and [Stephen] Colbert are the same way. I think Jon Stewart’s a bigot.“
How's that? asked the puzzled Dominick. "I think he looks at the world through, his mom, who was a school teacher, and his dad, who was a physicist or something like that," replied Sanchez, speaking of Stewart. "Great, I’m so happy that he grew up in a suburban middle class New Jersey home with everything you could ever imagine."
“What group is he bigoted towards?” pressed Dominick.
“Everybody else who’s not like him. Look at his show, I mean, what does he surround himself with?” said Sanchez. When Dominick seemed surprised that Sanchez could level a charge of bigotry against Jews, who themselves have been subjected to discrimination, Sanchez dismissed the idea.
"I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority?" Sanchez said, then added with sarcastic emphasis: "Yeah."
You can read more of the exchange and listen to some audio clips on Dominick's website while we wait to see how CNN reacts to all this. Prediction: roughly. The network fired a news editor this summer for sending out a sympathetic Twitter message about the death of a Hezbollah official. And though everybody will claim this has nothing to do with it, it's not going to help Sanchez that Nielsen numbers released earlier this week showed that his 8 p.m. show had the smallest quarterly ratings on CNN since 2001.
UPDATE, 6 P.M.: Sanchez didn't appear on his show Friday afternoon. Brooke Baldwin, who often fills in for him, was in the anchor chair.
Thursday's installment of News of the Weird leads with the announcement that Anderson Cooper is starting up a syndicated daytime TV talk show aimed at female viewers. (Launch is expected sometime in fall 2011.) Which can only be called a triumph of hype over common sense. Nielsen ratings released earlier this week for the third quarter of 2010 show Cooper's CNN show in a death spiral -- he's down to less than 600,000 viewers each night.
In fact, in a CNN lineup littered with the maimed and wounded, Cooper's show is the worst basket case of all. He's lost 42 percent of his audience over the past year, the biggest decline on the network. And it's women who are leading the exodus. Half of Cooper's female audience has disappeared over the past year, including a whopping 57 percent in the prime news age demo of 25 to 54. Good luck with the new show, Anderson.
Fox's poor Lone Star continued its death spiral Monday night. Only 3.8 million viewers tuned in, down from the already horrendous 4.1 million of the show's first week. Worse yet, Lone Star couldn't keep the few people who tuned it: The audience dropped by half from the first half hour to the second. Sad to say, but this show is about to meet Jim Bowie and Davey Crockett in Texas heaven.
UPDATE: It's official: Lone Star is the first cancellation of the fall season. By the way, the final Nielsen numbers were even worse than the rough estimates -- just 3.2 million people watched the second episode.