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Are viewers over Jessica Simpson? Ratings are in for her VH1 show 'The Price of Beauty'

March 17, 2010 |  9:43 am

Thailand-Cacee-Jessica-Ken-with-locals

Not gonna lie: It isn't pretty.

Just 1 million viewers tuned in to the Monday premiere of Jessica Simpson's "The Price of Beauty," a new VH1 documentary series chronicling her journey around the world in search of what beauty means in different cultures.

To put that in perspective, the premiere was beat by far less-hyped programming on cable, everything from a rerun of "NCIS," a TruTV series called "Operation Repo" and BET's "Rip the Runway" to Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and History Channel's "Pawn Stars."

The results are surprising: John Mayer had put Simpson back in the spotlight when he compared the former couple's bedroom activity to "sexual napalm" in an interview for Playboy magazine. And Simpson herself went all out to promote the show -- Oprah and David Letterman had her on earlier this month -- speaking candidly with anyone who would listen to her talk about Mayer's comments, being called fat in the media and her return to television (Simpson's first since MTV's "Newlyweds").

Ratings for "Price of Beauty" even paled in comparison to VH1's last high-profile launch, the reality series "Fantasia For Real," which last month debuted to 2.3 million viewers. (On the other hand, "Fantasia" numbers have since cooled significantly, and VH1 overall is in a bit of a slump: In February, the channel drew an average 644,000 viewers in prime time -- off 20% from February 2009.)

Could it be that viewers are suffering Simpson fatigue? Happy to see her as they page through the tabloids, but not wanting to tune in for a full half-hour? Or maybe no one's yet realized the show isn't entirely about Simpson. In its review of the show, Time magazine gave the series credit for being a less trashy reality TV option:

"While Simpson can be, shall we say, less than culturally sensitive at times (she gets a Thai massage and says she assumed it came with a "happy ending"), she comes across not snarky or superior but as a good-naturedly clueless American willing to learn something. It's not 'Frontline,' but it's a refreshing change from VH1's dating shows."

-- Denise Martin

Photo: VH1

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