MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- What a day -- literally and figuratively: Fresh off allegations of head-butting, a more cerebral, and certainly civil, Keifer Sutherland addressed advertisers at yesterday's Fox upfront presentation. Hours later, his character, Jack Bauer, saved the world (again) on "24." His place on the stage, and on the schedule, indicates not only that he'll be back, but that Fox has got his back.
Fewer viewers, however, stuck with him last night for the two-hour "24" season finale, which delivered a 3.1/9 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic. This was 21% less than the 2007 season finale (even Jack Bauer couldn't stop the writers' strike, which wiped out the 2008 season) and was even down 14% compared to the season-long average. For the year, Fox's franchise also indexed at 77% compared with its last full season (or day, in the case of "24").
Most likely, the demo decline wasn't due to Sutherland's troubles, and indeed it may have burnished his action image with "24" fans. And besides, another top TV star whose private life has become public, Charlie Sheen of CBS's "Two and a Half Men," fared fine for his season finale, which was up 10% from last year to a 5.3/14. That led all programs, as well as CBS to win the night overall with a 4.0/11.
This was just one of four season finales for CBS's Monday lineup, as sitcoms "How I Met Your Mother" (3.7/10) and "Rules of Engagement" (4.4/11) were up 12% and 2%, respectively, from last season's last laughs. And it wasn't just the finale, but full seasons that have CBS smiling about their sitcoms: "How I Met Your Mother" and "Two and a Half Men" were up 17% and 4% compared to last year, and even pinch hitter "Rules of Engagement" was only off two-tenths of a ratings point.
But CBS didn't have the last laugh as far as finale ratings go, as 10 p.m. drama "CSI: Miami" (3.8/10) slipped 16% from the cop show's capper last year, and for the year was down about 11%.
ABC finished second with a 3.5/10, as the second to last waltz on "Dancing With the Stars" (4.4/13, which was down 10% from its season to date average) led into viewers' and suitors' first date with "The Bachelorette" (3.0/8), which was on par with last summer's first fling.
Flings -- and fights -- and rebound romances are also the stuff of the CW's "Gossip Girl" (1.1/3) and "One Tree Hill" (1.3/3), which also had their (melo)dramatic denouments last night. While both season-enders were off last year's levels ("Gossip" down 21% and "One Tree" shedding 19%), for the season, both were up, with "Gossip" whispering 17% more than its freshman year, and "One Tree" growing by a more modest tenth of a ratings point.
Finally, finales weren't particularly prominent on NBC, as the first two hours were filled with "Deal or No Deal" (1.2/4 and 1.5/4), which led into a small "Medium" rating of 1.9/5, which was 24% off its season pace.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Tuesday: With critical raves pouring in and an unprecedented spring preview of a fall show, Fox execs at yesterday's upfront presentation seemed giddy over "Glee," the hourlong comedy about a high-school glee club. See if their excitement was warranted tonight, after the penultimate "American Idol."
Wednesday: "Idol" addicts, and those recovering, can still drop in for the drama of who will win -- Adam Lambert or Kris Allen?
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Next fall's ratings for "Glee," which will indicate whether premiering programs months in advance actually works.
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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)
John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.