It's hard to be one of the Reporters Who Cover Television this time of year. While the rest of the population gets to attend holiday parties and amuse themselves with witty conversation about the regrettably low standard of morality among that segment of the population younger than they are, the poor RWCT usually can be found backed into a corner by a mob of partygoers angrily demanding to know why their favorite TV show was canceled while "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" is still on the air even though no one is watching, why reality programming continues to be perpetrated upon them, why TRWCT are so mean to that nice Katie Couric and, finally, to give details of their own idea for the next sure-fire gimongous TV hit.
Generally, at the first party a Reporter Who Covers Television has enough distracting factoids in his arsenal to come back pretty chirpily to this onslaught, if the eggnog is of high enough octane. But by the second party -- third, max -- his knotted and combined locks begin to part and each particular hair to stand on end like quills upon the fretful porpentine, as Hamlet's dad used to say. . . .
Did you know, for instance, that "Studio 60," in addition to having an unusually upscale audience, as NBC likes to remind us, also is the year's No. 1-ranked show on Nielsen's Timeshifted Primetime TV Program list?
"Studio 60" enjoys an 11 percent increase in viewership when you add in all the households watching the show up to seven days after its Monday 10 p.m. broadcast. That's the largest percent increase of any program on prime-time television, Nielsen says.
This suggests that (a) NBC should try to strongarm Nielsen into using so-called "live + 7" numbers -- how many people record a show on VCR or DVR and watch it up to seven days after its broadcast -- in its weekly ratings reports so as to goose "Studio 60's" ratings and (b) maybe NBC should find a better time slot for "Studio 60." . . .
The Top-10 timeshifted programs are mostly serialized -- "Heroes," "Gilmore Girls," etc. -- but include the CW's reality series "America's Next Top Model." That makes sense since this fall it aired in the same time slot as ABC reality hit "Dancing With the Stars."
"American Idol," meanwhile, had the most product placements on broadcast TV this year with -- you want to be sitting down -- 4,086 occurrences in calendar 2006, which in the case of "Idol," really means between January and May.
"Idol" is the Mount Everest of product placement. Nothing else touches it. The No. 2 show on the 2006 Product Placement Top 10 is "The Amazing Race" with a mere 2,790 occurrences, followed closely by "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" with 2,701.
We're guessing about 3,346 "Idol" product placement occurrences come in the form of those three insidious red Coca-Cola cups prominently placed in front of judges Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson. Every time the camera cuts to Paula sitting at the judges' desk drinking "whatever" out of that Coke cup, it counts as one "occurrence," a nice Nielsen spokeswoman explained to The TV Column.
The rest of the occurrences on "Idol" are probably Cingular cellphones, from which we're urged to text-message in our vote for that week's best performance.
Not coincidentally, Coca-Cola is the most product-placed product of 2006, with -- will you look at that -- 3,346 occurrences. Cingular Wireless also is in the Top 10, but with a mere 532 occurrences. That's behind the Chicago Bears football team's 600 occurrences -- thanks to the ABC sitcom "According to Jim."
Here' s a fun fact you can wow them with at the next office party: All of 2006's Top-10 Product Placement Programs are reality series. Except for one scripted show, at No. 8.
Can you guess what it is?
[Pause] "King of Queens."
She's the best.