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Recall Election: ABC Yanks Its 'Commander in Chief'

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Prince George's County won't have "Commander in Chief" to be kicked around by anymore.

Just days after county bigwigs went thermonuclear over an episode in which faux POTUS Geena Davis sends in the troops to quell crime in the county (she was also seen in front of a restaurant advertising sweet potato pie, pork chops and chitlins), ABC quietly pulled the plug on the White House drama for the rest of the season. While county big cheeses no doubt wish they could claim embarrassment caused ABC's decision, honestly, the series was done in by ABC's very tight race with Fox to finish the season in first place among young viewers.

Here's a look at the week's better and worse:

WINNERS

Fox . With four weeks left in the 2005-06 TV season, Fox squeaked ahead of ABC among the 18-to-49-year-olds coveted by advertisers. Through last week, Fox averaged 5.2 million viewers in the demographic to ABC's 5.19 million. Last year, Fox needed the Super Bowl to eke out its first-ever season win in the age bracket; this year, it will edge out ABC -- the network that hosted the football game, which is annually the most watched broadcast of the season by a huge margin.

"Boston Legal." ABC has renewed its Monday legal drama that last week nearly doubled its "Less Than Perfect" lead-in audience. This season's "Legal" is averaging about a million more viewers than ABC snagged last year in the time slot with its "NYPD Blue" swan song and short-lived "Blind Justice."

"House." Fox's doc drama posted another record audience -- nearly 25 million -- hanging on to nearly 90 percent of its "American Idol" lead-in -- the best retention ever for any regularly scheduled program following the reality series ratings monster.

LOSERS

"Commander in Chief." Behind-camera discombobulation has done in the most promising new series of this television season. Once the most watched new series in the prime-time firmament -- a hefty crowd of more than 16 million saw the debut -- behind-camera problems caused ABC to yank the show for long periods, during which young viewers found other viewing habits. Last week, "CiC" clocked just 6.5 million viewers in its Thursday time slot, and a disappointing 1.8 percent of viewers in the golden 18-to-49 age bracket.

Daytime Emmy Awards . Despite a move to Los Angeles, an airdate earlier in the May sweeps ratings race and Rick Springfield's opening performance , only 6.1 million people tuned in to the trophy show Friday -- a fraction of the 22 million who watched in the early 1990s to see if Susan Lucci would ever win a Daytime Emmy.

The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: Fox's Tuesday and Wednesday "American Idol"; CBS's "CSI"; Fox's "House"; ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy"; CBS's "CSI: Miami," "Without a Trace" and "Survivor: Panama"; and NBC's Monday "Deal or No Deal."

* * *

Dancing on the Floor Night on "American Idol."

Things start out all normal and comfy. There are the five remaining contestants; there are the three judges: Grumpy, Dopey and Crazy. There's show host Ryan Seacrest, in another bespoke suit, looking for all the world like a guy who would dump Teri Hatcher after being snapped making out with her at the beach.

Contestants get to sing twice. Round 1: a song from the year they were born. Round 2: a song from a current Billboard chart.

Elliott Yamin sings "On Broadway," very well as usual; he's the best singer left in the competition. Dopey and Crazy give him his due, but Grumpy -- who has been trying for weeks to get voters to abandon Elliott, says Elliott's lucky to have a second chance tonight, like he means it to sting.

Paris Bennett picks "Kiss" with similar results: Dopey says it's okay, Crazy says the "whole country knows you can sing your butt off" and Grumpy calls it "screechy and annoying."

Let's be honest; Grumpy doesn't care if they can sing; he doesn't think he could market either of them if they won the singing competition.

Rocker Chris Daughtry decides to challenge himself a bit and tries a rock song. He sings "Renegade" while staring daggers at the camera, promenading around stage with his microphone stand in tow, which he learned in Rocker School. Dopey calls him a "hot one"; Crazy says it set him apart; Grumpy calls it "a million times better than the first two performances."

Katharine McPhee, in a gorgeous brown strapless sheath with belts that I promise you all of the Men Who Cover TV are going to pan, finally botches a song, "Against All Odds." Dopey and Crazy make apologies for her performance. Grumpy calls it a "total mess" and "by far one of your best performances." A few minutes later he interrupts Seacrest to make sure viewers know he meant "it wasn't one of her best performances."

"Is that your final answer?" Seacrest says. Very nicely done.

Then, the floor dancing starts. Taylor Hicks, in a psychedelic shirt, crazies his way through "Play That Funky Music" and sings the last bit of it while lying on the floor, dancing. Dopey says he felt like he was in a bar and had had a couple; Crazy says it's "authentic"; Grumpy calls it a "horrible wedding performance" except that he liked it when Taylor collapsed onto the floor.

Then Seacrest lies on the floor next to Taylor and does his blah, blah, blah cut to commercial talk.

Round 2.

Elliott sings "At Home." Dopey and Crazy like it but Grumpy says he's "concerned," which means that under the American Idol Judge's Desk, his feet are doing a happy dance.

Dopey, Crazy and Grumpy all like Paris singing "Be Without You" but it's as if they know she's going to be out this week and want to make sure she remembers the good times.

Chris stretches himself even more, choosing -- a rock song. Mr. Versatility sings "I Dare You" while flames shoot out of his eyes and the lozenge-shaped screen at the back of the stage to signify that Chris is in hell. Which, if you're trying to brand yourself as a bad-boy rocker renegade and you are about to win the 2000s equivalent of the "Ted Mack Amateur Hour," is pretty much true. It doesn't matter what Crazy, Dopey or Grumpy think of his performance, really.

Katharine sings "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" while dancing on her knees. Seriously. Dopey, Crazy and Grumpy like it a lot.

Taylor winds things up by singing the Beatles' "Something," which, Seacrest assures viewers, is actually on a current Billboard chart. Dopey and Crazy give him props. Grumpy wonders how he wound up singing such an old song but adds that "with all your balminess" -- or maybe he said "bomb-iness" or " bonkiness" -- "you're a very good singer."

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