'Kid' stays in the picture

CBS rookie only so-so but tops demo

CBS' controversial "Kid Nation" debuted to less than overwhelming ratings Wednesday while airing with fewer commercials than normal.

Whether it was the negative publicity surrounding alleged child labor law violations in New Mexico or strong competition from NBC's "Deal or No Deal" and Fox's premiere of "Back to You," "Kid Nation" bowed with 9.4 million viewers and a 3.1 rating/9 share in the adults 18-49 demographic, Nielsen Media Research said Thursday. It was enough to win its time period in adults 18-49 but was below expectations of 10 million-12 million viewers for the premiere.

The youth reality series slugged it out but lost in its first half-hour with the decidedly grayer "Back to You" (9.4 million, 3.1/9), starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, and was surpassed in viewership in the second half because of a surge by "Deal" (9.7 million, 2.5/8). The jury's still out on whether "Kid Nation" will build buzz next week or whether the negative press scared too many away.

The show hasn't yet caught fire among advertisers, either. The Eye has acknowledged that some advertisers were taking a wait-and-see approach. The episode ran 58 minutes, compared with the normal 44 minutes for an hour; it aired from 8-9:06 p.m.

The rest of the time went to a mix of commercials and promos. CBS said that wasn't related to any lack of advertising but stemmed from "Kid Nation" originally being scheduled as a 90-minute summer premiere. The first commercial break came about 38 minutes into the program, with another break 10 minutes later. The original "Kid Nation" episode ran more than an hour before being edited.

CBS said it followed a similar formula with "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race" and that "Kid Nation" will have a full commercial load in the conventional hourlong format beginning next week.

"Kid Nation" wasn't screened for critics ahead of time, and off-air reviews from the mainstream media were decidedly mixed. Online viewer reaction came in strong on either side. But one media critic, Central Michigan University's Patty Williamson, said that for all that controversy, it was a somewhat boring view.

"CBS had a great opportunity to bring in people due to the controversy, but overall there wasn't that much compelling about the show," Williamson said. "But at the same time, I think it's an option for family viewing compared to other reality series." CBS said Thursday that it would air the "Kid Nation" premiere again at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Meanwhile, Fox faltered a bit with the sophomore-season premiere of " 'Til Death" (7.8 million, 2.7/8) before coming back to win adults 18-49 with "Kitchen Nightmares" (6.6 million, 3.1/8). That beat "Last Comic Standing" (7.1 million, 2.9/8) on NBC. The CW's "America's Next Top Model" (5.2 million, 2.5/8) won in the young and young female demos; "Gossip Girl" (3.5 million, 1.6/4) fell in viewers but still won in young female and teen demos.
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