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Tuned In: Readers' Remote voters pass on reality shows

Thursday, May 02, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

This much we know: Viewers who responded to the annual "Readers' Remote: Keep or Cancel?" poll at post-gazette.com aren't fans of "reality" TV shows.

Despite still respectable ratings for "Survivor," the CBS reality stalwart joined its much lower-rated imitators atop the list of series viewers would cancel if they had the power.

Among the Top 10 "cancel" shows, eight are reality programs with ABC's "The Chair" (37.3 percent vote to cancel) leading the list, followed by "The Bachelor" (35.4 percent), "Bob Patterson" (32.8 percent), "Temptation Island" (33 percent), "The Mole" (30.5 percent), "Big Brother" (30.4 percent), "Baby Bob" (27 percent), "The Chamber" (26 percent), "Weakest Link" (25.7 percent) and "Survivor" (24.9 percent).

What's most interesting in the poll is what people say they want to keep or cancel vs. what they actually watch.

People say they'd cancel "The Bachelor," yet it was a minor hit for ABC. Same with "Baby Bob" on CBS.

ABC's "The Wonderful World of Disney" doesn't get high Nielsen ratings, but in our poll, it scored in the Top 10 among shows to keep.

Similarly, ABC's already canceled "Once and Again" (50.4 percent) topped the Keep list after fans who gather on ABC message boards made a concerted effort to defy instructions and stuff the ballot box. Like overzealous fans of "The Pretender" two years ago, the "Once and Again" fanatics succeeded only in getting their series thrown out of the poll. Same for UPN's "Roswell" (38.6 percent).

With those deletions, the Top 10 series that voters said they would keep are "Friends" (49.4 percent of the vote), "ER" (42.7 percent), "Will & Grace" (37.6 percent), "Everybody Loves Raymond" (37.3 percent), "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (36.2 percent), "Frasier" (35.8 percent), "Wonderful World of Disney" (34 percent), "The Practice" (32.9 percent), "The Simpsons" (31.6 percent) and "The West Wing" (31.6 percent).

The poll is hardly scientific, and the demographics of the series listed in the Top 10 to Keep match with the majority of viewers who voted, people ages 18 to 34 and 35 to 54. This year's poll generated the most votes ever -- 11,770 -- and results will be sent to programmers at each of the television networks.

The series with the fewest "Keep" votes was CBS's "Danny" (0.7 percent), which was quickly canceled last fall. That's even lower than any Pax series scored. But Pax still has its work cut out for it: Its programming met with the most apathy. Seven of the Top 10 series viewers said they don't care about were Pax shows. "The Ponderosa" topped that list with a whopping 89.1 percent apathy vote.

Complete results, including a network-by-network breakdown, can be seen online at www.post-gazette.com/tv/killkeep.

'Judging Amy' returnees

Fans of the CBS drama "Judging Amy" can look forward to the return of Amy's brother Vincent (Dan Futterman in a guest spot) in the May 14 episode.

On the May 21 season finale, Maxine's millionaire boyfriend, Jared (Richard Crenna), also returns.

Rukeyser returns

WQED/WQEX executives have decided to air Louis Rukeyser's new CNBC show, which the cable network has made available to all PBS stations for free after its premiere on cable.

Station manager B.J. Leber said "Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street" will air on WQED/WQEX 8 a.m. Saturdays beginning May 11. It replaces a repeat of Rukeyser's old show, "Wall $treet Week," which will continue to air 8:30 p.m. Fridays.

The Washington Post reports producers have tapped Fox News Channel business reporter Karen Gibbs to host the revamped program -- soon to be re-titled "Wall $treet Week With Fortune" -- with Fortune editorial director Geoffrey Colvin beginning next month.

WQED explores hip-hop

"Black Horizons" (10 tonight, WQED) explores the world of hip-hop music and culture in Pittsburgh.

According to WQED, hosts/producers Chris Moore and Minette Seate visit area clubs, coffeehouses and recording studios to explore the four basic elements of hip-hop: the MC, the DJ, break dancing and graffiti.

A sex abuse sweeps

Stories of sexual abuse are all the rage this sweeps month. To make it juicier, there's a tie to the Catholic Church, which has been in the spotlight nationally in recent weeks over alleged sex abuse scandals and cover-ups.

Last Friday, in particular, was a banner day for sex abuse stories on local newscasts. Poor Rev. Ron Lengwin, spokesman for the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese, must have had a stream of TV reporters in and out of his office.

KDKA's Andy Sheehan followed up a report from an earlier sweeps period about a man who claims he was abused by a priest as a teen.

Over on Channel 11, Amy Marcinkiewicz interviewed the same alleged victim. Where Sheehan's follow-up was more about how the church defends itself in legal briefs, Marcinkiewicz basically went over the nuts and bolts of the case that Sheehan reported last year.

WTAE did the same story last Thursday and followed it Friday with a piece on sex abuse charges leveled against a former nun decades after the abuse allegedly occurred. Channel 4's Paul Van Osdol wins an award for most far-flung locations in a sweeps report, including stand-ups in Harrisburg and Cleveland, where he attempted, without success (naturally), to interview the accused as she got into her car.

The first case reported on by all three stations seemed to have a good bit of validity (multiple victims, multiple incidents of alleged abuse). WTAE's nun case was a little shakier (one victim), but that didn't stop Channel 4 from using video that showed the accused walk in slow motion as if seen through a keyhole. The report took all the precautions to label the charges as "allegations," but trumped-up video like that all but screams "Scandal!" and at least implies "Guilty!"

Good sweeps

It hasn't been all bad. WTAE's Van Osdol had an informative report on a "defrocked" nurse operating a laser center in Cranberry.

KDKA's Sheehan showed how the bloated Allegheny County government contributes to steep tax rates.

WPXI's Natasha Brown reported on people stealing from Goodwill donation center bins, a worthy story in or out of sweeps.

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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