There's nothing like kicking a dog while it's down. TVB's promotions department recently sent out a press release suggesting the top 100 programmes on Hong Kong's English stations last year all aired on Pearl. This is according to media surveyor CSM Market Research. Those results sound like quite a feat, if the statistics are true. Obviously, ATV has degenerated into a bit of a mess in the past year, but it still possesses hit American import shows such as the various CSI franchises, Cold Case, Grey's Anatomy as well as BBC ratings winners including Dr Who and Life on Mars. Surely it's improbable that none of them managed to crack the top 100. But that is the case - if you know how to be creative with numbers. The fact is, Hong Kong only has two English stations: TVB's Pearl and ATV's World. Here's another fact: this is a Chinese city and most people prefer their programming in Cantonese. Compared to their Cantonese television counterparts, the viewership for Pearl and World collectively is minuscule compared to the mass audience for TVB Jade and ATV Home. Strictly by numbers, the English stations' ratings are actually so low they sound positively embarrassing to advertisers. Instead, the stations promote their audience share of each programme. Hence, the top shows calculated in this survey are ranked by the percentage of its total English-language viewer market. Number one overall is the movie presentation for Hellboy. Are there really many fans for this comic book movie? Well, no - the 94percent average rating share just means whatever was on ATV World opposite the movie was so lame that only about six people out of 100 admitted to watching it. But the actual number of people watching Hellboy probably still paled compared to all the local households chasing their serials and dramas on Jade and Home. This is how Pearl can claim it grabbed the top 100 English-language shows last year. The figures also reveal the top 10 programmes were all blockbuster movies, almost all of which aired at the weekend. Besides Hellboy, other dominant films were I, Robot, Alien Vs Predator, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and House of Wax. Clearly, these results say more about how bad ATV's output was than the quality of Pearl's programming. But as unappealing as ATV World's schedule often is - how much China News Express or Racing to Win can you stomach? - until recently I was a dedicated viewer of one of its esoteric selections. I say until recently because this show was dropped after Christmas without a word of explanation. I'm referring to ATV's nightly broadcast of the CBS comedy talk show, Late Show With David Letterman. It used to run at 11.30pm from Tuesday to Saturday, when it wasn't delayed or pre-empted by horse racing analysis. It seems the show's contract was not renewed. At the time of writing, ATV couldn't offer a specific reason why the contract wasn't continued. Most likely ATV dropped the programme for budget and ratings reasons (I'm sure they were quite low at that time of the night), but I'm still bummed that there'll be no more of the American comedian's now famous Top 10 lists, Stupid Pet Tricks, Great Moments in Presidential Speeches or those smirky monologue jokes. The Late Show began airing on ATV World in 1999, in the same late night slot it is shown in the US. Since then, it's become almost an evening ritual to flip to it after the late news. Admittedly, Letterman's wry, self-conscious irreverence is an acquired taste, especially for non-Americans. Sometimes the oblique, of-the-moment pop culture references escape even expatriates who've been away from New York for a month. But those of us in Hong Kong who enjoyed it wouldn't dare miss it even if it meant losing an hour of sleep each night. I know MSNBC airs Letterman's main competition, Jay Leno, on weekends, but it's not the same. For one, Leno is so square. The thing is, we watch Dave not just for his snarky wit and frequent crotchety rants - when presidential candidate John McCain cancelled an appearance at the last minute, Letterman's sarcastic fury made news headlines - but also because, in its own way, the Late Show was one of the best ways of keeping up with the American cultural zeitgeist. CNN might tell you the latest news in Washington but Dave would tell you who was cool and not cool, what's happening on the street level, what the water cooler topics were and what was the latest new slang term. It is a darn shame the programme has gone from Hong Kong's terrestrial broadcasts. I think, to an extent, the fact that Letterman's ironic talk show was being screened here helped make Hong Kong an even more international city.