Overall, the Final Four had four slots bracketing this week's Top 10: Monday's Pre-game "Prelude to a Championship" was 10th with a 4.2/12, and the Final Four may have been the final time this season normally neglected Saturday night was represented on the list, as game two was sixth with a 5.0/16 (the "Bridge Show" between games was on the rim of the Top Ten, finishing twelfth with a 3.9/14.)
CBS had one other show on this week's list, last night's "CSI," which delivered a 5.7/14 according to the Nielsen "Fast Affiliate Ratings," which, if it holds, would place it fifth.
These were most likely the week's highlights for Sean McManus, as his dual role overseeing CBS sports and CBS News got tougher as he fended off rumors that the network might want to give back Katie Couric if her ratings don't come back by January's presidential inauguration.
It was also a comedy comeback for NBC's most recent incarnation of "Must-See" sitcoms; for the first time since the settling of the writers strike the well-written comedy lineup was intact, led by "The Office" (tied for seventh with a 4.8/12, according to the "Fast Affiliates"). Lead-ins "My Name Is Earl" and "30 Rock" delivered a 3.0/9 and 2.7/7, respectively, which would place them at No. 21 and No. 32 for the week. And lead-out "Scrubs" -- which might be headed to ABC next year -- indexed at 71% with 3.4/8 for 16th place, which is perhaps one of the reasons NBC is planning an "Office" spinoff next year.
The relatively strong performances of these shows join other non-scripted shows that have returned, such as Fox's "Hell's Kitchen," which was tied for seventh with a 4.8/12 and ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," which was ninth and 15th this week, with Monday's competition scoring a 4.4/12 and Tuesday's "Results Show" resulting in a 3.4/9.
Of course, Fox's "American Idol" still demographically dominates its time slot (and most weeks' Top 10 lists) and did so again Tuesday night with a 7.8/22 to take the night's, and the week's, top spot.
But based on its season-long slump -- Tuesday is down 14%, season-to-date compared to the same time last year (based on "Live" ratings) and Wednesday is off 20% -- "American Idol" is in need of a comeback. But "Idol Gives Back" wasn't it, as the prime-time portion of the star-studded charity cast plunged a third compared to last year's mid-March version.
To be sure, this was still strong enough to be fourth with a 6.1/17. Yet "American Idol" needs a spark -- but maybe someone unlike Jordin Sparks, who despite her win last year hasn't won hearts (or more important for Fox and the music industry, eyes and ears). Instead, "Idol" needs someone from the ridiculous (Sanjaya Malakar) to the sublime (Carrie Underwood) to energize the show and get the nation talking again.
Still, Fox's rivals should have such problems. Last night's show delivered a 6.8/19 in the "Fast Affiliates," good for third, and enough for lead-out "Don't Forget the Lyrics" to be remembered by enough to finish 11th with a 4.0/10. Along with the ratings for NBC's sitcoms, a strong lead-in ("Survivor," 14th with a 3.8/11) and lead-out ("Without a Trace, 13th, 3.9/11) for CBS's "CSI" combined to make it a good night for network TV.
So good, in fact, that it knocked out of the Top 10 network TV's embodiment of givebacks and comebacks, NBC's weight-loss, life-improving "Biggest Loser," which reduced down to 17th, but a still healthy 3.3/9.
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NOTE: A share is a percentage of TV households that have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all TV households, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households with a TV. In order to report ratings on a timely basis, all the ratings listed here reflect a Nielsen Live number. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of a commercial minute, live-plus-3 viewing basis.)
John Rash is senior VP-director of broadcast negotiations for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For daily rating updates, see rashreport.com.