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Reality: 'Newlyweds' Duo Tops 'Todd TV'

MTV: Music Television and FX rolled out highly touted reality shows last Wednesday night with very different rating results.

The second season premiere of MTV's hit series Newlyweds drew a strong 3.8 household rating at 10 p.m. The Carmen Electra vehicle that followed, Til Death Do Us Part at 10:30 p.m., scored a 3.0 rating, according to ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

Newlyweds, the surprise hit tracking the married lives of singers Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, also earned a strong 5.0 rating among persons ages 12 to 34, up 80% over its Aug. 19 series premiere.

Til Death, with Electra and rocker husband Dave Navarro, set a network ratings record for a series premiere among 12-to-34 viewers, with a 3.45.


Both shows easily topped FX's Todd TV, which managed a 0.7 household rating, according to FX executives.

The show, which lets viewers dictate the actions of a 30-year-old underachiever, still improved FX's year-to-year rating for the time period by 9%. Among adults ages 18 to 49 and 18 to 34, Todd TV improved the network's average by 36% and 58%, respectively.

Todd TV
— which aired from 10 to 11 p.m. — might also have taken a hit from the second-season debut of Chappelle's Show, which garnered a 2.5 household rating and some 3 million viewers for Comedy Central during the 10:30 to 11 slot.

That compared with a 2.1 household rating when the series premiered on Jan. 22, 2003. Overall, more than 2.5 million persons watched the sketch's show debut last year.

In its time slot, Comedy Central executives said Chappelle's
was the most-watched cable program among adults 18 to 49, and it was tops among males 18 to 34 in all of television, according to the network.

Despite the disappointing household debut for Todd TV, FX executives expect the reality's series performance to improve over time. FX senior vice president of planning and research Steve Leblang said other reality fare like Spike TV's The Joe Schmo Show and MTV's The Osbournes started out slowly and built momentum with later installments.

"We know under most circumstances the genre takes some time," he said. "Even shows that hit grand slams over time, like The Osbournes and [Bravo's] Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, premiered at roughly 40% to 50% less of what they ultimately peaked at, so we know there's room for upside."

Elsewhere, Discovery Channel's American Choppers is resonating with viewers. The second-season premiere of the series, chronicling a family that customizes motorcycles, pulled a 2.9 rating on Jan. 12 and 3.5 million viewers — its most ever. Those numbers were superceded by the Jan. 19 installment, which scored a 3.2 and 4.3 million total viewers for the 10 p.m. airing.

As for specials, The History Channel averaged a 2.3 household rating for its four-hour presentation of Barbarians. The show's Jan. 19 premiere generated a 2.7 rating, second only to the 3.0 household rating delivered by its two-part series Russia: Land Of The Tsars, which bowed last May.

"We're thrilled with the viewership success of our four-hour Barbarians special this week," executive vice president and general manager Dan Davids said. "It is another example of the continued success of The History Channel: we ended the year 2003 on a ratings high, and we're off to a great start in January, which looks to be one of our highest-rated months ever."

Given the performances by the aforementioned shows, it's likely basic-cable's viewership shares will continue to equal or surpass broadcast television. After falling just below the broadcast network share during the first week of the year, cable outdrew the seven networks for the week of Jan. 12 -18.

Cable posted a 49.5 share, up 7.1% from last year for that week. By comparison, broadcast finished at a 47.9 mark, down 6.3% from 2003, according to the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau.

And cable is spreading the viewership wealth: three networks tied for the first place in the prime time ratings race during that week. Disney Channel, Turner Network Television and USA Network all garnered 2.1 household averages from Jan. 12-18, according to an ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen data.

During that span, several shows generated blockbuster ratings. The fresh Jan. 16 installment of USA's Monk was the highest-rated episode ever for the original series and the medium's weekly leader, with a 4.6.

Lifetime's Jan. 13 premiere of the telefilm Gracie's Choice tied a Jan. 13 installment of MTV's The Real World XIV for second, with a 3.8. The distaff service's movie topped original entries from TNT (the remake Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl) and Disney (Pixel Picture) on Jan. 13, when both pulled a 3.0.

The Disney film matched that performance the following evening. Over TNT's three-night premiere burst and five plays for Girl Jan. 16 to 18, the network delivered nearly 9.4 million households, 1.8 million adults 18 to 34, 5.5 million adults 18 to 49 and 6.2 million adults 25 to 54.

Mike Reynolds contributed to this report.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.