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Ratings: UPN's controversial 'Amish in the City' scores big in premiere


By Wade Paulsen, 07/31/2004 

Looks like U.S. reality TV viewers have figured out -- after 9 years -- where to find UPN, the smallest of the 6 U.S. broadcast networks, on their sets.

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The premiere of UPN's controversial reality TV show Amish in the City led UPN to a second place finish among Adults 18-34 (2.2/8) and Adults 18-49 (2.4/7) during UPN's 8-10 PM ET/PT broadcast window, according to Nielsen preliminary affiliate-based ratings for July 28. As a result, UPN trailed only Fox (led by The Simple Life 2: Road Trip's 3.7/11 rating among A18-49) among Adults 18-34 and Adults 18-49 for the night.

With 5.2 million viewers tuning in, and with the number of viewers increasing in every half-hour segment, Amish in the City .. uh, UPN ... also ranked third on the night among total viewers, beating NBC, ABC and The WB and trailing only Fox and UPN's corporate sibling CBS.

In the most decisive clobbering of the night among competing reality shows, Amish in the City whomped the finale of NBCís Next Action Star among Adults 18-34 (2.0/7 v. 0.9/4), Adults 18-49 (2.3/8 v. 1.4/5) and total viewers (5.2mil v. 3.7mil).

Amish in the City also racked up UPNís best Wednesday night results since May 2002 (for the first-season finale of the Star Trek spinoff Enterprise) in Adults 18-34, Adults 18-49 and total viewers. More surprisingly, these are the best Wednesday ratings earned by the "netlet" for seven years, since September 1997, in these three categories

Compared to UPNís previous performance this summer on Wednesday, Amish in the City improved the nightís ratings by +340% in Adults 18-34, +300% in Adults 18-49 and +222% in total viewers. It also outperformed UPNís Wednesday night average during the 2003-04 season by +120% in A18-34, +100% in A18-49 and +83% in total viewers. Of course, we note that improving on UPN's prior performance is like being more courageous than the French -- it doesn't take much.

According to the overnight ratings, city folk were the most interested in Amish in the City. The show ranked first for the night in 14 major viewing areas: New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston (burying the Democratic National Convention, in town for the week), Denver, Washington D.C., Seattle, Phoenix, Cleveland, Sacramento, Portland (Ore.), Indianapolis, Norfolk, and Oklahoma City. In the weighted "overnight" average of the 55 metered markets, UPN actually won the night with Amish in the City.

As a result, UPN will rebroadcast the premiere episode of Amish in the City on Friday, July 30 (8-10 PM, ET/PT).

Meanwhile, the show's most vocal critic, U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), was, predictably, not mollified by the show's positive portrayal of the Amish. Rep. Pitts told the ParkesBurg Post Ledger that "the characters [UPN] chose seem to grossly distort Amish belief and culture" and were probably "the wildest [Viacom co-COO Les Moonves] could find." We rather doubt that Moonves played any role in casting the show, and we also think that anyone who expects another person (or persons) to "represent" another group is likely to be disappointed, since even, say, a congressman is representative of only a fraction of his constituents.

In closing, Rep. Pitts opined that, "These kids do not represent the Amish community, their stories do not accurately depict the rumspringa, and Les Moonves could care less." We think he's right on two out of three.

As we said before, expecting anyone to "represent" the Amish is foolish. Also, most Amish youths on rumspringa do not have the money to travel more than a few miles away from their homes (primarily in Ohio and Pennsylvania), and probably no other youths on rumspringa have ever lived in the Hollywood Hills, but that only serves to increase the culture shock that SHOULD accompany rumspringa if the youths are to make an informed choice to be baptized (as Anabaptists like the Amish are expected to do).

But we think Les Moonves cares quite a bit -- just not about what Joe Pitts thinks.

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