The TV Column: Katie Couric ekes out a ratings win for ‘Good Morning America’

April 5, 2012

After two days of ratings ignominy, ABC’s Katie Couric-co-anchored “Good Morning America,” featuring a segment with the latest “Dancing With the Stars” evictee, trumped NBC’s “Today” show, with Ryan Seacrest, Wednesday morning.

Wednesday is “GMA’s” most-watched day this season; the show’s averaging an audience of 4.913 million those mornings. This past Wednesday, however, with Katie guest-anchoring and an interview with “Dancing’s” Jack Wagner, “GMA” nabbed 5.236 million.

Meanwhile, “Today” logged 5.149 million viewers Wednesday morning, when its big “get” was Seacrest announcing he had joined the NBC family and had been given his first assignment: Help the net’s prime-time coverage of the Summer Olympics in London.

News that the Katie-co-anchored “GMA” had finally eked out its first daily viewer win this week against “Today” came the same day “GMA” announced that last week, sans Couric, it came its closest to tying “Today” in seven years.

Just 119,000 viewers separated the two shows last week, with “GMA” scoring more viewers than “Today” on Tuesday and Friday. One year ago, the margin separating the two shows was 469,000 viewers for the comparable week.

Discovery’s new series

Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications unveiled a headache-inducing number of new series across its many cable networks to advertisers in New York on Thursday, including shows about a 2-foot-tall woman, BFFs gone bad, exotic treehouse builders and another couple with an embarrassment of children — and a Tom Brokaw-looks-back series.

Here are some of the highlights:

TLC suits do not believe they have exhausted America’s fascination with little people, crazed brides, cheesy bridal gowns and couples with loads of children.

●“Bates Family Series” follows a couple living in “the hills of Tennessee” with 10 daughters, nine sons, no TV, a love of music and “family values.”

●“Big Tiny: Life With the Jordans” stars Bridgette Jordan, who is 28 inches tall and weighs 18 pounds, and brother Brad, who is 38 inches tall and weighs 35 pounds.

●“Randy to the Rescue” stars “Say Yes to the Dress” breakout Randy Fenoli as he takes his bridal tractor-trailer, packed with wedding dresses, to different cities.

●And here’s a new programming thread for the channel: “Mama’s Boys of the Bronx” follows five Italian American men in their 30s who grew up together and still live with their mothers.

Discovery Channel hopes you’ll watch “One Car Too Far,” in which it dumps a former British Special Forces operative, an American car junkie and one small red car in some “incredible landscape.” The two guys have to “MacGyver-ize” the car “to survive and ultimately escape to safety” — or, in a pinch, the cameramen, crew and producers can always save them.

●“Sarah Palin’s Alaska” exec producer Mark Burnett is going back to Alaska for “Mark Burnett’s Alaska.” (Discovery already has “Flying Wild Alaska” and “Alaska: The Final Frontier” to its credit.)

●A “petro-sexual” motor head and a mechanical prodigy search corners of the country for derelict classic cars they can restore and sell to the highest bidder in “Fast and Loud.”

●Discovery Channel is also known for its big-budget specials; this coming season is no exception. The network unveiled plans for “North America,” which looks at diverse landscapes and the wild animals, such as jaguars, spinner sharks and wolves, which live in these sometimes brutal habitats, and which are “fiercely resilient — sharing that human spirit the continent is known for.” Wait, what?

Animal Planet hopes to introduce “Top Hookers,” which it promises is a fishing competition and not what you think.

●“Glory Hounds” looks at military working dogs.

●“Treehouse Men” documents guys who create, for clients, deluxe and whimsical treehouses in forests and back yards around the world. What does that have to do with Animal Planet? Glad you asked. The network says it’s expanding the brand, and when you’re in a treehouse, you feel like you’re a bird. When we’re shopping the Barneys warehouse sale, we feel like a panther — but that doesn’t make us a network.

Investigation Discovery has no end to its ideas for shows about people killing people they know. “BFFs Gone Bad,” “ ’Til Death Do Us Part” and “Wives With Knives” need no explanation. But ID says “Pretty Bad Girls” is like “Sex and the City,” only Carrie has more than killer clothes in her closet. And “Evil Twins,” launching in summer, documents what it’s like when one twin turns bad and does things such as seducing her twin’s husband then setting him up for murder.

Heading Velocity’s new series list: “Road to Le Mans” stars “Grey’s Anatomy” sensitive hottie doc Patrick Dempsey as owner of and driver for an auto racing team tackling the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s oldest auto endurance race.

In fall, the Military Channel will debut “The Brokaw Files,” in which former NBC evening news anchor Tom Brokaw revisits some of the most memorable stories from his career. The network will also unveil “Commander in Chief,” about critical military decisions made by POTUS.

And Discovery Communications also told advertisers that it’s dumping the pinko-liberal Planet Green network to make way for the “red, white and blue” Destination America channel, celebrating the “connective spirit” of our country. It will be a network on which barbecue isn’t just good cooking but an expression of our roots; a job is never just a job — it’s our ingenuity made real; and places such as Alaska (golly, Discovery Communications is obsessed with Alaska) are more than untamed beauty — they’re a living symbol of our need to press ahead and walk where no one has tread before.

Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications’ venture with Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo company, announced Thursday the first crop of new programs since Oprah finally shuttered her syndicated talk show and vowed to devote herself full time to the network. In OWN’s future:

●“Six Little McGhees” takes a page from Discovery’s TLC, following a married couple — former high school sweethearts — who rose above “impoverished roots” and have a family business as well as Columbus, Ohio’s first sextuplets.

●TV producer Barry Poznick (“Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader”) and comic/actress Kim Coles (“Living Single”) will host the game show “Are You Normal, America?” based on the “Am I Normal?” segment from Oprah’s shuttered talk show. Contestants will answer questions for a chance to win lots of cash — questions such as: “Have you ever peeked at your boyfriend’s e-mails?” “Have you ever done your household chores naked?” and “Do you and your spouse sleep in separate bedrooms?” Add a few “highly scientific and deeply revealing” polls, juries of “real” Americans, man-on-the-street polling and in-studio demonstrations, and someone’s going to win a cash prize. OWN promises the show will leave viewers comforted to learn we’re all pretty abnormal. Which, apparently, the network thinks is an under-served audience: “Survivor,” “Fear Factor,” “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader,” everything on TLC, “What Would You Do?,” “Cops,” “Extreme Makeover,” “The Bachelor,” “American Idol,” “Project Runway” and TMZ are not already serving that function.

●And “Married to the Army: Alaska” — yes, another series set in Alaska — looks at wives of deployed soldiers, many of whom have been sent to Afghanistan.

Olbermann vs. Current TV

As promised, Keith Olbermann has sued Current TV for more than $50 million for breach of contract, sabotage and disparagement, claiming the network owes him tens of millions of dollars.

In the lawsuit, filed Thursday afternoon in Los Angeles Superior Court, Olbermann claimed he had a contract for five years, at $10 mil a year, but was fired without cause after one year.

Olbermann claimed in the suit that, not long after being enticed to leave MSNBC to do “Countdown” for Current TV, he realized the people running things were “dilettantes portraying entertainment industry executives.”

“Current’s dysfunction permeated all levels of the organization,” the lawsuit said. “After being on the air for nearly eight months — long after all ‘growing pains’ should have ceased — Current still couldn’t manage to, literally, keep the lights on.”

A spokeswoman for Current TV told the Associated Press the network did not have an immediate comment on the suit.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/ tvblog.

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