The verdict on Hollowmen (and Pamela Anderson). The Hollowmen debuted on the ABC last night at 9.30pm and ended up, well, a little hollow. The viewer numbers were respectable: 1.185 million, but it was handed a bigger audience by The Gruen Transfer at 9pm with 1.302 million and before that Spicks and Specks with 1.349 million. It won the 9.30pm timeslot for the ABC, but it disappointed.

Ten’s stunt of trying to revive Big Brother by sending in Pamela Anderson (how much did she cost?) sort of worked with the audience popping up to 1.4 million from 7.30pm to 9.30pm so that could have destabilised the market. But Double D Pammie drained viewers from Nine and Seven: not the ABC. The figures for Spicks and Specks and The Gruen Transfer were close to their best, so The Hollowmen had something to work from but lost audience. Pammie summed up the Big Brother audience and focus very nicely. Ten had the bogans watching, the ABC had the smart ones viewing, plus a few oldies.

There are actually several other Hollowmales around: there’s the UK comedy series The Hollow Men and of course the TS Eliot poem. So now we have an Australian contribution to the genre. It’s not in the class of The Thick of It or Absolute Power with Stephen Fry. It was a bit Frontline and therefore derivative. Rob Sitch is still a Mike Moore character and Santo Cilauro, who plays the nerdy pollster, is still the nerdy network weatherman from Frontline.

You’d hope that it improves over the next few eps because if the ABC has ordered another series off the back of that, it’s going to be a Christmas table special. The trouble is that while the advisers do the advising, the real political bastardry occurs around the political advisers, the politicians etc. Rats in the Ranks , the well-known doco about Leichhardt Council in Sydney’s inner west, is still the best political TV program done in this country.

There were some characters in the process omitted and you’d have thought they would had been in the first ep: the lobbyists firms made up of former pollies and advisers from past governments; and the media in the Press Gallery, who are an intimate part of the whole process. Where were the shouted lines (like in Frontline ) about what some well known gallery journos were writing? Oakes, Riley, Cassidy, Ramsey, Kelly, Tingle, Shanahan etc etc. Frontline had references to other reporters and networks which established the program. — Glenn Dyer

What’s behind NRL’s rough deal? Who is right, Russell Crowe, the part-owner of Souths NRL club in Sydney, or NRL? Crowe says the current TV deal for Rugby League isn’t the best and is skewed against the code in comparison to the deal that the AFL has got from its broadcasters. In an interview on Sydney radio station Triple M Crowe said he felt league was “the poor cousin” in Australian sport with Rugby League’s television deal worth around $500 million over six years, compared to the AFL’s $780 million over five years. Well, that got the chaps at the NRL fuming and they pushed their CEO, David Gallop, out the door to reply:

Russell Crowe is a great actor but is in no position to speak on this issue with any level of expertise … People should remember that we brought forward new revenue to the game before the previous contracts expired and this allowed us to bring the Gold Cast Titans into the competition … The AFL has teams in more states and draws crowds more than twice the size of ours. Television is sold on the basis of five capital city audiences and we do not have that footprint.

You’d expect Gallop to take that line, to do otherwise would expose him to the wrath of News Ltd and the tame flock of hacks at its Sydney and Brisbane papers. The NRL statement never mentioned that the NRL is half owned by News Ltd, which owns half of Fox Sports (which is housed in Premier Media Group), and 25% of Foxtel.

Premier Media/Fox Sports are the other part of the NRL TV Deal with the Nine Network. Foxtel/Fox Sports were on the receiving end of some rough negotiating tactics from the Seven Network and Ten in the AFL contract. They had to pay more proportionately to the AFL for the four AFL games than they pay to the NRL for their five NRL games.

Fox Sports programs the NRL games on Saturday nights when there is no free to air competition, and on Sunday afternoon. That enables them to maximise the audience in the strongest states for League: NSW and Queensland (especially regional areas). The AFL games are programmed around the FTA broadcasts of Seven and Ten. The AFL is weakest in NSW and Queensland (especially the regional areas).

This year’s State Of Origin league games had national audiences for Nine approaching the level of the AFL grand finals in recent years (3.2 to 3.4 million viewers in metro and regional markets). The NRL contract includes the Origin games but you’d have to ask whether Nine is really paying full value for them. — Glenn Dyer

Kath & Kim US: make your own minds up. Crikey has the first trailer for Kath & Kim, now Americanised. We know what we think (for one, Selma Blair is too young, too pretty and too thin to given muffin-topped Kim the treatment she deserves). But you may think differently…

Satin watch: Nightline ‘s Elise Mooney on Monday night. Pretty in pink.

