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The Globe and Mail

The winners and losers of the TV ratings game

Who's in and who's out? Who are the winners and losers in the network TV racket? What new shows are succeeding and which ones are failing? Let's see. And then we'll get to the horror of bedbugs. You're warned.

On the TV front, the answers and evidence accumulate with each passing week. And Thursday's schedule features some notable winners and failures.

The Big Bang Theory (CBS, CTV, 8 p.m.) just gets stronger, season after season. In the U.S. it shows no signs of flagging. Possibly because it's a reliable comedy at a time when new series are still finding their feet or simply failing to engage. It's a ratings monster in Canada, pulling in about four million viewers on occasion.

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The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC, 9:30 p.m.) has been a disappointment for NBC. A brand-name, familiar star and a very slick pilot failed to launch Fox's comeback comedy as a hit. In fact NBC's strategy of building its Thursday schedule around a block of sitcoms hasn't worked. The combo of Parks and Recreation, Sean Saves the World and The Michael J. Fox Show is having little impact, with mediocre ratings, weeks into the new TV season.

Fox's Sleepy Hollow (Monday, Fox, Global, 9 p.m.) was a hit from the start and isn't flagging. In the U.S., it's pulling in about 11 million per episode when DVR numbers are counted. (In contrast, the heavily hyped Michael J. Fox Show is getting about 6.5 million.). In fact it's a phenomenon, with a group of fanatical followers who call themselves "Sleepyheads." In part the attraction is Tom Mison as the charming, effortlessly witty Ichabod Crane. Also on Mondays, NBC's The Blacklist – in Canada on Global – is officially a hit.

More interesting maybe is the success of FX's American Horror Story: Coven (Wednesdays, 10 p.m. on FX Canada) which is drawing as many millions on cable as some network shows are. This, the third instalment of American Horror Story, is clicking because it is stunningly beautiful, and the core cast of young women actors, combined with Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates, are formidably adept at making creator Ryan Murphy's mad vision of witches become vastly entertaining.

And, in contrast, very male-centric shows aren't faring well. One of the first series to be cancelled was CBS's divorced-guy comedy We Are Men and Fox's much-hated comedy Dads is doing very poorly.

Which bring us to bedbugs, which are always much-hated.

Bite Me: The Bed Bug Invasion (CBC, 9 p.m. on Doc Zone) is probably off-putting to many viewers. As the doc (artfully made by Jay Dahl and Edward Peill for Halifax-based Tell Tale Productions) explains, people are disgusted by bedbugs. Also, they're ignorant about them.

Yes, we're told, the world bedbug population has exploded and we're "on the verge of a global pandemic." We meet a Canadian couple who are facing bedbugs in their apartment a few months before their wedding. Devastated, they're trying to cope. "You don't want to tell anyone. You feel ashamed, embarrassed," the woman says.

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Then, certain myths about bedbugs are demolished – yes, you can see them with the naked eye; it's untrue they live in beds only; yes, they can fly; yes, they can survive freezing conditions and no, they can't transmit disease.

Much of the ignorance is blamed on a "media-fed panic." It's explained that both rich and poor are vulnerable and "hygiene has nothing to with avoiding an infestation." We also get the background on the belief that the return of bedbugs can be attributed to the prohibition of DDT and other highly effective pesticides.

Then there's the lawyer who deals with bedbug cases. And we meet a dog who is trained to find them. It's all interesting and should be seen by anyone who thinks they know all about the issue. Mind you, it will creep out some viewers. And it shouldn't.

Also airing tonight

The Nature of Things (CBC, 8 p.m.) has already received some attention. That's because it's called Untangling Alzheimer's and host David Suzuki takes a personal approach, sharing his own story of losing his mother and three of her siblings to Alzheimer's, and he talks his concerns about his own risk of getting the disease.

Follow me on Twitter: @MisterJohnDoyle

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