TV's Rule Of Three

CBS took the appropriate "three times" route, removing "Smith," starring Ray Liotta, after three airings. NBC moved "Kidnapped" off the schedule after a couple of outings.

For the most part, the "three rule" seems to be in effect in the press. TV media business sections of Daily Variety, The New York Times and others have offered up their analysis, now three weeks into the new season.

But three may actually be working its way to just one week. Daily Variety rightly says TV seems more to be having the weekend "box-office mentality." In reality, it's been that way for years. TV network marketing heads have always talked about "opening" a show. For the most part, that "opening" focuses around a show's debut. What happens after that? Essentially, then, it's up to the writers, directors and talent to sell the program.



TV journalists play their part. As with the stock market, TV business journalists look for movement, down or up or sideways, for a story. The competition is always working faster, though sometimes with missteps. Early proclamations declared that ABC's "Commander in Chief" was a hit last season.

Sometimes the networks try to beat everyone--including the press-- to the punch. Last year ABC removed "Emily's Reasons Why Not" after one episode.

Which shows have the best shot this year? The press has said the wealth is spread around, with one promising show each for ABC, NBC and CBS: ABC with "Ugly Betty," NBC with "Heroes," and CBS with "Jericho." None of these were necessarily the most-touted shows of the new season. "Betty" and "Heroes" had good critical reviews; "Jericho," less so.

The most closely watched show, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," has been stripped of ratings after each episode so far, falling into the mid-3 rating point range for 18-49 viewers. The high-profile show, created by critics' favorite Aaron Sorkin and starring big-named talent like Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, and Amanda Peet, isn't grabbing wide appeal. Still, the press isn't ready to pile on just yet--even though, if you look at its trending 18-49 numbers, "Studio 60" seems to be a goner.

Shows have a way of settling into a certain range--perhaps even building. Look at what happened to "The Office." NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly says there is a "core" audience for "Studio 60," and for the time being, the network is sticking with it. This all comes after three episodes.

Three strikes and you're still here.

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