There Were Those Who Dunk and Those Who Stunk

"The Bill Engvall Show" was a hit, while "Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search for Elle Woods" was a big miss. (By Justin Lubin)
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By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Meerkats died, basketball soared and swingers scored in the second week of the summer TV season. Here's a look at the week's stars and stinkers:


National Basketball Association finals. The first two games of the Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers series beat any NBA finals start since 2004. Sunday's game, clocking 13.5 million viewers, was up nearly 60 percent compared with the same game last year. It's the best initial showing since the Lakers faced off with the Detroit Pistons in '04.

"The Bill Engvall Show." CBS accomplished the anatomically impossible this past Monday, biting itself in its own heinie when it reran an episode of TBS's contribution to the Male Pattern Optimism sitcom fad -- dufus schlub guy with hot wife -- in exchange for Turner agreeing to run CBS's new-season promos. The "Engvall" repeat clocked 6.5 million viewers, or 1 million more than CBS's own "Big Bang Theory" had logged in the 8 p.m. half-hour the previous week and 1 million more than the "Engvall" rerun's CBS lead-out, "How I Met Your Mother," at 8:30 p.m. And, more than twice as many viewers as watched the episode on TBS.

"Army Wives." Endorsed by the two presumed presidential candidates in taped promos, the second-season opening of Lifetime's Army chick melodrama attracted 4.5 million viewers, becoming the most watched original drama series telecast in the net's 24-year history.

"Swingtown." Nearly 9 million people watched the debut of CBS's summer series, including a third more 18-to-49-year-olds than a "Without a Trace" repeat had scored in the time slot one week earlier. It beat the premiere of NBC's horror series "Fear Itself" by more than 3 million viewers. Then, Parents Television Council gave it a promo shot in the arm, issuing the hue and cry for CBS stations to preempt future episodes because the show "introduces viewers to a world of drugs and sexual experimentation with the premise of open marriage at its core." Cool.

"Ice Road Truckers." Second-season unveiling, Sunday at 9, logged nearly 4 million viewers -- best ever season-opener in History Channel history. Immediately after, the net's "Ax Men" ended its first season with an episode averaging 2.4 million viewers, 26 percent better than its season average.

Stanley Cup. NBC's four-game coverage of the Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins face-off logged the franchise's best numbers on broadcast TV since 2002 -- more than 5 million viewers. That's compared with last year's 2.4 million.

"Countdown." Keith Olbermann's MSNBC talker ranked No. 1 at 8 p.m. last week among cable news networks in the target 25-54 age bracket, outdrawing Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" and CNN. The shows were all specialed-out Tuesday for primary election coverage. And, in the interest of full disclosure, Bill O'Reilly took Friday off, giving his flock a day of rest. MSNBC says it's the first time since June '01 it has managed to out-rate O'Reilly at 8. FNC says that among viewers of all ages, O'Reilly continued to dominate the time slot last week.

Jimmy Kimmel. ABC's late-night host's pre-NBA telecasts averaged about 3 million viewers; he's been averaging about 1.7 mil this TV season in late night.


"Meerkat Manor." Fewer than half a million people caught the fourth- season premiere of Animal Planet's docudrama. For comparison's sake: Season 3's opener premiered to a crowd of nearly 800,000; Season 2 unveiled to an audience of 821,000; and more than 1 million viewers caught the very first episode of the series.

"Men in Trees." Felled ABC chick drama posted a worst-ever 5.2 million in its penultimate episode.

"The Mole." Two weeks in, ABC's resurrected reality series is clocking its lowest numbers ever.

"Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search for Elle Woods." MTV's show mustered an anorexic 1.1 million viewers Monday night. The previous four weeks, MTV had clocked more than twice as many viewers in the time slot.

The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: ABC's NBA Finals Game 2 on Sunday and Thursday's Game 1; CBS's "60 Minutes," "Two and a Half Men," "Million Dollar Password" and "CSI"; and Fox's Wednesday "So You Think You Can Dance," "House," "Hell's Kitchen" and Thursday "So You Think You Can Dance."

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