Tuesday, May 3, 2005

The animated series Family Guy returned to the FOX television network with a new episode Sunday for the first time since it was taken off the schedule three years ago. Although the show kept most of its audience that lead-in The Simpsons gave, FOX was still fourth out of five major broadcast networks in the half-hour, losing most notably to ABC‘s hit Desperate Housewives (UPN, the other major American broadcast network, does not air original programming on Sundays).

However, the season premiere of Family Guy and the series debut of American Dad (which helped usher in what the network termed “The New FOX Sunday”) helped bring FOX to the #2 spot out of five networks in the crucial 18 to 49 demographic, one of the most important to advertisers in the key May sweeps period. “Sweeps” occurs four times a year and helps networks and independent affiliates determine how much a fixed amount of time for commercial advertisement will cost (the higher the ratings, the more revenue for the networks selling the time to advertisers).

On the whole, Family Guy averaged a 6.3 rating in the overnights as posted by Zap2It. While the overnight ratings are fairly accurate, the numbers are preliminary and are subject to minor change. One ratings point is equal to 1,096,000 households, as there are now 109,600,000 households in the United States with at least one television. This translates into a little more than 6.9 million households whose sets were tuned into Family Guy, as recorded by the sample of “Nielsen families,” who record their viewing habits and contribute to the ratings process the US uses. The use of the word “share” in the article means that it is the rough percentage of viewers with their sets on at that hour tuning into a certain program. For example, nine percent of viewers in the United States with their televisions on at 9 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time were tuned to Family Guy.

This only added up to a 9 household share for the hour, compared to an 11 share for Law & Order: Criminal Intent on NBC, a 14 share for a CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame movie of the week (traditionally only aired during the key sweeps periods), and a 23 share for the aforementioned Desperate Housewives. Averaged with the performance of American Dad, a cartoon produced by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, FOX earned a mere 5.8 rating/9 share for the hour.

The episode revolved around a big scheme Peter Griffin, the main character of the series, conjured. To give his wife Lois (who no longer finds him sexually attractive) a second honeymoon in order to “spice up” their love life, he pretends to be actor Mel Gibson so they can stay in a new luxury hotel for free. Peter stumbles upon a sequel to the film The Passion of the Christ, and vows to keep the movie from ever seeing the light of day. To get the movie back, Gibson kidnaps Lois and keeps her captive on top of Mount Rushmore, which leads to a scene in which the three battle on top of the monument, in a homage to the film North by Northwest.

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