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TV

Prime time for TV ratings, and we're ...

Swept away by the sweeps

FOX turned up the heat on November sweeps with a sapphic kiss on "Ally McBeal"

November 5, 1999
Web posted at: 5:47 p.m. EST (2247 GMT)

By Shayla Thiel
Special to CNN Interactive

(CNN) -- In the past week, Chuck Woolery passed out millions of dollars; Ally McBeal kissed a woman; and "totally out of control" vehicles and celebrities careened to their destruction. And it all happened at the same time on different channels -- madness that can only mean the November TV ratings sweeps are under way.

"I think it's a stupid strategy," says Marvin Kitman, TV critic for Newsday. "The competing networks make so many great programs and when they schedule them opposite each other, it's counter-productive, anti-entertainment and just left over from the past. It causes a viewer erosion problem."

The real million-dollar question is what viewers will watch this month. Take a look at what it would take to get various people to tune in and see how the networks are faring with their lineups.


Shania Twain will perfom on CBS

Rosemary D. Feger, 62-year-old female retiree from Long Valley, N.J.: "Something that I would really like to see is a top-notch variety show -- a family-oriented show with good comedians, similar to what Alan King used to be, in prime time. Singers like Celine Dion and Tony Bennett. You never get a chance to see good comedians anymore. No jugglers, though."

The networks' answer: Thanksgiving week is concert week at CBS. You'll get your Celine on November 24, as well as a little Shania Twain with your turkey and stuffing and a some Ricky Martin to burn it all off the next day. No juggling -- just wiggling.


Robin Garrison, 44-year-old male online manager from Bellingham, Washington: "I like to laugh and that's what I want. I'm not a big fan of TV soap operas during the day or on prime time. If it's something I have to watch every week or more than once and I can't just walk in after the show has already started, then you lose me."

"Shake, Rattle and Roll"

The networks' answer: Amid so many two-part series -- "The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns," November 7 at 9 p.m., November 8 at 8 p.m. ET (NBC); "Shake, Rattle & Roll" November 7 and 10 at 9 p.m. ET (CBS); "The X-Files" season premiere, November 7 and 14 at 9 p.m. ET (FOX) -- "Friends" comes to the rescue by placing Elle Macpherson in Chandler's empty room and leather recliner. That's November 11, 8 p.m. ET (NBC).


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Patrick Reardon, 29-year-old male commercial real estate broker from Boston: "First, less clothing. I think everyone would agree. Second, more realistic programs that don't have the most unbelievably obvious outcomes. Third, less clothing. Fourth, a bit more informational programming. There isn't any reason that mundane, boring shows couldn't educate people a little. Fifth, less sensationalism ."

The networks' answer: Seven words for you, Patrick: "Banned in America: World's Sexiest Commercials 2," November 24, 9 p.m. ET (FOX). Informational, realistic, complicated and according to the title, sexy.


Scully returns to "The X-Files"

Karen Kranack, 26-year-old female Web designer from Chicago, Illinois: "I would watch the November sweeps if Felicity and Noel got back together, Scully finally saw an alien, and Ally McBeal found herself stuck forever in a giant vat of bubble gum."

The networks' answer: Felicity and Noel continue to pine, Ally avoids Big League Chew, Scully sees no little green men. Best to go with the smart return of the character of Jamie Ross (Cary Lowell) on "Law & Order," November 10, 10 p.m. ET (NBC). Watch out, McCoy, this time she represents the defense.


Xena can't fight her way into prime time

Brooke Wilmoth, 23-year-old female college student from Boise, Idaho: "My favorite show is 'Xena: Warrior Princess' and it used to be on my local rotation five times a week, but they just took it off. In my opinion, it's a show that portrays women as they should be -- kicking ass."

The networks' answer: Chances are "Xena" won't see prime time these sweeps (or in her lifetime), but to make up for the lack of girrrl power, there's to be a crossover episode with Maureen McCormick on "Moesha," on November 8, 8 p.m. ET (UPN). Close enough?


Maura McDermott, 12-year-old middle-school student from Delmar, Iowa: "I like the teen shows, like the TGIF on ABC with 'Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.' If they could get the Olsen twins, I like them. And I like the Dixie Chicks, LFO (Lyte Funky Ones) and Shania Twain ."

The networks' answer: The network marketing folks are giving the kids what they want. It turns out Shania will be on November 25 (CBS); the Dixie Chicks will be guest voices with Meryl Streep on "King of the Hill" November 14 (FOX); and "Sabrina" packs some punch Friday at 8 p.m. ET with Tae Bo expert Billy Blanks. The Olsen twins' latest special, "Switching Goals," is to air post-sweeps on Dec. 12, 7 p.m. ET (ABC).

Despite a few anticipated victories in the Nielsens, Kitman says he believes there will be fewer chances for audiences to experience truly good TV.

The networks, Kitman says, "are like sumo wrestlers grappling and they're stupid about it. They're all going to lose, as far as I'm concerned."


RELATED STORIES:
Young lawyer's thoughts spring to life in 'Ally McBeal'
September 12, 1997
TV networks scrambling for heirs to 'Millionaire'
October 19, 1999
Digital effects bring 'Xena' back from the grave
October 1, 1999

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