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‘V.I.P.’ Is Pulling Some Important Ratings

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“V.I.P.,” which moved “Baywatch” alumna Pamela Anderson Lee from the beach to a bodyguard company in Beverly Hills, has generated the shapeliest ratings thus far this season among new syndicated action series, which in general haven’t exactly received VIP treatment from viewers.

Few of the new one-hour weekly shows have as yet provided much impact, with hourlong programs hurt by scheduling disruptions due to the Major League Baseball playoffs and syndicators saying it will take a few weeks to sort out results.

“V.I.P.” topped the list in the most recent week for which Nielsen Media Research data is available by reaching nearly 3 million U.S. homes. By comparison, the top-rated returning action show, “Xena: Warrior Princess,” was seen in 4.9 million households, and the second most-watched new entry, “Stargate SG-1,” reached 2.7 million.

The real standout genre among new syndicated offerings has been court shows, emulating the surprise success last year of “Judge Judy,” which now ranks behind only “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy!,” “Jerry Springer” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show” among daily syndicated fare.

Both “Judge Joe Brown” (which, coming from the same program distributor, follows “Judge Judy” in some cities) and “Judge Mills Lane” have scored solid ratings, with court shows seemingly stealing viewers from some of the aging talk shows.

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New entertainment-oriented talk shows, meanwhile, have yielded unspectacular results, with tune-in for “The Roseanne Show,” “The Howie Mandel Show” and “Donny & Marie” all hovering between 1.4 million and 1.6 million homes nationally.

Those ratings could be especially problematic for “Roseanne,” which generally inherited better afternoon time periods. In New York and Chicago, the program has experienced substantial rating declines--losing almost half its audience in New York, for example, compared to what “The People’s Court” drew on the same station a year ago.

Airing at 10 a.m. locally, “Roseanne” has increased ratings on KNBC-TV compared to what “Arthel & Fred” did last year but is still modest ratings, translating to about 100,000 homes.

“When you occupy those high-rated time periods, there’s more pressure on you from the station groups to succeed,” noted one competing syndicator. “Howie Mandel” is doing even worse in Los Angeles on KCBS-TV, while “Donny & Marie” has fared a bit better, at least improving on KTTV’s performance in the time period last fall.

Airing in the coveted 7 p.m. hour adjacent to prime time in many cities, including Los Angeles, “The New Hollywood Squares” has circled the best ratings among new competitors in that genre. Like talk, game shows represent an inexpensive programming form that makes the genre attractive to syndicators.


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