ABC Not So 'Desperate' in the Ratings Department

It's now official. ABC, the long-time, low-rated network and Wall Street whipping post, is seeing a turnaround. Early season ratings have at least one heavyweight network perhaps a little concerned.

And, ABC doesn't have just one show. Three series -- "Lost," "Wife Swap," and "Desperate Housewives" - have suddenly put the network on the map.

What caused the good karma? Maybe it was Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner recently announcing his future retirement. Maybe it was Jay Leno giving his five-year notice on NBC's "The Tonight Show" that sparked some good ABC programming vibrations.

Though the network has had a change of programming executives, Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment, has been humbled enough to credit departed executives Lloyd Braun and Susan Lyne as providing some of the initial push.

ABC has been a strong surprise. But CBS has also been off to a dominating start as well -- on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. with its new "C.S.I.: NY" as well as strong gains on Thursday night.

So who is the loser in all of this? Press reports need to shine a few more investigative lights on NBC.

The new show "Joey," while getting good adult 18 to 49 numbers, isn't as good as its predecessor "Friends" and hasn't kept pace with "Survivor," so far. On Wednesday, NBC's "Hawaii" has lost to ABC's "Lost," so far, with its healthy 6 plus adult 18 to 49 ratings.

NBC's "Father of the Pride" hasn't been proud enough to fill the shoes of "Frasier" at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays, which occupied its time slot. NBC should have also been a stronger contender for a big Sunday night win. But ABC ruled the day with "Desperate Housewives" posting a powerful 8.7 adults 18 to 49 rating.

Only NBC's "Medical Investigation" has had a good opening round - posting the best adults 18 to 49 numbers of any show on Friday night. NBC had a scare with "The Apprentice, " which had somewhat of an under par debut - but has since shown ratings growth back to last season's numbers.

Surely, every year since the mid-80s, NBC has been under the microscope. But with so many time periods immediately under attack, executives at the peacock network must be pulling on some feathers.

NBC still has a lot of tricks up its sleeves, though. Some of these might appear as nothing special. In that regard, it is bringing back a "Seinfeld" special -- a series about "nothing," to spice up its November sweeps ratings.

But maybe networks need more than shows about nothing; they just might need a shows about something.

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