Is This A Fringe TV Season? Early Results Offer Few Clues

Are we on the fringe of a big TV season, or will that big TV season just stay beyond reach?

The Beijing Olympics seem to suggest there is plenty of life in the traditional ways of looking at TV. But looking at this season's crop of new efforts from network and cable, it's hard to tell whether any of those will grab a medal.

Fox's "Fringe" offered up a lot of promise: high drama, fringe science mystery, and fewer commercials. Good news for movie advertisers during the show. Plenty of fall theatrical releases showed up during the commercials, looking for those younger Fox viewers. Movies companies are notorious for paying premium dollars for TV, especially for glitzy high-end programming.

Initial ratings weren't gold-medal size for "Fringe." Meanwhile, season debuts of Fox's two returning dramas, "Terminator" and "Prison Break," earlier this week, came in with ratings somewhat lower than "Fringe."



"Gossip Girl" and "90210" came in roaring. But the latter pulled back in ratings in its second week. I'm guessing the former fans of the original "Beverly Hills 90210" -- now firmly in the 25-54 or 18-49 demo -- took a peek the first week and realized the new show was no longer for them, even with somewhat-cameo performances from Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth.

TNT's "Raising the Bar" didn't get that many positive reviews -- but so far that doesn't matter. Not when the Steven Bochco drama earned the best total viewer debut of any advertising-supported series ever.

Still, all these shows could be in trouble. Not just because they are at their initial testing stages with viewers -- but because there is still much more competition on the way.

Near-term rating surprises? Perhaps Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has a few interesting words for ABC's Charles Gibson for her first interview . Those Fox News ratings during her party's convention showed a lot.

Like CW, NBC could also use some help. "America's Toughest Jobs" didn't include programming that network. CBS also needs more, hoping to get itself out of its crime procedural drama and straight-head sitcom funk.

The early polling in this kind of election means we are going to be here all night.

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