Martha, Caught in NBC's 'E-Ring' Circus

Benjamin Bratt and the
Benjamin Bratt and the "E-Ring" crew will swap time slots with Martha Stewart's "Apprentice." (By Mitch Haaseth -- NBC Universal)
By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, October 4, 2005

NBC has thrown Martha Stewart to the "Lost" wolves -- or polar bear, shark, tree-shaking monster, whatever -- on Wednesday, in an effort to rescue the boys at the Pentagon.

Starting tomorrow night, the Stewart-hosted version of "The Apprentice" will exchange time slots with Jerry Bruckheimer's new Pentagon-set drama. "E-Ring," starring Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Hopper, takes over at 8, nudging Martha to 9.

NBC had hoped that all that Martha's-out-of-the-slammer hoopla would bring in big ratings for her new prime-time series, but it was not to be. The show has averaged a lean 6.5-ish million viewers in two broadcasts at 8. ABC gets some credit here, having scheduled two consecutive weeks of "Lost" reruns in the same hour, which pounded Martha and produced record-low numbers for the "Apprentice" franchise.

Ironically, tomorrow night ABC will finally debut one of the two sitcoms that are supposed to air in that 8 p.m. hour -- returning "George Lopez," which will attract far fewer viewers than the 13 million who'd watched those "Lost" repeats during the first two weeks of the new TV season. (The second sitcom, "Freddie," debuts next week.)

But NBC did not wait to see how Martha would fare against the two comedies in announcing the schedule change, which seems designed to get "E-Ring" away from even stiffer competition in the form of "Lost" original episodes and the new CBS drama "Criminal Minds" at 9.

"E-Ring" last week logged just 7.7 million viewers against "Lost" (23 million) and "Criminal Minds" (11 million).

At 8, the only drama competition will be the WB's "One Tree Hill." Mostly "E-Ring" is going to be faced with sitcoms, such as those two from ABC, as well as CBS's "Still Standing" and "Yes, Dear" and, when baseball's over, Fox's "That '70s Show" and "Stacked."

And Martha? Like Andromeda, who (because her parents were nitwits) got chained to a rock so that a sea monster could destroy her, Martha finds herself chained to the 9 p.m. time period, where, odds are, she'll be devoured by "Lost" -- unless some son of Zeus comes to rescue her.

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UPN has shut down production on its new prime-time soap, "Sex, Love & Secrets," after one broadcast.

To be fair, seven episodes have been produced, so shutting down production doesn't necessarily mean the show, about beautiful people in UPN's demographic group living in the hip Silver Lake area of Los Angeles, has been scrubbed. But after nabbing a cable-esque 1.4 million viewers in its unveiling last week, the prognosis for this show's long-term viability is very bleak.

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Strong sign that "Nightline" has nothing to worry about:

ABC announced it has picked up "Jimmy Kimmel Live" through 2006, noting that the show has enjoyed a ratings bump of late.

Kimmel got that bump largely from "Nightline."

The week before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Kimmel averaged 1.1 million viewers. The week Katrina hit, Kimmel averaged 1.6 million. The following week, when the Katrina horror story continued to unfold, Kimmel hit 1.7 million viewers -- his biggest crowd since late last year.

Kimmel's lead, "Nightline," experienced similar ratings jumps those weeks, presumably due to viewer interest in Katrina coverage.


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