Talk about a wake-up call: After nearly five months on the air, CBS’ The Early Show is averaging a mere 2.7 million viewers, 300,000 fewer than the show it replaced did at the same time last year. Today (6.2 million) and Good Morning America (4.5 million), on the other hand, have actually gained viewers. Early’s senior exec producer, Steve Friedman, concedes ratings should be better, but ”no one ever sold this show as something that’s going to come on and set the world on fire,” he says. ”It’s like opening up a fast-food hamburger stand across from McDonald’s and Burger King.” Fortunately, history is on CBS’ side; it took Today four seasons to recoup its No. 1 spot after Tom Brokaw left in 1981, and it took GMA three seasons to reclaim first place after David Hartman left in 1987. What’s more, insiders don’t believe GMA’s Diane Sawyer and Charlie Gibson are in it for the long haul, although a network spokeswoman claims they’re on board ”indefinitely.” ”We hope others feel sorry for us and try to mess up,” says Friedman. ”And they’ve proven they can do this.”
Barbara’s Side Show
Now that her ABC talker The View is a hit, Barbara Walters has set her sights on another daytime project. Sources say Walters and the Disney-owned Buena Vista Television are quietly developing a chat show featuring self-empowerment guru Iyanla Vanzant, the best-selling author who frequently appears on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Some ABC insiders are wondering whether the Vanzant vehicle is being prepped to replace the net’s low-rated Port Charles soap opera. An ABC spokeswoman insists there are no plans to cancel the network-owned drama. In addition, says an insider, ”it’s too early in the development process to tell” whether Vanzant’s got a future on the alphabet.
Statue of Limitations
In the aftermath of the Oscars, it’s only fair that we pay homage to those trophy-fests that may no longer be with us. Insiders at Fox say it’s unlikely the American Comedy Awards (which only managed to attract 5.4 million viewers on March 23) will return next season, and a third installment of the TV Guide Awards, whose March 5 airing lost 3 million viewers from last year’s 11.1 million showing, is also iffy. And not only is The WB rethinking its low-rated Radio Music Awards (which honors the year’s hottest bands), it also scrapped plans for an MTV Movie Awards-style special. ”Awards shows are difficult to launch,” admits Mike Darnell, exec VP of specials at Fox, which still has Teen Choice, Billboard, NAACP, Blockbuster, and Essence awards shows in the works. And Darnell’s open to adding more: ”If the right production came in, we’d buy it.” Isn’t that the attitude that got ‘em in trouble with Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?