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'Hank' is not hammering for ABC

October 8, 2009 | 10:57 am

Although it's been on for only two weeks, it might be time for ABC to rethink its Wednesday night leadoff hitter, "Hank." 

In its second airing, "Hank," which stars Kelsey Grammer as an out-of-work big shot who moves to a small town (let the hilarity ensue), saw its audience fall 13% to 6.8 million and its rating in the key adults 18-49 demographic drop by 24% to a 1.6, barely beating the CW's "America's Next Top Model." Each rating in the 18-49 demographic represents 1.3 million people. 

HANK The poor start of "Hank" at 8 p.m. is hurting the rest of ABC's promising lineup. "The Middle," which follows "Hank," built on its 18-49 rating by 31% to a 2.1 rating, but it still finished third in 18-49. At 9, ABC critical darling "Modern Family" built on "The Middle," scoring 8.4 million viewers and a 3.2 rating in adults 18-49. At 9:30, "Cougar Town's" audience dipped, but it pretty much retained the 18-49 feed it got from "Modern Family." Both finished in a virtual tie for second in that demographic with Fox's hot "Glee." The No. 1 show in the time period remains CBS' low-key "Criminal Minds," which has quietly -- meaning critics don't fawn over it -- become a juggernaut for the network.

While it may seem harsh to pin a network's woes on one show, if your leadoff batter (forgive all the baseball analogies, but it's playoff time) doesn't get on base, it makes it harder for everyone else to get momentum going. "Hank" already has the stigma of having its pilot redone, meaning there has already been a lot of concern about the creative viability of the show. 

For the night, CBS won in viewers with 10.9 million, followed by NBC (no, that's not a mistake; "Mercy" and the veteran "Law & Order SVU" did OK with viewers) with 7 million, Fox nipped ABC with 6.74 million to 6.72 million and the CW averaged 2.2 million. In 18-49, it was CBS and Fox tied with a 2.8, followed by ABC with a 2.3, NBC with a 2.0 and the CW with a 1.0. Keep in mind that TBS had some baseball that ran into prime time and that also probably took a little bite out of the numbers.

In late night, ABC's "Nightline" has now beaten NBC's "Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" in viewers for 15 weeks in a row. For the week of Sept. 28, "Nightline" averaged almost 4 million viewers while "Tonight Show" averaged 2.7 million. Both were trailing CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman," which averaged 4.4 million viewers.

Got a feeling Letterman's numbers may be even higher this week.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Kelsey Grammer in ABC's "Hank." Credit: Patrick Wymore/ABC