There may be no country
for old men at the movies, but there’s certainly a place and an audience for aging original TV series on USA Network.
USA’s dramedy series Monk finished its sixth season with the most viewers in its history, including a series-high 6.8 million viewers for the Feb. 22 season finale.
The series, starring Tony Shalhoub as the obsessive-compulsive sleuth Adrian Monk, helped USA Network average more viewers than any other cable network in February, according to Nielsen Media Research (see related chart).
While most scripted basic-cable series experience a ratings decline after three or four years on the air, Monk saved its best ratings performance for its sixth season. The second half of season six, which began Jan. 11, averaged 6.1 million viewers over six episodes.
That bested the 5.5 million viewers the series averaged for seven episodes during the first half of the fifth season in July 2006 and the 5.4 million viewers the series generated during the first part of season six which began in July 2007.
While the series benefited from the lack of first-run original scripted fare on the broadcast networks due to the now-settled writer’s strike, USA executive vice president of original programming Jeff Wachtel said the series’ uniqueness as well as the extraordinary performance of Shalhoub — who has won three Emmy Awards for his Monk portrayal — has kept the series popular among viewers.
“Moment by moment, Monk is one of the most unpredictable shows on television,” Wachtel said. “At any given moment it could be a mystery, a character drama, comedy, suspense — it thrives because it refuses to settle in.”
Monk is expected to gain even more exposure through broadcast brethren NBC’s repurposing of the series, along with USA Network dramedy Psych, which began last night (March 2).
With USA two weeks ago agreeing to bring back Monk for a seventh season, the series will lead the network’s summer lineup of original scripted series that will include new episodes of returning series Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Psych, Burn Notice and The Starter Wife.
USA has also moved the premiere of In Plain Sight from April to early summer, according to the network. That series stars Mary McCormack as a U.S. marshal working in the highly secretive branch of the witness protection program that relocates federal witnesses.
The network is looking at several other series that could debut this year, Wachtel added, but he would not disclose specific details.