'Homicide' killed in nationwide ratings

February 05, 1993|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

Barry Levinson's "Homicide" is hot in Baltimore, but the rest of the country was decidedly cool to the new show Wednesday night.

Those are the results of the first major ratings test for "Homicide," as it took its regular spot in NBC's weekly lineup and went head-to-head with ABC's hit sitcoms "Home Improvement" and "Coach."

Assessing the early returns, Emily Barr, director of broadcast operations at WMAR (Channel 2), said, "I think its future looks good, but only if NBC can keep it in a consistent time period . . . and sticks with it until it catches on like [NBC'] did with 'Hill Street Blues.' "

Sources at NBC said yesterday the show is going to need a safer time period if it is going to succeed.

In Baltimore, the hourlong drama won its time period from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. with an impressive 20.2 rating and 28 share. That translates to about 186,000 area homes and probably about 400,000 viewers.

What's really impressive about those numbers is that they came at the expense of two top 10 shows. Tim Allen's "Home Improvement" beat "Homicide" the first half hour with its 22.4 bTC rating and 30 share. But "Homicide" topped "Coach," starring Craig T. Nelson, from 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. "Coach" had a 16.6 rating with a 23 share Wednesday, which means ABC's average for the hour was a 19.5 rating and 26.5 share.

But, nationally, it was a different story. In the 27 other metered markets, "Home Improvement" and "Coach" trounced "Homicide," more than doubling the audience that watched the show about homicide detectives in Baltimore.

"Homicide" scored only a 9.8 rating and 14 share nationally, which translates to about 9 million homes. "Home Improvement," meanwhile, scored a 23 rating and 33 share, while "Coach" earned an 18.9 rating and 27 share.

Worse, "Homicide" was beaten by CBS' "In the Heat of the Night," which earned a 10.5 rating and 15 share. The only major show that "Homicide" scored higher than was "Melrose Place" on Fox, which earned an 8.7 rating and 12 share. But because it has fewer affiliates, Fox series never score as high as those of the traditional networks in overall ratings.

Worse, yet, "Homicide" dropped to that 9.8 from a lead-in rating of 14.1 from "Unsolved Mysteries." And, after "Homicide," NBC bounced back up to an 11.4 for "Law and Order." All of which means there was tune-out on "Homicide."

About the only comfort for "Homicide" in the national ratings is that it did only slightly worse than "Seinfeld" and "Mad About You" did when they were in the Death Valley opposite "Home Improvement" and "Coach" before being moved to Thursday and Saturday, respectively. Last week, "Seinfeld" earned a 12.1 rating and 17 share, while "Mad About You" garnered a 9 rating and 13 share.

Yesterday, NBC's official word on "Homicide" was "We'll have to wait and see."

Last week, Kevin Reilly, vice president for drama development at NBC, said the network's expectations for the series in its current time slot "were modest." Reilly was reluctant to say what rating the show had to achieve to stay on the air. But he did say, "If its languishing at, say, a 10 share, then even if we like the show, we'd have to re-evaluate it. . . . That's a situation like 'I'll Fly Away.' "

As for "Homicide" finding a consistent time period, which Channel 2's Barr believes it needs to survive, the February schedule holds some bad news. On Feb. 17, "Homicide" will be pre-empted for President Clinton's State of the Union Address and on Feb. 24 the series goes up against the Grammy Awards show.

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