SPEED Hits the Gas Most TV shows don’t embrace the ‘winner-take-all’ mentality, instead choosing to offer parting gifts or polite applause to unsuccessful contestants. But Speed’s popular "PINKS" franchise, recently greenlit for a 4th season, gleefully personifies the clich? to harness more viewership horsepower. Each week, a pair of vehicles competes in a drag racing competition (best 3-of-5), and the winning driver immediately assumes ownership of the loser’s car or truck. Wheels and pride are wrested from the futile racer. "The show is about drag racing inherently, but it offers real human drama and real stakes," said Speed vp, programming Robert Ecker. "It is definitely striking a chord with people." As a ’75 Chevy Nova battles a ’93 Ford Ranger during the next ep (Wed, 9:30pm ET), the series has earned triple-digit increases in HH delivery and in all key demos since its summer ’05 inception. It now draws more than 2mln weekly viewers, Ecker said, making it the net’s highest-rated original program. Crowds at ep tapings have swelled to thousands of energetic fans, and more importantly, a paucity of willing racers no longer exists. "We used to look under rocks for competitors, but now we have all kinds of racers and teams from all over," Ecker said. "PINKS" has also become the lead driver for the net’s multi-platform push. It dominates a cable VOD platform that passes 18mln HHs (Comcast, Cox, Time Warner Cable), and eps/clips are available on iTunes, Amazon and mobile carriers including Amp’D Mobile and Cingular Wireless. "’Pinks’ is a star performer in the digital arena, and it definitely helps our [overall] non-linear initiatives," said Speed vp, interactive media Kevin Annison. "The intensity of the show is awesome." Promotional webisodes will tout the show’s 4th season (Feb), and discussions are underway with additional wireless carriers, he said. It seems the series is hitting on all cylinders. – CH Highlights "Battlestar Galactica," tonight, 9, SciFi. Encourage your subs to watch this terrific allegorical series whose complex characters elevate it beyond mere sci fi special effects.— "Artland: USA," Thurs, 8pm ET, Gallery HD. Props to Voom’s terrific use of HD. Marry it with 2 youthful hosts on an RV trip in search of our country’s interesting architecture and art and make high brow material accessible.— "Atlas: Italy," Sun, 9pm, Discovery. Ep 2 of Hendricks’ HD journey is more fun than ep 1 (China), thanks to the gondola apprentice and Isabella Rossellini‘s narration.— "Eye of the Leopard," Sun, 9pm, Nat Geo. Excellent footage captures the great predator. SA Worth a Look The Street," Tues. 10pm, BBC A. Terrific drama about common folk in Northern England; this week’s beauty stars Jim Broadbent as a cash-strapped senior; best ep is #5 (Oct 31, 10pm), which nails diversity. — "The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl," Tues, 8pm, HBO. A beautifully woven tale that ends with the awful death of The WSJ reporter. — "I Pity The Fool," Wed, 10pm, TV Land. Please don’t take the life lessons of Mr T seriously (he doesn’t), but it’s entertaining. — "Rank" Mon, 9pm ET, 10PT, IFC. Think IFC’s cosmopolitan and urban? Perhaps, but Cowboy Maxwell will enjoy this gritty doc about bull riding. SA

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