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Matthew Perry's 'Mr. Sunshine' pulls in 10.5 million viewers

By Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 10, 2011; 9:23 PM

Courteney Cox still has the lead in the "Friends" Alum Show-Down, after former castmate Matthew Perry's "Mr. Sunshine" opened with 10.5 million viewers on ABC at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

That's nearly a million people shy of the 11.3 million who'd tuned in to the unveiling of Cox's "Cougar Town" in the same half-hour, back in September '09.

Both "Sunshine" and "Cougar" enjoyed a "Modern Family" lead-in when they were launched. Except that "Modern Family" on Wednesday logged its biggest audience ever: 13.2 million viewers.

ABC noted that, among all viewers - as well as with the 18-to-49-year-olds who are the network's bread and butter - "Mr. Sunshine" is its highest-rated midseason scripted show launch in nearly four years.

"Cougar Town," of course, was not a midseason launch.

Perry stars in "Mr. Sunshine" as the self-involved manager of a San Diego sports arena who begins to reevaluate his life on his 40th birthday. Allison Janney plays the arena owner.

The object of Perry's affection is played by Andrea Anders, who, coincidentally, played "Friends" alum Matt LeBlanc's love interest in that dog of a "Friends" spinoff, "Joey," about Joey Tribbiani moving to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career. LeBlanc has been hard at work recently, redeeming himself with self-parody in Showtime's "Episodes."

Meanwhile, hope you caught the last episode of Paula Abdul's CBS dance competition series, "Live to Dance," because, based on the finale numbers, it might really be the last episode.

Only 4.7 million people bothered to watch the first-season finale in which a ballroom-dance couple, precocious moppets known as D'Angelo and Amanda, won the half-million-dollar prize.

Conan pity party

The press has been distracted from the tragedy of Conan O'Brien's treatment at the hands of NBC long enough to write that Comedy Central late-night star Jon Stewart beat Conan's TBS show by a half-million viewers in the ratings last month.

Time to ratchet up the Conan pity party.

In the latest issue of Fortune magazine, Conan talks - some more - about what NBC did to him.

"In the new issue of Fortune, Conan O'Brien discusses his reinvention from traditional television performer to multimedia star, and contributor Douglas Warshaw reveals new details about the contentious break between O'Brien and NBC," Fortune magazine crowed in an e-mail to the press.

New details like a movie-Nazi metaphor:

"You know that scene in the first 'Indiana Jones' movie where he gets thrown through the truck windshield by a Nazi? I was thrown through the windshield of broadcasting," Conan tells Fortune.

Fortune is owned by Time Warner. So, too, is TBS, where Conan has his new late-night talk show. You and I might wonder why a Time Warner publication would want to remind the press - and America - one more time how Conan is still grieving about being out of the broadcast TV business, instead of being wildly enthusiastic about having a show on Time Warner's cable network TBS.

Conan's Fortune piece comes out when the most recent full week of his TBS show (the week of Jan. 31) set new lows for originals (0.5 rating among 18-to-49-year-old viewers coveted by the networks, and fewer than 1 million viewers overall). Among the 18-to-34-year-olds who are Conan's sweet spot, the week's crowd of 493,000 is one of his smallest for a week of originals.

In an e-mail to the press, Fortune emphasized that, in the article, Conan complains about being "legally prohibited from going on television" after leaving NBC.

Conan was under contract to NBC when he decided to refuse to host "The Tonight Show" if the network moved it later into the night to make room for Jay Leno's return to late-night TV. NBC "legally prohibited" Conan from going on television, per terms of his exit deal, for eight months. He also got some money in that exit deal, we've heard.

Conan also compares himself to the Beatles in the article, Fortune noted. And Elvis.

And on the subject of how he transformed himself from "The Tonight Show" host into a multimedia star - albeit one who got whomped by Jon Stewart in January - Conan still sounds so bitter when he tells Fortune that, during his eight-month sentence of being off TV, his people began to hear that NBC was not happy with the things he was saying on Twitter.

Conan tells Fortune that he told his peeps to inform NBC: "Tell them I would be thrilled if they shut down my Twitter account. I'd love it if that got out. You think PR's been bad up till now? Wait till you take away my Twitter account."

NBC declined to comment.

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