In the world of television, Oct. 30 through Nov. 25 is known as “Sweeps Month.” That’s when networks compile their ratings in order to set ad rates for the next year. The higher the ratings, the higher the rates. Tried-and-true methods for attracting more viewers include: guest stars, weddings, births, miniseries and specials. And of course, hiding ratings losers under the rug for four weeks. (Sorry, fans of FOX’s “Dollhouse.”) So what sort of insidious schemes have the networks cooked up to lure us away from cable, movie theaters, the Xbox 360 and actual interaction with friends and family?
New Stuff—Now that Jay Leno has invaded prime time, TV is handing out talk shows like leftover Halloween candy. You can look forward to “The Wanda Sykes Show” (KASA-2 Nov. 7) as well as the George Lopez-led “Lopez Tonight” (TBS Nov. 9). At the very least, these two will contribute to ethnic diversity among television’s glut of ass-kissing celebrity chat shows.
Also new—but not quite—is ABC’s remake of “V” (KOAT-7 Nov. 3), which began life as a miniseries back in 1983. Unfortunately, this alien invader update is getting only four airings before being booted off the dial until spring. Not to be left behind, American Movie Classics is doing a sci-fi remake of their own—this one of the trippy ’60s series “The Prisoner” (AMC Nov. 15).
Guest Stars Galore—I don’t know if you heard (or care), but Leighton Meester (Blair Waldorf on “Gossip Girl”) just recorded an album. You can see her sing selections from it on “Gossip Girl” (KWBQ-19 Nov. 16), where she’ll be joined by musical guest Lady Gaga. Cool chick Elizabeth Banks (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Role Models) stops by “Modern Family” (KOAT-7 Nov. 18), rap star Eve lends her pipes to FOX’s “Glee” (KASA-2 Nov. 25) and Brit comedian Stephen Fry visits “Bones” (KASA-2 Nov. 12). The WB’s no-longer-a-Superboy / not-yet-a-Superman series “Smallville” (KWBQ-19 Nov. 13) has got a number of comic book-inspired guests waiting in the wings, but the weirdest are the Wonder Twins, Zan and Jayna (David Gallagher and Allison Scagliotti). No word on who’ll play space monkey Gleek.
In the longer-term commitment category, Kim Raver (“24”) joins the cast of “Grey’s Anatomy” (KOAT-7 Nov. 12). Amanda Woodward (Heather Locklear) returns home to “Melrose Place” (KWBQ-19 Nov. 17)—at least until another Sweeps Month prompts her shocking murder. And for reasons known only to himself, James Franco (Spider-Man) joins the cast of “General Hospital” (KOAT-7 Nov. 20) on a semipermanent basis.
Stunts—“90210” (KWBQ-19 Nov. 17) is doing the opposite of “Melrose Place” and killing off an original cast member for its sweeps stunt. Internet rumor pegs Jackie Taylor (Ann Gillespie) as the walking corpse. “House M.D.” (KASA-2 Nov. 23) follows suit, bumping off one of its original cast members (Jennifer Morrison, maybe).
After NBC’s awkward insertion of the subject of “volunteerism” into a number of shows, the network is doing the same for environmentalism. “Heroes,” “Parks and Recreation,” “The Office,” “30 Rock,” “The Biggest Loser,” “Mercy,” “Trauma” and “Law & Order” / “Law & Order: SVU” will all offer cursory conservation themes during Green Week (KOB-4 week of Nov. 15)—which sounds like just the thing to lift NBC out of its ratings basement.
CBS, meanwhile, figures it might as well beat its ratings warhorse to death during sweeps. New recruit to the “CSI” franchise Laurence Fishburne will do triple duty this November, dropping by each of the show’s various incarnations. He starts out in Miami, heads to New York and finally goes home to Vegas and the original “CSI” (KRQE-13 Nov. 9, 11 and 12).