« Bobby Murcer tells some tales on Phil Rizzuto | Main | An earthquake at the Emmys »

Strange stuff people watch on television

TV critics constantly run off at the keyboard about which shows will be successful and which will flop, but rest assured they never place any cash bets. That's because they know how obstinately audiences disregard not just quality but common wisdom and even past experience in choosing what to watch. Television viewers are like Mexican jumping beans on a remote control; turn on the set and they start hopping around and changing the channels in random directions.

For instance, the most profound programming certainty of the past decade has been that beauty pageants were a wheezing revenant of the archaeological past, just waiting for their coffin lids to slam closed for the final time. The Miss America contest was unceremoniously booted from ABC in 2004 after a long decline in audience bottomed out at 7 million viewers. Two hideous years on the country-music cable channel CMT, during which the audience dropped down to about 1.6 million viewers, only confirmed the obvious. This year Miss America went on the TV equivalent of life-support, hooking up with the minuscule cable channel TLC -- and promptly rebounded to 3.6 million viewers, a decent number for most cable nets and a whopper for TLC.

Vietnam_miss_universe_xvy11 A fluke? Perhaps. But last weekend, the Miss Universe pageant pulled in 6.7 million viewers on NBC and another 2 million viewers on Spanish-language sister net Telemundo. The Telemundo number represented a startling 46 percent of all viewers tuned in to Spanish-language TV, and in several cities -- including Miami -- the contest was the top-ranked show of the night in both languages.

You can argue that there's always an audience for Tour_de_france_cycling_tdf pretty girls in skimpy bathing suits, but how about cadaverous men pedaling bicycles? Who could possibly have predicted that the first 10 days of its Tour de France coverage would have brought nearly 21 million viewers to the little Versus cable channel? That's for a race with nobody slamming into walls at 190 mph and from which Ashley Judd is conspicuously absent.

Most perplexing of all was the ratings performance of Flashpoint, a tepid Canadian cop drama that CBS bought to fill dead time on Friday nights. With 8.1 million viewers, it finish 15th in the Nielsens last week, ahead of not only House but even the hallowed Celebrity Family Feud. Is nothing sacred to you people?


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About The Miami Herald | Advertise