Animation -- and Seth MacFarlane -- Domination on Fox

Rash Report: Airs Four of His Shows in One Night, but NBC's 'Sunday Night Football' Still Wins

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- "Content is King," meet your court jester: Seth MacFarlane, the prolific producer most responsible for the success of Fox's "animation domination" Sunday schedule, which often does just that, especially in relatively younger, male demos.

'Seth and Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show'
'Seth and Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show' Credit: Fox
His story -- and his signature story, "Family Guy" -- are perhaps most indicative of today's post-modern media landscape. Receiving TV's most coveted promotional platform -- the post-Super Bowl spot a decade ago -- "Family Guy's" humor, while shrewd to some, was too crude to too many, and the ahead-of-the-curve comedy was canceled ahead of its time.

The rest is the stuff of media legend: Rediscovered by the cool college kids on cable and DVD, it made a comeback and now has transcended "The Simpsons" as Fox's top-rated animated sitcom. And the breakthroughs haven't just been commercial, but cultural as well, as "Family Guy" received an Outstanding Comedy Emmy nomination this year.

So with Fox giving a half hour last night to a live-action "Seth and Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show" seemed like a coronation for the court jester, it's understandable. After all, MacFarlane's "Family Guy" and its lead-out, "American Dad," anchor the 9-10 p.m. hour, and "The Family Guy's" lead-in, "The Cleveland Show," is outpacing the comedy it replaced, "King of the Hill."

For the most part, MacFarlane again delivered, albeit with a schizophrenic schedule that had three series run out of their regular timeslots. "Family Guy" actually had two airings. First, at 8 p.m., it ran in lieu of "The Simpsons" and delivered a 3.7/9 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, which was off 10% from "The Simpsons" original episode season-to-date average. Then, in its regular slot at 9 p.m, it notched a 4.0/9, but this was off 20% from original episode levels. (All ratings reflect fast-affiliate data.)

"The Cleveland Show" (3.2/7) ran in "American Dad's" 9:30 p.m. slot and held 91% of the regular audience. Meanwhile, "American Dad" was switched to 7:30 p.m. and had a 2.1/6. And MacFarlane's variety hour (3.4/8) held 81% of "Cleveland's" regular viewers in its time period.

Got all that? If you can't tell the schedule without a scorecard, it's understandable, and may have led some viewers to opt for the real thing on Sunday's other TV institution, NFL football, including those watching the brief Fox football overrun, which combined with "Brothers" in the first hour to average a 2.3/6.

But most of the very same young males mainstreaming Seth MacFarlane are also the core of NFL viewing, so it's not surprising that football on other networks once again dominated demographically last night. NBC won with an overall 6.2/16, with "Football Night in America" averaging a 4.1/11 from 7-8:30 p.m and the 8:30-11 p.m. portion of the Dallas Cowboys' victory over the Philadelphia Eagles scoring a 7.6/19 (this rating will rise once the final live + same day data reflects the post-prime delivery).

CBS tied with Fox for second with a 3.1/8, powered by an NFL overrun (6.0/17 from 7-7:30 p.m.), which led into another major sports figure, tennis' Andre Agassi, explaining how he lost his head (crystal meth) along with his hair (extensions extending his "bad boy" image) on "60 Minutes" (3.8/10 from 7:30-8:30 p.m.). "Amazing Race" (3.1/8), "Three Rivers" (1.8/5) and "Cold Case" (1.6/4) followed.

ABC also kicked off the night with sports, but its Nascar overrun didn't have the same horsepower, as it only delivered a 1.8/5 from 7-7:30 p.m. An abbreviated "America's Funniest Home Videos" (1.9/5) followed, leading into "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (3.0/7, which tied a season low). "Desperate Housewives" (4.3/10) and "Brothers and Sisters" (2.9/8), which were both season lows, ended a down night for the net, as ABC finished fourth with a 3.0/8.

Rash gridsEnlarge
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

As for Fox, it returns to its regular Sunday schedule next week, and will have an NFL overrun to goose its delivery, meaning Fox, and its court jester, Seth MacFarlane, should be laughing all the way to the bank again.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: If Fox's program premiere of the uneven -- at best -- "The Wanda Sykes Show" didn't psych you out of new late night shows completely, TBS bows "Lopez Tonight," yet another talker with comedian George Lopez.
Tuesday: Given the buzz over Taylor Swift on last weekend's "Saturday Night Live," it's surprising that "In the Spotlight with Robin Roberts: Bright Lights, Big Stars, All Access Nashville" doesn't have her as the country stars interviewed. But it does have plenty of other country crooners, all in advance of Wednesday night's 43rd Annual CMA Awards.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Ratings for CBS's "CSI" franchise, which begins a three show story arc that will converge characters from the original, "CSI: NY" and "CSI: Miami," which kicks it off Monday night.

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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.

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