'Monk’ Puts On A Big Show


USA Network viewers can’t get enough of obsessive-compulsive detective Monk.

The Jan. 11 season-six premiere of the Tony Shalhoub-starrer drew 5.6 million viewers, the best showing for a Monk premiere episode since July 2005, when the show drew 6.3 million viewers.

But USA has yet to renew the show for a seventh season, although officials are confident they will bring the quirky character back to the network.

“We are very close to making a deal for additional seasons,” USA executive vice president of original programming Jeff Wachtel said of the series, for which Shalhoub has won three Emmy Awards.

This season’s premiere, which featured an appearance by Deal or No Deal game-show host Howie Mandel, eclipsed the 4.8 million viewers that the show generated for last July’s premiere of the first half of season six, and the 5.1 million the show garnered a year ago for the debut of the back end of season five, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Wachtel believes Monk could maintain its strong ratings debut, particularly as more broadcast-network scripted series go into reruns due to the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike.

“Winter is a very competitive and risky time for us, but the show has thus far held its own,” he said. “Right now there’s nothing like it on TV. … Monk has crossed over from being a cable hit to something of a cultural phenomenon.”

USA also scored a strong ratings performance that same night from the third-season premiere of Psych, which drew 4.6 million viewers. The dramedy’s performance was its best since it drew 6 million viewers for its pilot episode in July 2006.

Wachtel said Psych is also beginning to obtain that pop-culture status that Monk has obtained, particularly with younger viewers.

Both shows are scheduled to be repurposed on broadcast sibling NBC, beginning March 2. Wachtel said that will provide even greater exposure for both shows.

In other NBC Universal cable news, Dave Howe last week was named president of Sci Fi Channel.

Previously, Howe held the title of general manager and executive vice president for the 93 million subscriber service. But in an unusual situation, Howe’s boss Bonnie Hammer will retain her titles of president of both USA Network and Sci Fi Channel, although Howe will now be running Sci Fi and its original programming unit will now report to him, not Hammer.

Howe will oversee original development, programming and marketing, global brand strategy and market development, strategic planning, Sci Fi digital (Scifi.com, Sci Fi Pulse, DVice.com), Sci Fi Magazine, media relations and Sci Fi’s recently launched public-affairs initiative, “Visions for Tomorrow.”

In addition, Howe is charged with launching a new global brand identity for the network and driving Sci Fi’s continuing strategy to expand and diversify its business portfolio beyond broadcast and digital media.

Linda Moss contributed to this article.