It’s been a particularly strong summer for traditional television — somewhat unusual for a prime-time landscape usually populated by forgettable burnoffs and repeats and increasingly infringed-upon by digital networks.
With a few exceptions (“The Gong Show,” “I’m Dying Up Here”), network TV (broadcast and cable) hasn’t suffered from viewer malaise since the regular season ended in mid-May — with both returning shows and newcomers fueling the ratings fire.
(Not included here are streaming shows, since Netflix, Hulu, Amazon et al. don’t release ratings — so it’s difficult to tell what’s striking a chord.)
Here’s a look at some of the more notable summer 2017 success stories.
“The Sinner” (USA): The eight-episode thriller, adapted from Petra Hammesfahr’s novel, stars Jessica Biel as a troubled wife and mother who kills a fellow beachgoer in the very first episode — leaving viewers and Det. Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) to decipher why she committed the murder. It’s been the summer’s top-rated new cable drama with an average of 3.5 million viewers.
“American Ninja Warrior” (NBC): Not too surprising, since “ANW” has been a fan favorite and ratings-grabber since its 2012 NBC premiere (it’s in its ninth season overall).
“Big Brother” (CBS): The reality show warhorse, now in its 19th season, continues to be a dependable performer for CBS with host Julie Chen and the usual assortment of cookie-cutter houseguests (the jock, the nerd, the mean girl, the wiseass, etc.). Several houseguests have injured themselves this season, which didn’t hurt (the ratings). It’s been pulling in around 6.5 million viewers.
“America’s Got Talent” (NBC): The popular contest is having one of its most-watched seasons ever — this for a show that’s in its 12th season (and has never won an Emmy). Exec producer/judge Simon Cowell attributes the big numbers (13 million viewers a week) to the show’s lack of shtick and this summer’s roster, including 12-year-old ventriloquist Darci Lynn Farmer and deaf singer Mandy Harvey.
“Game of Thrones” (HBO): Expectations for Season 7 were high — and “GoT” hasn’t disappointed, hitting a series’ high of 10.7 million viewers for its Aug. 13 episode. Sunday night’s season finale could shatter another record once all the numbers are in.
“The Night Shift” (NBC): The Texas-based medical drama added Mark Consuelos and has been a dependable performer, likely earning a fifth season.
Most of ABC’s game-show lineup: “The $100,000 Pyramid,” “Match Game” and “Celebrity Family Feud” did well enough to earn third seasons. ABC’s reboot of “The Gong Show,” hosted by Mike Myers (in the guise of comedian Tommy Maitland), hasn’t lived up to expectations. Its future is undecided, but the network’s silence is deafening.
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