ABC, 'Desperate Housewives' Win Sunday

Rash Report: Long-Running Hit Loses Finale Viewers, but Is Still a Ratings Leader

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- In a puzzling plot twist, the last scene of last night's two-hour "Desperate Housewives" finale fast-forwarded five years with a peek into how their lives had changed. ABC, however, probably wished the show could have rewound to 2005, when the breakout hit's finale delivered a 13.4/31 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic.
'Desperate Housewives'
'Desperate Housewives' Credit: ABC

Last night's last-episode numbers were less than half that cultural and commercial peak, a 6.1/16 according to Nielsen Live + Same Day numbers.

While that was more than enough to win the time period and help ABC win with an overall 4.7/13, it was down 15% from last year's one-hour capper. And last night's 8 p.m. ET "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (3.9/11) finale also fell flat, down 16% from last year, but up from the 7 p.m. version's 2.6/9.

Homer drops, Hank rises
And it probably wasn't just ABC that looks longingly on finales past. Fox ran the last episodes of "The Simpsons" (2.9/9) and "American Dad" (2.7/7), but those were off 64% and 75%, respectively. "King of the Hill" (2.6/7) was the exception, up 13%. It didn't help that Fox ran reruns as lead-ins ("King," 1.2/4 and "The Simpsons," 1.8/6) and in-between programs ("Family Guy, 3.0/8). For the night, Fox finished third with a 2.4/7.

Second place went to CBS, which counter-programmed season finales with "The Academy of Country Music Awards." The 2.9/8 was up 7% and will probably impress even further when live-plus-same-day national numbers are counted. But before the country it was the blues for lead-in "60 Minutes" (1.6/6), which was 38% below the season live-plus-same-day average.

NBC's 1.3/4 was half the CBS nightly rating, with regularly scheduled "Dateline" (1.1/4) and a "Law and Order: SVU" repeat (1.6/4) down 27% and 16% from season averages. Things weren't much better for the schedule stunting, either, as the network may have found out that indeed, there can be too much of a good thing; hours after Steve Carell hosted "Saturday Night Live" he appeared in four consecutive "The Office" repeats (1.0/3, 1.3/4, 1.6/4, 1.5/4).

Finally, finales on the CW didn't fare much better: Fewer loved "Everybody Hates Chris" ( 5/2, down half from last year's live-plus-same-day number) and "The Game" ( 8/2, down 27%). It was also the season -- and series -- finale for "Aliens in America," which had a 0.5/1. Repeats of "America's Next Top Model" earned a 0.4/1 and "Girlfriends" averaged a 0.5/2 for the night.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: Think the challenge will be tough for whichever senator moves up Pennsylvania Avenue next January? It's nothing compared to the desperation of the Depression and World War that Franklin Roosevelt faced. See how he handled it on tonight's "American Experience" on PBS.
Tuesday: TiVo Alert! Season finales on CBS ("NCIS" and "Shark"), Fox ("American Idol," part one), the CW ("Reaper") and ABC ("Dancing with the Stars").

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
With winter just ending in many parts of the country, what's America's appetite for summer programming? ABC -- and rival networks -- will be watching what viewers watch as "The Bachelorette" begins with a two-hour premiere.

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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. Ratings quoted in this column are based on Live + Same Day. (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 more, see rashreport.com.
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