News Column

Talkin TV: 'Dome' trumps 'Dexter' for WNY audiences

August 19, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 19--Stephen King rocks.

Western New York loves "Talent."

"The Newsroom" is a little more popular here than NBC's instantly canceled series "Do No Harm."

As far as local viewers are concerned, AMC's "The Killing" and Showtime's serial killer "Dexter" are dead to them. That's if they even knew they existed.

But TNT's "Major Crimes" is a killer.

Those are some of the conclusions made after looking at the local ratings in July, when the networks rely mostly on reality TV shows and cable tries to take advantage by airing episodes of original scripted series.

I always find it amusing and enlightening to see what local viewers are watching. We tend to watch much more network television than viewers nationally, quite possibly because we have more old viewers who aren't attracted to the darkness of many of the anti-heroes on cable series.

The cable series generally get the buzz from Twitter, magazines and critics who prefer something different than network shows that have to appeal to a broader audience to be successful.

That's one reason why cable shows like "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," "The Newsroom," "Homeland," "Dexter" and "The Killing" get more critical attention than popular network series like "NCIS" and "The Big Bang Theory" that generally get millions more viewers weekly.

We'll start with network programs.

Interestingly, the July sweeps results show that Western New Yorkers seem to be losing interest in reality shows and are applauding the networks' decision to air more inexpensively produced summer dramas.

The big local and national success is CBS' Stephen King miniseries, "Under the Dome." It averaged a 12.0 rating in July for viewership live and seven days afterwards and viewership seems to be remaining somewhat steady despite its diminishing entertainment value. A ratings point represents 6,332 WNY households.

That made "Dome" No. 1 here, slightly ahead of the one reality series that scored as big as Howard Stern's hair in July -- NBC's "America's Got Talent." "AGT" averaged an 11.8 on Tuesday and an 11.4 on Wednesday for second and third place here in July.

To put the summer success of "Dome" in further perspective, it still would have been the No. 6 series here during the May sweeps when more people are watching, only behind original episodes of CBS series -- "The Big Bang Theory," "NCIS," "Person of Interest," "Two and a Half Men" and "Criminal Minds."

Here's the rest of the Top 10 locally in July: 4. "NCIS" (8.4) 5. "Big Bang" (8.0) 6. "Person of Interest" (7.5) 7. "Rookie Blue" (7.3) 8. "Two and a Half Men" (6.7) 9. "America's Got Talent" special (6.4) 10. "Camp" (6.2).

The Top 10 list includes four popular CBS series that air reruns, an original ABC series produced in Canada ("Rookie Blue") and a teen soap ("Camp") filmed outside the country that I found to be almost as stupid and sophomoric as the new Adam Sandler movie "Grown Ups 2" that somehow is a box office smash.

After watching Sandler's movie, I got a better appreciation for "Camp" beyond just watching series lead Rachel Griffiths of "Six Feet Under" fame slumming on an overheated network comedy-drama aimed at teens.

"AGT" is the only reality series in the local Top 10.

However, the CBS reality series "Big Brother," which gets a lot of attention because of its offensive content, is a strong No. 11 with a 6.0 rating and has two other weekly editions in the Top 20.

Five more CBS programs that are in reruns make the Top 20 -- "Mike & Molly," "60 Minutes," "Blue Bloods," "2 Broke Girls" and "How I Met Your Mother."

The ABC reality series "The Bachelorette" tied for No. 19 with the Sunday edition of "Big Brother."

Of course, the reality series generally score well with younger viewers that advertisers love, and I'm only discussing household ratings.

A total of 34 network series average higher than a 4 rating, a territory few cable series achieve. A total of 56 network series average higher than a 3 rating, another territory reached by a much smaller number of cable series.

Now getting local cable ratings can be more difficult than getting Bills Coach Doug Marrone to say something interesting about the team's quarterback duel.

But I've been able to gather that the most popular prime time entertainment cable series here in July included TNT's "Major Crimes," "Rizzoli and Isles" and "Falling Skies"; the History Channel's "Pawn Stars," "Mountain Men" and "American Pickers"; the USA Network's "Burn Notice" and "Royal Pains"; HBO's "True Blood"; TLC's "Long Island Medium" and "Breaking Amish"; the Disney Channel's "Gravity Falls," and "Jessie"; ABC Family's "Switched at Birth" and "Pretty Little Liars"; Discovery's "The Deadliest Catch"; Bravo's "The Real Housewives"; some animated reruns of "American Dad" and "Family Guy" on Adult Swim; and wrestling on USA.

"Major Crimes" averaged about a 6.5 rating for four episodes in July, which would place it in the Top 10 of broadcast shows. "Rizzoli and Isles" averaged about a 5.8 rating for four episodes, which would put it just outside the Top 10 of broadcast shows.

The rest of the cable series listed above get ratings in the range of high 2s to the mid 4s. Few of them approach the top 25 broadcast series. However, many cable series are aimed at specific niche audiences and generally geared to younger viewers that advertisers love.

The popularity of the vampire series "True Blood" is a bit surprising. It averages about a 4 rating even though its viewership is limited because it is a pay-cable show, has turned off critics this season and experienced some viewer backlash.

I've also been slightly surprised about how unpopular some attention-getting cable shows are here that are going to score big at next month's Emmy Awards.

One of my personal favorites, Aaron Sorkin's HBO series "The Newsroom," had a 1.6 rating here on July 21.

AMC's "The Killing," which has been a favorite among some critics, averaged about a 1.3 rating for four episodes and never hit higher than a 1.6. That would place it about 84th place on the broadcast network list.

FX's "The Bridge," which has gotten very mixed reviews nationally, averaged about a 2.5 rating for three episodes. That would place it tied for No. 67 among broadcast network series.

Showtime's two must-see Sunday night programs, "Dexter" and the new "Ray Donovan" aren't seen by many Western New Yorkers. The first four episodes of both series didn't average a 1 rating here before Showtime went dark on Time Warner Cable. That is partly a reflection of the shows being on a pay-cable network that doesn't have nearly as many subscribers locally (or nationally) as HBO.

However, it doesn't mean that Western New York isn't interested in some critically acclaimed cable series.

Last Sunday's premiere of AMC's "Breaking Bad" outside of the July sweeps had a 2.9 rating here, undoubtedly with the help of a massive media push for its final season. Amusingly, the July rating for TLC's "Breaking Amish" is higher than the rating for "Breaking Bad," but "Bad" is bound to get a ratings boost into the 4s after later viewership on DVRs and On Demand is added.

Compared to the majority of cable series, "Bad" is doing very good in WNY. But it is no "Major Crimes" or "Under the Dome" by a long shot.

email: apergament@buffnews.com

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