WASHINGTON, May 20, 2013 —This year, cable network programming has given us some of the best entertainment on TV while attracting a record number of viewers. Event programming like “The Bible” and “Vikings” gets some of the credit for cable’s rise in prominence. But it’s the weekly shows on cable that do the heavy lifting in the ratings race.
Niche programming has been hugely successful for cable, proving that gender specific programs need not have a huge audience to be successful. Man-friendly shows like “Pawn Stars,” Duck Dynasty,” “American Pickers,” “Ax Men,” and “The Deadliest Catch” have a devoted fan base that amounts to an ad executive’s dream come true.
The plethora of female-friendly cable counterparts like “Army Wives,” “Say Yes to the Dress,” “The Real Housewives of …” and “Long Island Medium” are equally lucrative in their targeted demographic.
To put cable’s phenomenal growth in perspective consider this: ten years ago the top cable program was ranked 258th in the Nielsen ratings. So far this year, cable broadcasts of “The Walking Dead,” “Duck Dynasty,” “Game of Thrones” and “The Bible” have routinely beaten their major broadcast competition.
While cable networks deserve the majority of credit for their enviable growth, they owe a lot to the increasingly mediocre programming presented by the major broadcast networks.
With no less than a dozen competitive reality shows on the air at any given time, is it any wonder the TV audience is finding its entertainment elsewhere?
Two shows that have enjoyed the viewer migration from broadcast to cable TV are “Bates Motel” on A&E and “Rectify” on Sundance Channel. These two scripted dramas have been well received by critics and viewers alike, and both have been renewed for a second season. Since both season finales air at 10 p.m. tonight, the only dilemma is choosing which one to watch and which one to record.
Elsewhere tonight, CBS airs the season finales of “Rules of Engagement,” “Mike and Molly” and “Hawaii Five-0.” For fans of “Rules of Engagement,” this will be your last chance to see an original episode since CBS recently cancelled this long-running series.
Last but certainly not least; at 9 p.m. tonight, PBS will air a retrospective of the works of Mel Brooks.
The name may no longer be familiar with members of the current generation.
But for the rest of us, Mel Brooks, creator of comic film classics like “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein,” will always be the genius of satirical comedy.
Tune in tonight to see why.
All times are EDT:
ABC: Dancing With the Stars: (Live) The couples compete in three rounds of dance.
CBS: 2 Broke Girls: (Repeat) Max and Caroline attempt to remove a street performer away from the entrance to their cupcake shop, but things don’t go quite as planned.
FOX: Raising Hope: (Repeat) The Chances meet Sabrina’s mother in the Season 2 premiere at the funeral for her grandmother, whose videotaped last will and testament looms large in Jimmy and Sabrina’s relationship.
NBC: The Voice: (New) All 10 remaining artists perform, hoping to capture America’s votes and move on to the Top 8.
CW: Oh Sit: (New) The Ready Set performs.
CBS: Rules of Engagement: (New) The seventh season ends with Brenda going into labor on Jennifer and Adam’s wedding day. Meanwhile, Russell and Timmy attempt reconciliation; and Audrey surprises Jeff.
FOX: The Goodwin Games: (New) In the series premiere of this sitcom, three heirs discover they stand to make millions if they can adhere to their late father’s will, which specifies that they complete a series of unusual challenges and learn to act as a loving family again.
CBS: The Big Bang Theory: (Repeat) Leonard tries a scientific approach to seducing Penny, while the gang celebrates Halloween at Stuart’s comic-book store. Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin has a cameo.
FOX: New Girl: (Repeat) Jess enlists help for a “Parent Trap”-type scheme when her divorced parents (Jamie Lee Curtis, Rob Reiner) visit for Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, Schmidt must deal with family drama of his own when Winston pits him against his visiting cousin, Big Schmidt.
CW: Oh Sit: (New) Taryn Manning performs
PBS: American Masters: (New) A profile of Mel Brooks, the comic mastermind behind such classics as “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein.” It features remarks from friends and associates, including Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Cloris Leachman, Carl Reiner and Joan Rivers.
CBS: Mike and Molly: (New) Mike and Carl get stuck working at the Renaissance Faire after their boss, Patrick (Gerald McRaney), gets dumped by Mike’s mother. Later, as a tornado descends on Chicago, Mike and Molly each confess important news to each other.
FOX: The Mindy Project: (Repeat) Mindy asks Danny to be her new gynecologist, though neither one of them can admit their unwillingness to go through with an exam. Meanwhile, Jeremy has to retrieve something from Mindy’s apartment, but needs Morgan and Betsy’s help to break in to get it.
ABC: Motive: (New) Detective Angie Flynn hunts down the killer of a well-liked science teacher.
CBS: Hawaii Five-0: (New) Five-0 helps the CIA search for a killer on the island as the third season ends. Meanwhile, Kono goes on the run when she is accused of a murder that she didn’t commit; and McGarrett makes a shocking discovery when he visits Wo Fat in prison.
NBC: Revolution: (New) Miles searches for a mole while Monroe kidnaps Nora and stalks Rachel. Colm Feore and Leland Orser guest star.
New episodes of:
The Real Housewives of Orange County at 8 and 9 p.m. on BRAVO
River Monsters: Unhooked at 8 and 9 p.m. on Animal Planet
Brain Games at 9 p.m. on NGC
Burger Land at 9 p.m. on Travel Channel
Defiance at 9 p.m. on Syfy
Sins & Secrets at 9 p.m. on ID
Bates Motel at 10 p.m. on A&E
Classic car Rescue at 10 p.m. on DSC
Diners, Dives and Drive-Ins at 10 p.m. on Food Channel
Newlyweds: The First Year at 10 p.m. on BRAVO
Rectify at 10 p.m. on SUND
Warehouse 13 at 10 p.m. on Syfy
House Hunters International at 10:30 p.m. on HGTV
For movie lovers:
The Scorpion King on AMC
It Happened at the World’s Fair on ENC
Fahrenheit 9/11 on FLIX
Changeling on FMC
Iron Man 2 on FX
Austin Powers in Goldmember on IFC
People Like Us on SHO
Our Man Flint on TCM
Payback on TMC
Inside Out: The People’s Art Project
Million Dollar Baby on HBO
Garden State on MOMAX
Afghan Luke at 9:45 p.m. on TMC
Conspiracy Theory at 10 p.m. on ENC
Source Code at 10 p.m. on SHO
We Own the Night at 10 p.m. on STARZ
The Silencers on TCM
What’s Your Number? at 10:15 p.m. on HBO
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