TV Eye

Walls Come Tumbling Down

<i>Jericho</i>
Jericho

When CBS pulled Jericho from its lineup, fans protested, flooding the network with phone calls and some 25 tons of roasted nuts (inspired by a line a main character said at a key moment in the storyline). Overwhelmed by the response, the network made an about-face, and the drama about a small Kansas town surviving the aftermath of nuclear holocaust is now back on the schedule. You could call it a triumph for the show's fans but with a caveat: CBS has asked them to watch Jericho over the air during its regularly scheduled time (in reruns and when the new season premieres). They want you to get your friends to do the same. That way, the network (and the Nielsen ratings folks) can measure viewers and justify the cost of ad space they sell to sponsors.

Excuse me, but WTF?

First, I can't remember the last time I watched a broadcast network show in real time. Second, it was CBS' (wise) move to use the Internet to attract new (and younger) viewers to Jericho, with a robust fan site to match. It worked. Yet, no one can figure out how many site visits there are at a website?

A lot can change in two months. Since the Jericho reversal, the TV industry has come closer to standards for measuring online viewers. Meaning, one would hope, that requests for viewers to watch TV in real time would be unthinkable, let alone unnecessary. Now, the question is not how to count online viewers but when: Should they be counted by segment hits (typically, series are broken into distinct segments, each one led with an ad), per episode, or some other factor?

Besides being a unit of measure, what does any of this mean to viewers? More than you might think. Shows are typically funded according to over-the-air viewer numbers – excluding those of us who record and watch later – which is why Jericho got canceled in the first place (low ratings). The fallout could be that production values for Jericho or any other low-rated series (like Friday Night Lights) could decline, potentially eroding viewers and turning off new ones. But let's not sound the death knell yet. It seems that head-counting is changing just as quickly as how content is produced and presented. Case in point: Showtime's Californication. The new comedy starring David Duchovny will be available for early previewing via a deal with Netflix, according to the June 18 issue of Broadcasting & Cable. The series, set to premiere in August, will be available through DVD (you can place it in your Netflix queue now) and through Watch Now, the Netflix streaming platform, B&C reports. The Californication previews are available July 24, coinciding with the DVD release of the second season of Weeds, the third season of which will lead into the premiere of Californication on Aug. 13.

Ah, the harmony of cross-platform utilization.

A recap of Jericho's first season airs Friday at 7pm on CBS followed by a rerun episode. Check local listings for additional Jericho airings.


What Else Is On?

Clark and Mike, an original Web-only series from CBS, starring the boy genius Michael Cera (Arrested Development). Cera and real-life pal Clark Duke play clueless writing partners trying to break in to TV. New installments of the 10-episode series premiere Wednesdays at www.clarkandmichael.com.

New seasons of Monk and the very silly Psych premiere Friday at 8pm and 9pm respectively on USA.

Other news: BET is launching a major push to create more content. New content, featuring traditional dramas and comedies, should answer critics who say that the network represents a narrow – and some would say unrealistic – view of African-American life and culture.

Hold on to your cosmos: The Sex and the City movie is now a reality. After years of reported behind-the-scenes haggling, everyone has come to terms, and the movie will be made.

As always, stay tuned.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Jericho, cross-platform utilization, CBS, Californication, Weeds, Clark and Mike

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