My friend Sam wondered why I insisted "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" was a disaster and likely to be canceled by the end of the season. Why wouldn't they show some patience with it? As I've said before, networks have always killed some shows immediately and shown tremendous patience with others -- it's been that way since the beginning of TV. That patience doesn't always pay off, of course. But why do some shows get a second chance? Usually there's SOMETHING they can point to as encouraging in the ratings. "Studio 60" has dropped every week since its premiere. It's squandering a terrific lead-in: "Heroes," a growing hit at 9 p.m. that should attract the same literate, young demographic "Studio 60" wants. Even worse, "S60OTSS" loses more viewers in the second half hour. (In other words, even the people that tune in are getting bored before the show is over.) In comparison, look at "Friday Night Lights," the show that is going to take over "Studio 60" in a (probably pointless) one night stunt next Monday night at 10 p.m. It airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. and has to be a self-starter opposite ABC's smash hit "Dancing With The Stars," (the #2 rated show last week) the older skewing CBS drama "NCIS" (ranked #14 last week among all shows), the CW's female hit "Gilmore Girls" and in the spring "American Idol."
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Week #1 -- 7.18 million viewers
Week #2 -- 6.28 million viewers
Week #3 -- 6.61 million viewers
Week #4 -- 6.33 million viewers
Now compare that to Studio 60, which debuted earlier.
STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP
Week #1 -- 13.41 million viewers
Week #2 -- 11.21 million viewers
Week #3 -- 9.05 million viewers
Week #4 -- 8.76 million viewers
Week #5 -- 7.76 million viewers
Week #6 -- 7.70 million viewers
So "Studio 60" has a huge lead-in from Heroes (14.27 million last week) and loses about half the audience. It lost viewers for four weeks after debuting, when a show that keeps losing viewers two weeks after its debut is a concern. Finally, it's sort of stabilized. Only 600,000 viewers separate "Studio 60" and "FNL." But clearly everyone who samples "Friday Night Lights" has liked it. Huge advertising for a premiere means a show will typically drop a bit after its debut (the less it drops, the better, of course). But from its second week on, the viewers who watch "FNL" love it. It's remained rock steady. Therefore, the slightly lower-rated "FNL" shows a lot more promise than "Studio 60." But don't expect it to work right away or at all on Mondays at 10 p.m. The one-time switch will confuse faithful viewers while newcomers have to play catch up on a show they've barely heard about. NBC would do better to hold the show and relaunch it in the spring on Friday nights as a spring only series.