More signs of New York Times in trouble. New York Times dropped the most in almost 10 years after Lehman Brothers lowered its earnings estimates for the third-largest US newspaper publisher as advertising revenue deteriorates. The company’s dividend is at risk of being cut in coming years, Lehman analyst Craig Huber also said in a note to clients. The stock is expensive compared with Gannett, the largest US newspaper publisher, and McClatchy, owner of the Miami Herald, Huber wrote. Potential asset sales, including the Boston Globe, ”are not a reason to own” New York Times , Huber said, citing ”by far the worst timing” in more than 15 years for the company and industry. The company settled a proxy fight with Firebrand Partners and Harbinger Capital Partners in March after adding two of the investors’ nominees to its board. — SMH

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners:
Seven News was tops again with 1.554 million, with Today Tonight second with 1.439 million and Big Brother with Pamela Anderson on Ten with 1.417 million over two hours from 7.30pm. Spicks and Specks averaged 1.349 million for the ABC at 8.30pm, RSPCA Animal Rescue on Seven at 7.30pm, 1.349 million in 5th and 6th was The Gruen Transfer with 1.302 million at 9pm for the ABC. Nine News was 7th with 1.293 million, the repeat of Two and a Half Men averaged 1.286 million and A Current Affair was 9th. Medical Emergency was on 10th with 1.230 million at 8pm and Home and Away was next with 1.220 million. The 7pm ABC News averaged was 12th with 1.208 million and The Hollowmen averaged 1.185 million at 9.30pm in a solid debut. Criminal Minds averaged 1.163 million at 8.30pm for Seven, the New Inventors, 1.054 million at 8pm for the ABC and in 16th spot Missing Persons Unit scored its first million-viewer audience with 1.051 million at 9.30pm for Nine.

The Losers: Cold Case on Nine at 8.30pm: 886,000. Swamped by the ABC and Big Brother and Seven. Tired, out of date and not very interesting last night (but better than Big Pammie on BB though). Numb3rs on Ten at 9.30pm, 900,000: viewers deserted it after the siren call of Pammie on BB . Missing Persons Unit on Nine at 9.30pm: its first million viewer audience means it’s not a loser, but its interesting that its figures jumped by 160,000 viewers or more from Cold Case and shows the problems Nine had with CC last night. Fire 000 on Nine at 7.30pm and Search and Rescue at 8pm.. The first sign of tough competition from Animal Rescue on Seven and a big BB audience on Ten, and viewers deserted it. The audience of 857,000 wasn’t good and is 300,000-500,000 down on what both had been getting in recent weeks. And Prison Break on Seven at 9.30pm: 727,000. Viewers just ignored it. Better fare elsewhere. It was a bad 4th.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Brisbane as did Today Tonight. The 7.30 Report averaged 932,000, Lateline , 312,000 and Lateline Business, 130,000. Nine’s Nightline, 322,000. Ten News, 910,000, the late News/ Sports Tonight 456,000. SBS News at 6.30pm 216,000; Dateline at 8.30pm, 220,000, the late News at 9.30pm, 222,000. 7am Sunrise 354,000, 7am Today, 251,000.

The Stats: Seven won All People from 6pm to midnight with 25.2% (last week was the State of Origin Rugby League so not meaningful to compare). Ten was second with 24.0%, Nine was third with 23.8%, then the ABC with 20.6% and SBS on 6.4%. Seven won Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Nine won Sydney, Seven and Ten tied for second, Ten won Brisbane. It was possibly the most competitive night of the year so far. In regional areas Nine won narrowly with 27.3% for WIN/NBN; Prime/7Qld was second with 27.2%, Southern Cross was on 22.0%, the ABC 16.7% and SBS 6.8%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: This Big Brother is perhaps the worst of the eight so far for the utterly lack of appeal of the inmates. That the Ten Network resorted to Baywatch Pammie to try and reinvigorate its audience says a lot about how far the program has strayed from its original path and Ten’s desperation. Tonight: well the Footy Shows . Will the AFL program in Melbourne bleed viewers for a third week to confirm the irrelevance of Sam Newman? Seven has Bones, Earl and How I Met Your Mother. Nine has the revitalised Getaway and Celebrity Singing Bee at 8.30pm. Hmmm It Takes Two perhaps, but a solo version? SBS goes to the vault of Inspector Rex and exhumes him again and the ABC has Gil Mayo at 8.30pm and Q&A at 9.30pm with the now obligatory pollies and others. It’s the winter break, why haven’t the pollies gone OS?

Source: OzTAM, TV Networks reports