Fox Decides That the Late David Carradine Will Still Be a 'Mental' Patient

By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, June 5, 2009

Fox lucked out because David Carradine is catatonic but not suicidal on Tuesday's episode of "Mental," which means the network can go ahead with the broadcast, as scheduled, in the wake of Carradine's apparent hanging death.

The 72-year-old actor was found dead in his hotel room in Bangkok, where he was working on a movie. A Thai newspaper reported he was found hanging from a rope in the closet of his hotel room; at press time, the U.S. Embassy had confirmed his death while offering no details.

"Mental," meanwhile, is Fox's new medical drama (and the latest knockoff of Fox's own hit "House") in which hot, dynamic shrink Dr. Jack Gallagher is named director of Mental Health Services at a Los Angeles hospital, where he inflames the staff and upsets the system with his radical methods and unorthodox treatment methods, clashing often with his conservative boss, Hospital Administrator Chick.

In the episode, Carradine plays a famous professor, author and philosopher named Gideon Graham, who lapses into a non-responsive catatonic state after being struck by lightning. Determined to bring Gideon back to the "real world," our hero Jack attempts a highly unorthodox treatment that carries great risk to the patient, Fox promises.

Nothing suggestive of yesterday's news figures into the unorthodox treatment, which is good because otherwise the network would have had to pull the episode; instead, "Mental" stands to attract more viewers in light of the Carradine news.

"Mental" opened a couple of weeks ago with an audience of just under 6 million viewers, and its second episode copped about 5 million. Most encouragingly, it built on its "House" rerun lead-in audience both weeks. But it's been no competition for the reruns of CBS's "The Mentalist," which averaged nearly 12 million viewers those same two weeks in the same hour.

Fox will run some kind of Carradine RIP at the end of the episode.

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Nielsen finally spit out national numbers on Jay Leno's last night as host of "The Tonight Show" -- 11.9 million viewers. May 29 was, as suspected, Leno's very biggest Friday night audience in his 17 years as host of "Tonight."

It also ranks No. 7 on the list of Most Watched "Tonight Show With Jay Leno" broadcasts ever. This is impressive when you see which shows made it to Nos. 1-6, and when you consider Leno was stuck with his replacement, Conan O'Brien, as his "guest" on the final night instead of some big "get."

Take a look:

No. 1. Thursday, May 20, 1993. The night of the "Cheers" finale. Average: 22.4 million viewers.

No. 2. Monday, May 25, 1992. The debut of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno": 16.1 million viewers.

No. 3. Thursday, May 14, 1998. The night of the "Seinfeld" finale: 15 million viewers.

No. 4. Thursday, March 19, 2009. The night of the President Obama interview: 14.6 million viewers.

No. 5. Monday, January 24, 2005. The night of a special tribute to Johnny Carson: 13.4 million viewers.

No. 6. Thursday, May 6, 2004. The night of the "Friends" finale: 12.6 million viewers.

Maybe most interesting, Friday's farewell clocked more viewers than the July 10, 1995, episode of Leno's "Tonight Show." That's the one in which, famously, America's Sweetheart Hugh Grant did not cancel his scheduled guest appearance, even though he'd recently been arrested for picking up hooker "Divine Brown" on Sunset Boulevard. During that broadcast, Leno conducted his best interview ever, asking Grant, "What the hell were you thinking?"

That episode -- ranked No. 8 with an average of 10.8 million viewers -- is, for better or for worse, widely seen as the turning point for Leno as "Tonight Show" host, catapulting him over CBS rival David Letterman in the ratings.

During Leno's penultimate week on "The Tonight Show," NBC released results of a poll in which participants declared Leno's Grant interview the No. 1 moment of Leno's run on the late-night show.

Now the fine print: The "Tonight Show With Jay Leno" Top 8 list excludes "Tonight" specials that ran with short durations and irregular start times after nights of Olympics competition. Seems fair.

* * *

After signing a deal to air syndicated talker "The Wendy Williams Show" on TV stations nationally (including Fox owned-and-operated WTTG in Washington), the distribution company behind it has closed a deal to run episodes the same day on BET -- a rare instance of such a "same day" deal.

The former VH1 personality and current radio talker has been called "the black Howard Stern" -- maybe because she has referred to herself as the "queen of all media." Anyway, her latest stab at TV gossip stardom launched in mid-July and you can catch episodes on WTTG (Channel 5) -- or on BET.

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