Sunday, December 29, 2002

Look Back at 2002 in Television

Cable steals the networks' show

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

No doubt about it, 2002 will be remembered as the year cable dished it to the broadcast networks.

For the first time, more people watched cable channels in prime time than the seven broadcast networks. Nielsen Media Research projects that the year will end with cable channels averaging 48 percent of prime-time viewing, while the combined seven network audience is 45 percent.

Cable's growth into a programming force - instead of just being a venue for network reruns and cast-offs - is a recurring theme in the top 10 list of TV stories:

1. The Sopranos: HBO's crime boss and his wife (James Gandolfini, Edie Falco) were America's first family in many American homes. The long-awaited season premiere in September, and the series finale in December, drew a higher rating than anything on the broadcast networks those Sundays at 9 p.m.

Broadcasters have been frustrated by what they consider as unfair competition from The Sopranos. The cable movie channel doesn't temper language, nudity or violence because its programs aren't transmitted through the public airwaves. However, NBC will try to replicate the success with Kingpin, a gritty new adult drama in March about drug dealers.

2. The Shield: Basic cable also made a breakthrough this year when Michael Chiklis from FX's The Shield won the Emmy award for outstanding lead actor in a drama over Martin Sheen (The West Wing), Kiefer Sutherland (24), Peter Krause and Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under).

3. Monk: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. That was ABC's strategy, plugging its 8 p.m. Thursday hole this fall with reruns of Tony Shalhoub's Monk detective series which premiered last summer on USA cable.

4. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Despite competition from cable, TV's most popular crime-fighters were on CBS. CSI, the first drama series to beat ER since the medical drama premiered in 1994, has gained 5 million viewers from last season to top all shows this fall with 28.5 million viewers. It also has spawned the highest-rated new fall series, CSI: Miami, ranked No. 9 this season with 17.8 million viewers.

5. Family shows: A year after the World Trade Center terrorists attacks, Americans gathered as families to watch more family-based sitcoms and dramas. John Ritter's 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter family comedy became ABC's highest-rated scripted series (No. 25), while NBC's American Dreams drama about a 1963 Philadelphia family (No. 37) and WB's Everwood about Treat Williams as a single father (No. 87) were surprise hits of the fall. And the audience increased by more than 1 million this fall over last season for My Wife and Kids, According to Jim, 7th Heaven and Gilmore Girls.

6. The Osbournes: Of all the midseason TV shows that premiered in February and March - starring such actors as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Sally Field, Colin Quinn, John Cleese and Seth Green - who would have guessed that the most talked about would be Ozzy Osbourne and his family. The Osbournes dysfunctional family life became MTV's all-time No. 1 series, drawing 7.8 million viewers one week in April.

7. The Bachelor: The West Wing producers and NBC executives learned that reality (TV) bites. ABC's The Bachelor emerged as the surprise hit of the fall, beating the Emmy-winning White House drama at 9 p.m. Wednesdays. The relationship show was the newest "reality TV" hit, after ratings troubles earlier this year for games shows (Weakest Link), outdoor adventures (No Boundaries), family competition (Under One Roof) and slice-of-life chronicles (American Fighter Pilots). We'll see on Jan. 8 if viewers elect to watch The Bachelorette with Trista Rehn (runner-up in The Bachelor last spring) over President Bartlet's administration.

8. TV's oldest ideas - a live talent show broadcast competition. Fox's American Idol, with snippy judge Simon Cowell, became a summer sensation and earned Fort Worth's Kelly Clarkson a national recording contract. Other networks were quick to rip off the idea, so soon we'll see CBS' Star Search revival (Jan. 9) and USA Networks' Nashville Star (March).

9. Channel 12 dominance: For 31/2 years, WKRC-TV has been the Tristate news authority, based on Nielsen ratings. The CBS affiliate has been No. 1 for every weekday newscast. Contributing to Channel 12's strong ratings have been huge ratings for CBS' CSI and Survivor; the station's ability to keep veteran personalities (Rob Braun, Tim Hedrick, Kit Andrews, John Lomax, Steve Horstmeyer, Deb Dixon); and to pick up familiar faces discarded by the other newsrooms in town (Angelique Frame, Joe Webb, Teri Barr).

10. Channel 9's Peabody: Laure Quinlivan and WCPO-TV's investigative I-Team did something that no other U.S. commercial TV station did this year - they won a prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for broadcasting excellence. The honor was for Visions of Vine Street, a one-hour documentary proposing remedies for Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Ms. Quinlivan and Channel 9 also won a Peabody last year for Paul Brown Stadium construction stories - giving the station four Peabodys since 1980. That's four more than the other TV stations in town.


Television: Cable steals the networks' show
Film: A sequel and a superhero fly high
Theater: A tough, eventful act to follow on stages
Popular Music: Rock rules, teen pop cools, King Records reigns
Classical Music: Great performances thrilled large and small crowds
Visual Art: Creative works, well-curated
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KENDRICK: Be nice to others; it's to your benefit
MARTIN: Best ingredients are good people
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