February 23, 2012



At FOX, perhaps the most terrifying 7 words in the English language:  AMERICAN IDOL May Not Have Hit Bottom.
FOX:  Despite no special competition on any other network, Idol‘s 5.1 was down a full ratings point from last week, and down a horrible 35% from last year’s parallel episode.  This is still, of course, a very high rating (FOX easily won the night), and Idol, as Mitch Metcalf has shown, skews fairly well with high-income viewers, but make no mistake:  these declines are costing FOX millions of dollars.  Even worse, since advertiser refunds are customarily made in the form of free “make-good” spots on the schedule, and nothing else on FOX rates anywhere near Idol‘s numbers, the network will have to give away either more Idol inventory or a lot of time in other shows.  And worst of all, it’s not clear that these drops are going to stop anytime soon. 

NBC:  So this is NBC, 2011-2012:  nothing but football in the winter, and nothing but The Voice in the spring.  The network is certainly entitled to a little dancing in the street over the fact that they really do have this season’s music competition show of choice (at least so far), but the rest of the schedule is an atrocity.  Last night’s 1.2 has to be one of the lowest non-holiday, in-season (let alone sweeps) Sun-Thurs nights for any network ever.  The highest rated show of the night was SVU, with a 1.6 that was its lowest rating in a dozen years on the air.  WHITNEY was the night’s “success story,” as its 1.5 managed to stay 0.1 above its series low.  ARE YOU THERE, CHELSEA? hit a new series low 1.3 (Chelsea may be there; no one else is).  And let’s not even talk about the unbelievable 0.6 for ROCK CENTER
ABC:  But then, not a lot of good news for anyone last night. THE MIDDLE and SUBURGATORY hit new season lows of 2.3.  MODERN FAMIILY and HAPPY ENDINGS were, respectively, 0.2 and 0.1 above season lows.  (Endings, however, did win the prize for Random Pop Culture Reference Of the Week–a prize Community usually owns when it’s on the air–when Brad, whose cologne attracts pigeons, was referred to as “Mr. Tuppence A Bag,” about as sweet a Mary Poppins gag as you’ll ever find.)  The idea of pre-empting Revenge with a special pre-Oscar “Before They Were Stars” installment of 20/20 must have seemed like a good idea at the time; at 1.4, it wasn’t.
CBS:  The hits keep coming:  SURVIVOR‘s 2.8 was the lowest regular episode in that show’s 12-year history, and CRIMINAL MINDS tied a season low 3.1.  But then–gasp!–something good:  CSI, with its 2d Elisabeth Shue episode (but probably helped as well by the weak competition on ABC) went up 0.2 from last week, with a 2.8 that almost equaled the NBC and ABC ratings combined.
CWONE TREE HILL‘s 0.7 was higher than last night’s Rock CenterREMODELED, though, continued marching graveward with a 0.3.
Tonight FOX airs an hour of Idol, followed by THE FINDER.  All the networks feature new episodes, except NBC, which airs its last Grimm rerun at 10PM (Awake starts next week), and CW, which moves to its own drummer and is already in Thursday reruns even though we’re still in February sweeps.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."