TV Column: ‘Glee’ and ‘Dancing’ both see an audience dip

September 21, 2011

“Glee” — so over?

Fox’s formerly red-hot series lost about one-third of its audience in its season debut, compared with last year’s.

Only about 9.2 million people checked out the episode — compared with nearly 13 million who tuned in last fall to see the season’s first episode ASAP so they could tweet, blog and otherwise hyperventilate as it was airing.

Even more embarrassing for the once-too-hip-to-live series and creator Ryan Murphy, McKinley High’s New Directions gang got slushied by Zooey Deschanel’s latest exercise in aren’t-I-adorable geek-itude.

Her “New Girl” comedy nabbed more than 10 million viewers immediately after “Glee.” That’s Fox’s biggest fall scripted-comedy opening in a decade — since the much ballyhooed unveiling of its Bernie Mac comedy.

Apparently “Glee’s” once-rabid fans aren’t impressed with Murphy’s promise that this season the show will get back to its roots, forgoing celebrity guest stars. This will also be the last chance to bask in graduating high-schoolers Rachel, Finn and Kurt. Cast member Jane Lynch’s Emmy-hosting gig Sunday doesn’t seem to have done anything for the show, either.

Meanwhile, casting is everything over on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” where the season debut was down.

About 19 million people watched Monday’s season premiere. About 14.8 million hung around for Tuesday’s first results show. One year earlier, the Monday show bagged more than 21 million, and the result night logged nearly 19 million.

“Dancing” — in which celebrity competitors survive or get the hook each week based on a combination of judges’ scores and viewer votes — is very much dependent on which celebrities the producers can cast, as well as the voting blocs those celebs bring with them. Last fall, of course, the big “get” was Bristol Palin. This year’s most buzzed-about competitor is Chaz Bono.

From which we conclude — given the ratings decline — that the Tea Party/conservative political movement is far more motivated/organized when it comes to ballroom-dancing competition viewing and voting than is the transgender community. We can’t wait for the navel-lint-picking op-ed pieces that will be written about this in the coming days.

“Dancing” may be down, but the ABC show still looks good compared with its time-slot reality-series competition, NBC’s “Biggest Loser.”

The fat-farm competition series is shedding, all right: viewers. What was once one of the few non-football bright spots on NBC’s prime-time slate attracted its smallest premiere audience ever — a mere 6.17 million viewers Tuesday night. (It ran more neck-and-neck with “Dancing” among 18- to 49-year-olds because “Dancing” tends to skew old-ish because, well, it’s about ballroom dancing.)

And, after 24 hours off nonstop happy dancing — which erupted at CBS when Nielsen gave word that the killing-off of Charlie Sheen’s character on “Two and a Half Men” netted them 29 million viewers — CBS suits had just enough strength left to smile broadly when they heard that 14 million had checked out Tuesday night’s unveiling of their new Poppy-Montgomery-can’t-forget-anything cop drama, “Unforgettable.”

That’s about 1 million better than the season debut of “The Good Wife” in Tuesday’s 10 p.m. hour last fall.

“Unforgettable” towered over the season debut of ABC’s “Body of Proof” (9.4 million) and the season’s second episode of NBC’s “Parenthood” (5.3 million).

Haggard’s ‘Wife Swap’

Evangelical pastor Ted Haggard has agreed to star in the new, celebrity version of ABC’s reality-TV series “Wife Swap.”

He’s going to swap wives with Gary Busey.

Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.

ABC confirmed Haggard has been cast in the celebrity version of its long-running “Wife Swap” show — in which people, well, swap wives, but only for a relatively short time. Tension and hilarity ensue, some tears are shed, and a good time is had by all.

Haggard, who founded the New Life Church in Colorado Spring, Colo., went on to become president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He was forced to resign in 2006 when it came to light that he’d bought crystal meth from a male prostitute with whom he’d had sex.

Through it all, Haggard has remained married to his wife, Gayle.

After two year’s of silence since the ’06 revelation, the former religious bigwig gave his first interview to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s daughter — celeb-documentarian Alexandra — for an HBO documentary called “The Trials of Ted Haggard.”

Haggard came to Winter TV Press Tour 2009 to talk about the documentary, but tippy-toed around every question he was asked about his sexuality. He told GQ magazine this year that if he were younger, he’d probably identify himself as bisexual.

Busey, meanwhile, is a born-again Christian and professional reality-TV-series “celebrity.” Busey has appeared on “Celebrity Rehab” and “Celebrity Apprentice.” It’s unclear whether the “wife” he’ll be swapping for Gayle Haggard is his girlfriend Steffanie Sampson, who is the mother of his infant son.

ABC had already announced that “Celebrity Wife Swap” would feature Carnie Wilson, Tracey Gold, Flavor Flav and Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snyder.

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