Monday, December 15, 2008

Blame Big Brother - Monday 15 December 2008

You know sometimes networks make weird decisions, the last few weeks channel ten has been in a state of panic worse than a Wall Street broker with all his money tied up with Lehman Bros.

Whatever they try on Mondays it isn’t working.

In the 90s US network CBS had a great slogan “If its Mondays – It must be CBS” well it certainly isn’t Ten. Big Brother has effectively their Monday Nights in 2008.

If we look at the early part of the year Ten were riding high on Mondays with So You Think You Can Dance and Good News Week, this pair of shows were posting healthy figures throughout.

When Dance came to an end in stepped 7 year veteran Big Brother. Big Brother has always been a force on Mondays – the show killed Nine’s Monday comedy hour after Friends departed with the pithy and often exciting Nomination shows both entertaining fans and frustrating others with their constant overruns screwing with their TV viewing.

In 2008 Ten changed the game and came unstuck. In an effort to revamp BB they ditched the traditional Nomination-Elimination structure of the show – for this season viewers would ring to protect their favourites and the three with the lowest votes were up for eviction with the housemates having the final say.

On paper it looks like a refreshing change to the old formula which often proved frustrating for followers of the show when nomination was in the hands of the housemates.

But in practice it removed that vital Monday Nominations a great opportunity to get into the housemates heads and see how they tick, there was also some real suspense involved to see who would be up that week and the previous night’s evictee was invited along for special comments.

In 2008 this was dropped and instead the Daily Show at 7pm was extended to an hour with a new import ‘How to look good naked’ filling out the hour.

It was a ratings disaster and the absence of Nominations was, I believe, one of the factors behind Big Brother’s rapid decline in 2008.

While BB and Carson Kressley were driving viewers away from the resilient Good News Week, the 9.30 show, Big Brother Big Mouth with proven showkiller Tony Squires gave whoever was left at that time a good excuse to try another network.

Thanks to this awful show a lot of people developed new TV habits on a Monday night. One of those habits was Bones over on Seven which was last night the top prime time show!

With Big Brother out of the way Idol came back and after a brief surge of interest for the auditions wrestled with a new hourlong verdict show that dragged on and on bleeding viewers along the way, Good News Week did well enough to keep it’s head above water at 8.30 especially in the face of competing real news over on the ABC with a resurgent 4 Corners.

At 9.30 Ten started playing dangerous games with a low-rated (US Cable) actioner with a very vocal fan base – Burn Notice couldn’t resuscitate Ten’s woeful 9.30 hour, nor could Supernatural a onetime megahit for ten scrounging for 1/3 of its original fanbase despite being fast tracked.

The year ended with Ten trialling the spin-off of 90210 (CW) first at 8.30 then eventually at 7.30. When an 8.30 debuts with less than 700,000 viewers you know the jig is up, Ten had managed to destroy Monday nights.

Now it’s summer and already there’s been 2 schedule changes (one that never made it to air!), first was pulling the planned screening of failed US drama Swingtown replacing it with another failed US drama The Ex List – after two weeks at 9.30 The Ex List was pulled new drama Army Wives moved to it’s slot and a second hour of Law & Order CI added, all the while ignoring the elephant in the room…

Carson Kressley is watchable and after the success of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (well for about a year anyway) Ten could certainly expect a turnout for his new show. Indeed in it’s debut the show did fire pulling 1,227,000 viewers but the numbers quickly fell away after the initial look.

Ten left their line up in place for two weeks, in week one it was clear that the Naked show was struggling against formidable competition at 7.30 but Army Wives lifted at 8.30

The Second week was worse – although Naked grew, Wives dropped from it’s lead in, a disastrous result, although it was the final night for The Howard Years which was significant summer competition. The Ex list fell into no-mans land under 500k – once that happens the plug is pulled.

Which leaves us with last night – Law & Order was brought in to shore up 8.30 – it didn’t do much of a job, perhaps the promotion was insufficient, perhaps people feel they’ve had enough law and enough order without adding a third night, perhaps it’s the third cop show in the timeslot creating a drain on the audience. Whatever the case it didn’t help much and Army Wives moving to 9.30 was a failure itself falling into the under 500k dead zone – will we see it next week?

My advice to Ten, Give Carson the flick and put a nice long movie on, or show a test pattern – can’t do much worse!

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