‘Simple Life’ puts Fox in party mood

Times Staff Writer

A new unscripted series about wealthy party girls tackling farm life won out Tuesday over two other scripted series dealing with city life during the unofficial launch of network TV’s midseason.

Fox’s “The Simple Life,” in which hotel heiress Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie trade in their outrageously luxurious lifestyles for a stint on an Arkansas farm, attracted almost 13 million viewers, scoring the network’s highest-rated premiere this season for a live-action series.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Dec. 11, 2003 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday December 11, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
Nicole Richie -- Articles in Calendar published on Dec. 4 and on Tuesday about the Fox TV series “The Simple Life” mistakenly identified Nicole Richie as Lionel Richie’s stepdaughter. She is his daughter.

Only “The Simpsons,” with more than 16.2 million viewers, scored higher.

The success of “The Simple Life” cast a cloud over the two-pronged debut of NBC’s “The Tracy Morgan Show,” starring the former “Saturday Night Live” cast member. The network unveiled two episodes of the sitcom, and while the 8 p.m. installment drew more than 9.7 million viewers, the 8:30 episode, which aired against “The Simple Life,” dropped by almost 1 million viewers.

NBC was still encouraged, saying the series scored the network’s second-highest rating among the desired 18-49 demographic this season in the Tuesday 8-9 p.m. time period.


The third new series of the night, ABC’s “Line of Fire,” about the war between an FBI special task force in Richmond, Va., and a local crime syndicate, impressed some critics but didn’t attract a huge crowd. The drama, which temporarily replaces “NYPD Blue,” was seen by 9.3 million viewers.

Of the three new series, “The Simple Life” has received the most attention, mostly due to the media attention surrounding Hilton in the wake of the surfacing of a 3-year-old videotape showing her having sex with her then-boyfriend.

Richie, the stepdaughter of Lionel Richie, has also had her share of scandal. She was arrested for heroin possession earlier this year, and recently spent time in rehabilitation.

Their series was heavily promoted by Fox, which has had difficulty launching new shows this season. “Luis,” “The Next Joe Millionaire” and “Skin” were instant flops, while other series such as “Tru Calling,” “Arrested Development” and “A Minute With Stan Hooper” have fared poorly.

Fox Entertainment President Gail Berman said she was uncertain how much the notoriety surrounding the two contributed to viewership.

“Most of the reaction from the viewers seems to have been because of the concept,” she said Wednesday. “It was a real fun concept, putting these two girls where they had never gone before.”

The second of seven episodes was scheduled to air Wednesday night, and Berman said there already have been discussions about a sequel.

On another ratings front, “The Reagans,” the controversial film about the former president and first lady that was pulled off CBS after a storm of protests, attracted 1.1 million viewers in its premiere Sunday on Showtime. The film was the pay cable channel’s highest-rated original movie in two years, tying with “The Day Reagan Was Shot.”

Saturday’s premiere of Nickelodeon’s “Rugrats” spinoff, the animated “All Grown Up,” drew 3.2 million viewers, marking the network’s highest-rated series premiere ever.