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Tuned In: Readers mostly 'don't care' in poll of TV shows

Thursday, May 03, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

The results of the Post-Gazette's annual Readers' Remote: Keep or Cancel? poll are in, and the winner is: Viewer apathy.

No, that's not a new show on UPN.

For the first time we registered votes from viewers about the shows they "don't care" about in addition to the regular "keep" and "cancel" categories.

More than 2,140 people voted in this fun but unscientific popularity contest. The top "don't care" show (UPN's recently canceled "All Souls" with 1,656 votes) received more votes than the top "cancel" series (NBC's "XFL" with 1,350 votes) or the top "keep" program (CBS's "Everybody Loves Raymond" with 1,313 votes).

There may be more choices than ever on television, but that means viewers are more scattered and few shows have a mandate.

For instance, the CBS drama "That's Life," which some viewers are passionate about, generated the majority of votes from viewers. But in the grand scheme of the poll, its "keep" votes outdistanced "cancel" votes by only 32. (The most popular series had hundreds of votes difference between "keep" and "cancel" tallies.) Votes from viewers who don't care about the fate of "That's Life" were more than the combined "keep" and "cancel" votes registered.

After "Raymond," the series receiving the most "keep" votes were (in order): "Frasier," "Law & Order," "ER," "60 Minutes," "The West Wing," "The Practice," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "Wonderful World of Disney," "20/20," "Friends," "NYPD Blue," "Dateline," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and "Will & Grace."

Least favorite series, behind "XFL," were: "Temptation Island," "The Geena Davis Show," "Big Brother," "Bette," "Boot Camp," "The Michael Richards Show," "The Mole," "Making the Band," "Daddio," "The Trouble with Normal," "The Weber Show," "Titans," "Survivor" and "3rd Rock from the Sun."

That "Survivor," currently television's top-rated series, turned up in the Top 15 among "cancels" and not "keeps" offers a study in reality vs. perception: People are watching "Survivor" even though they profess a desire to see it canceled. "Survivor" was voted the second favorite show among CBS viewers age 12 to 17, but ranked in the Top 3 of least favorite shows in three different demographic categories spanning in age from 35 to 70-plus.

The top "keep" shows by network were "The Practice" (ABC), "Raymond" (CBS), "The Simpsons" (Fox), "Frasier" (NBC), "Star Trek: Voyager" (UPN) and "7th Heaven" (The WB).

Among networks, CBS had the best keep-to-cancel ratio, followed by ABC, which was neck-in-neck with NBC. Fox followed, then The WB. UPN was in a distant last place.

UPN's dismal showing comes as no surprise given its low ratings and the preponderance of shows from the network that landed atop the "don't care" list (10 out of the Top 15; the remaining five air on The WB).

Other results:

Low-rated "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" did well in the poll, ranking as the favorite ABC program among viewers age 12 to 17 and 18 to 34. Similarly, low-rated "Wonderful World of Disney" did well, landing among the Top 3 favorites in three different age demos.

"Ally McBeal" had more "cancel" than keep votes but still had enough votes in both categories to land among the Top 10 on Fox's "keep" list (at No. 7) and its "cancel" list (at No. 8). "Ally's" Monday night lead-in, David E. Kelley's "Boston Public," did significantly better, showing up at No. 4 on the "keep" list and avoiding the Top 10 of the "cancel" list altogether. "America's Most Wanted" and "Cops" both proved to be favorites, landing at No. 3 and No. 8, respectively, among viewer favorites on Fox.

Men and women can agree on something! They really, really hate three NBC shows. "XFL," "The Michael Richards Show" and "Daddio" ranked 1-2-3 as least favorite NBC shows among both men and women who voted in the poll.

Bumped from ABC last year, "The Hughleys" rallied, winding up as second favorite UPN show behind "Star Trek: Voyager" and just ahead of "WWF Smackdown," which was also No. 1 among the least popular UPN series.

UPN-bound "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was the second most popular WB series and landed in the Top 3 in three different age demos. (It was also a least favorite among oldsters -- age 55 to 69 and 70-plus.) The WB's "Gilmore Girls" was the third most popular show on the network and had the widest age appeal, ranking among the Top 3 in four out of six demos.

Results of the poll will be sent to each of the network presidents who make the call on which shows to keep or cancel. The networks announce their new fall schedules the week of May 13.

For a complete look at the poll results, go to www.post-gazette.com/tv and follow the link to the results page.

OF ALL THE SHOWS TO BRING BACK: This week Showtime announced it will air all 13 episodes of Kevin Williamson's "Wasteland," a lame post-college drama ABC canceled almost two years ago after airing only three episodes.

"Wasteland" will air in June on Showtime Next, a digital channel that's not carried by area cable systems but is available on satellite.

NOW HEAR THIS: Last week's column about the difficulty some viewers have understanding dialogue on TV produced quite a response. Many readers protested that it's not their hearing that's the problem, it's the TV set or the way stations mix the sound or the way the actors talk. I'll revisit the topic after sweeps.

EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW... Ah, sweet sweeps. It can be entertaining and educational. Here's what I've learned so far:

It's painful to volunteer to have pepper spray squirted in your eyes.

WTAE's Wendy Bell showed a man who allowed police to shoot pepper spray at him to demonstrate its effect. And what did it prove? Pepper spray stings like heck.

Bell informed viewers about the varying severity of pepper spray measured in Scoville heat units (interesting info), but anchor Ted Koppy gave the best reaction to video of the man who got sprayed: "Glad I didn't volunteer."

If you touch a lit torch to a mattress, it will catch fire.

WPXI's Becky Thompson showed how quickly a mattress can go up in a blaze when touched by an open flame depending on what material is used in the mattress. Though the example of a blow torch applied to a mattress is over the top (remember, this is TV news where over the top rules), it was informative to learn prisoners sleep on flame resistant mattresses, but most consumers do not.

It's OK to comment on the weight of a pregnant news anchor after she returns from maternity leave.

KDKA's Ken Rice told Jennifer Antkowiak, back from a three-month maternity leave, that she looks "tremendous in a good way" but added, "you were packing on the pounds there toward the end. I'm not the only one who noticed."

"He's the king of tact, isn't he?" Antkowiak replied.

If I subscribe to digital cable I can get more than 200,000 channels.

That's according to Channel 11's Keith Jones. If I hadn't been busy hyperventilating as I tried to figure out how to add 199,911 more channels to the grids in TV Week, I would have heard him correct himself with a revised number of 200. Great, that means only 111 more channels to add.

You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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