Nets Slate New Episodes of Bull, Beach


FX and Turner Network Television have ordered additional batches of their new original series, the comedy spoofSon of the Beachand the hour-long dramaBull,respectively.

FX gave the green light to a second season ofSon of the Beach,with 15 episodes set to premiere late in first-quarter 2001, officials said last week.

TNT ordered another nine episodes ofBull.With that move, TNT has now committed to 22 episodes of the series, about a group of investment bankers who break away from an established Wall Street firm to start their own company. It hopesBullwill be the flagship for its expansion into the original-series genre.

Son of the Beach,produced by The Howard Stern Production Co. in association with Fox Television Studios, has generated FX's highest-ever ratings for an original series. Over its initial 13-episode run, the lifeguard spoof averaged a 1.5 rating, for an increase of 217 percent versus the time period a year ago, according to Nielsen Media Research data supplied by FX.

"Son of the Beachclearly performed at a level that warranted it being renewed," FX president Peter Liguori said. "When you do a series, you hope for the best. It's extremely hard to break a 1.0 in the world of cable with an original series."

Last week, FX began a 12-week cycle of repeats ofSon of the Beach's first thirteen episodes, in order, on Tuesdays at 10 p.m.

For its part,Bull's first five plays in its 10 p.m. Tuesday slot have averaged a 1.2 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. That's just 7 percent ahead of the 1.17 rating of the films that aired in time period a year ago-even though TNT has spent a large amount of money advertising and promotingBull,which was well-received by TV critics.

The average ratings performance forBullandSon of the Beachare not as strong as some other cable series that premiered this summer. For example, Lifetime Television'sStrong Medicineaverages a 2.0. Comedy Central'sBattleBotswas tallying an approximate 2.0 rating over its first few airings. Year-to-date,Strong Medicineis the No. 1-rated original dramatic series on cable, according to Tim Brooks, senior vice president of research at Lifetime. It is followed by Lifetime'sAny Day Now,with a 1.8 rating. USA Network has the next three highest-rated dramas:Cover Me,with a 1.6; andThe HuntressandLa Femme Nikita,each with a 1.5.

ThoughBull's1.2 rating hasn't been a blockbuster, each episode is aired three times a week. Those three plays reach a cumulative 2 million homes. AndBull's demographics have also been attractive, officials said.

So despite somewhat lukewarm ratings, TNT plans to stick withBulland continue to aggressively promote it until it finds an audience.

"There is a strong feeling within the network that the show is wonderful," TNT senior vice president of marketing Scot Safon said. "This is something worth nurturing. The ratings in the key demographics are growing."

The nine just-orderedBullepisodes will air in January, and high-level promotional efforts for the show will continue then, Safon said.

One reasonStrong Medicinehas done well, said Safon, is that viewers now know that they can go to Lifetime for dramatic series, because of shows likeAny Day Now.IfBullbecomes a success, it can be used as a promotional platform to draw an audience for TNT's future original series as they debut. Viewers will realize that TNT is a venue for such shows, according to Safon.

For FX, Liguori said he'd to have a half-hour companion show to run alongsideSon of the Beach.FX is also looking at hour-long dramatic series and more original movies, he added.

FX's telepicThe Sightwill debut Oct. 29, and could be the basis for a weekly series.