At least as far as building a promotional platform for "Fringe," that is, as the new sci-fi series on Fox retained about 90% of "House" 's lead-in to create the conditions for a possible new fall hit.
As for "House," it dominated demographically in the ad-centric adult 18-49 target with a 5.5/14 rating and share. And while this was actually down from last year's dazzling debut of a 7.8/19, it easily wiped out everything scheduled against it -- including "Wipeout," the ABC summer success that had its season finale from 8 to 9:30 p.m. ET, which posted a 2.0/6, down 39% from its premiere and a third from its season average. But despite the ratings slide that evoked the slippery obstacle course of the show, expect the low-cost (and -concept) and relatively high-rated "Wipeout" to come crashing back next summer for more escapist entertainment.
Fox runs ahead of the pack
"Fringe" 's 5.1/12 combined with "House" to give the network a win in households, not to mention nearly every other demo, as the overall Fox delivery of 5.4/13 easily beat NBC's second-place 2.8/7, CBS's third-place 2.1/5, ABC's fourth-place 2.0/6 and the CW's fifth-place 1.4/3.
"Wipeout" 's season swan song made way for the new fall season's premiere of NBC's "Biggest Loser" (3.2/8), which lost 27% from its most recent spring starter, but was about even with the first fall showing last year. And "Biggest Loser" was a clear winner over "Big Brother" on CBS, which was down 21% from last summer's finale to a 2.7/6.
Still, "Big Brother" loomed large over lackluster lead-in "NCIS" (1.8/5) and lead-out "Without a Trace" (1.7/5). "Trace" lost at 10 p.m. to a repeat of NBC's "Law & Order: SVU," which locked up a timeslot-winning 2.0/6.
On the CW, "90210" seems to have found its number, as the 1.7/4 was even with last week's leveling off from its promising premiere. "Privileged," however, still slipped 8% to a 1.1/3.
Viewers escape gravity
As for programming flow, normally it's supposed to be within a network. But the random scheduling by ABC of a 90-minute "20/20" special on UFOs (1.9/5) ran concurrently with, and then after, "Fringe," allowing audiences to surf seamlessly from sci-fi to science (OK, pseudo-science).
Escapism? Sure. But both -- along with "House" -- sure beat watching the housing bust taking place on Main Street and now Wall Street.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: Get away from campaign 2008 -- but not presidential politics -- as TCM continues its Wednesday series "American Politics in the Movies" with "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" and "Tennessee Johnson," a rare look at impeached President Andrew Johnson.
Thursday: Most of ABC's and NBC's big Thursday programs will have season premieres next week, so before you get caught up in them, catch up with two smart series -- "Smallville" and "Supernatural" -- on the CW.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Can Fox find more momentum on Wednesday? Or will sub-par showings of " 'Til Death" and "Do Not Disturb" interrupt the network's progress?
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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.