'Smush' on Midnight Duty


USA Network pushed Smush
back to midnight duty last week, putting the rollicking first-run game show's future in — pardon the genre pun —jeopardy.

The decision came six weeks after USA launched Smush
as its great bright hope in original late-night fare. It also came three weeks after network executives expressed confidence in the show's future, despite a mixed ratings start.

On Dec. 24, USA said that though the game's average nightly rating was smaller than its 11 p.m. predecessor — reruns of the off-network series Martin— returns within the core 25-to-54 demo returns were even with the sitcom.

What's changed since then? There has been no appreciable growth in either ratings or demos. And USA concluded that while the effort from Michael Davies, co-executive producer of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, was well-executed and well-received by critics, it's too quirky for the network.

"We need to be taking a bolder, blockbuster, pop corner approach, and Smush
comes off as a niche show that feels more at home on a channel like E! Entertainment Television or VH1," said USA president Doug Herzog.

For now, Smush
will play the rest of its 65-episode term at midnight. USA has yet to discuss the option of taking the show to E!, VH1 or another cable network. In the meantime, Martin
is back as the late-night linchpin.

Initially, Smush
was destined to be the first half of an original late-night USA hour, partnered with a topical, same day-produced game show from Broadway Video, the production company of Saturday Night Live
creator Lorne Michaels.

Michaels's project will now take the 11 p.m. position, but it won't bow until late summer, Herzog said.