There was a time when NBC aired Olympic programming and its rival networks largely offered little competition. The feeling was that audiences were so enthralled by ice skating and hockey in the winter or track and field and basketball during the summer that it didn't make commercial sense to try and counter these events with new shows.
But that was before NBC proceeded to pretty much destroy its competitive advantage with the Jay Leno fiasco, and the recession wrecked havoc with all previous forecasts.
NBC now is acknowledging that it will lose at least $200 million on the Winter Olympics, while only CBS is giving NBC the customary pass they've usually gotten in terms of putting on fresh shows against their events.
ABC's (WKRN-2) big gun currently is Lost, which has been generating online sparks in its final season with episodes encompassing such plot devices as "flash-sideways alternate reality," utilizing entire shows to spotlight individual characters and generally sending enough false clues and optional scenarios to keep fans and critics constantly guessing about what will happen as the show heads toward a finale.
The show’s producers have presented everything from different passenger lists to characters reappearing (or maybe not reappearing), and there's no signs that the fun's about to stop anytime soon.
Think NBC can top that with coverage of curling or two-man luge?
Tuesday night's episode of Lost (8 p.m.) promises more fireworks, though it's always appropriate to note that the producers are fond of dispensing dubious hints about what will happen. The only thing that's certain is Dr. Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) is the main character in the spotlight, and that the episode spotlights the previously unseen Lighthouse Dharma station. Beyond that no one knows who or what's going to happen — and that's certainly been part of this season's charm.
The premiere episode attracted more than 12 million viewers despite going head to head with both NCIS and American Idol and the show is still doing decently despite being in one of the week's toughest time slots.
The prospectus for new ABC prospects The Forgotten and The Deep End to last beyond the season aren't very good, and neither is getting much attention even from those seeking Olympic Games alternatives.
As usual, Fox's (WZTV-17) big winter attraction remains American Idol, and this season has proven no exception. Between news of Simon Cowell's impending departure, Ellen Degeneres' arrival as a new judge and other changes designed to get more contestants on air faster, the show remains formidable, even if it's no longer routinely getting 30 million viewers every week.
Tuesday night’s two-hour episode features the Top 12 female singers, while the Top 12 males are center stage Wednesday Then on Thursday (shows all three evenings begin at 7 p.m.) it's the first results program where two male and two female semifinalists are eliminated.
The CW's (CW-58) Smallville puts Lois Lane (Erica Durance) in the spotlight Friday (7 p.m.) when she's kidnapped by a doctor who’s on the run from other super-powered types. The bigger news for the network was its announcement of renewals for several shows, among them Gossip Girl, 90210 and Supernatural. Plus all indications are that Smallville will be back for a 10th season, which is about three more than its creators originally planned.