Critics’ picks can’t beat CBS show’s ratings on Monday
MATH DOESN’T LIE: The big TV news Monday night was supposed to have been the battle for ratings between 24 and Heroes, that being the first night that the latter show went up against 24 after a midseason layoff. This is the sort of big deal ratings news that makes networks executives lose sleep and snap at their kids, and when the numbers finally came in yesterday, the winner was ... Two And A Half Men.
The CBS sitcom ruled the 9 pm time slot with 16.1 million viewers, according to a story in the Orlando Sentinel – easily beating Heroes’ 14.8 million and 24’s 14.4 million. It’s something to keep in mind when you read TV news; the column inches devoted to shows like Heroes and 24 – which was given a week-long build-up in the National Post, for instance – dwarf the meagre press that the Charlie Sheen/Jon Cryer comedy gets, but it means nothing when mom and dad control the remote.
Poor mom and dad; they can make a show a hit but nobody seems to want to pay attention to them or their choices – Heroes easily beat Two And A Half Men in the coveted 18-49 demographic, followed by 24, and then CBS’ comedy crown jewel. It’s a mystery that’s going to confound Baby Boomers as their demographic bulk heaves into the land of 60-and-over in the next few years, and into marketing limbo.
It’s obviously keeping them up at nights – look at all the ads for high-tech mattresses, hair loss products, retirement funds and insurance for seniors that play during the low-priced late night time slot. You have to remember that 24 and Heroes probably did a lot better than the ratings are saying, since these are the sort of shows beloved of the demographic proficient in time-shifting – TiVoing the episode to watch later, downloading from the internet after it’s had time to be put up on file-sharing networks, or waiting until the box set comes out to consume in a single, sleepless weekend.
What this suggests is a strange demographic bipolar disorder in the networks’ future, as older folks continue watching shows like Two And A Half Men in their “appointment television” time slots like they’ve done since Howdy Doody and Gunsmoke were on the air, while reality TV juggernauts like American Idol oblige its mostly younger audience to be in front of the tube as it unfolds, or else exclude themselves from the communal viewing experience that defines Idol viewership.
Everything between these two poles will migrate into the permutations of video on demand that will flourish as TV viewership atomizes even further, aided by technology and motivated by an audience that wants what they want when they want it. Then – and only then – will advertisers suddenly look at the demographic on the far side of 18-49 with fondness again, as they’ll be the closest thing still breathing to the captive audience they relied on for half a century.