MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- CBS won the night, but NBC may be winning the more crucial competition: developing a drama that can be a building block for next fall's schedule -- and maybe beyond.
Of course, two weeks do not a series make, and neither NBC's "Southland" nor CBS's "Harper's Island" has faced an original episode of ABC's "Private Practice," which follows "Grey's Anatomy" at 10 p.m. But "Southland" stayed steady following its impressive premiere a week ago, holding 97% of last week's ad-centric 18-to-49 audience with a 3.1/9 rating and share. Conversely, "Harper's Island" (2.2/6), the "Ten Little Indians"-style murder mystery, saw 15% of its premiere viewers bumped off, and will have a hard time building back an audience, as by design it is a limited-run series. But both beat a repeat of "Private Practice" (1.3/4), which lost two-thirds of its regular viewers. (All data are based on Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings; final live-plus-same-day data will be released this afternoon.)
Despite winning with an overall 3.2/9, CBS had losses throughout the night, and barely beat NBC and Fox, which tied for second with a 3.0/9. (ABC, 1.4/4, and the CW, 0.7/2, finished fourth and fifth, respectively.) At 8 p.m., CBS's "Survivor" (3.5/11) won its time slot, though with 17% fewer viewers than normal. But broadcast rivals' ratings were down, too, including NBC's other second-week series, "Parks and Recreation" (2.5/7), which missed last week's lead-in of "The Office," thanks to a programming switch, and instead had to follow "My Name Is Earl" (2.1/7), which had 38% lower ratings than last week's "Office." Just as with "Southland," it's too early to render a ratings verdict for "Parks," but clearly it isn't a breakout hit.
Then again, neither is ABC's new sitcom, "In the Motherhood" (1.4/5), though it, as well as lead-out "Samantha Who?" (1.5/5), was up a 10th of a ratings point from last week. And Fox's "Bones" (2.5/8) was off 14%, while a rerun of the CW's "Smallville" (0.7/2) shrunk 59% from its original-episode average.
At 9 p.m. an even steeper slide of 25% meant CBS's "CSI" (3.8/10), which usually competes against "Grey's" (1.5/4 for a repeat), lost in the first half hour to NBC's "The Office" (4.1/11) although it, too, was down, but only by 7%. "Office" lead-out "30 Rock" (3.5/9) conversely, broke the trend and was the only show up over its average, although only by 3%.
Indeed, outside of "30 Rock" and "Southland," it seemed every show went south by varying degrees: The CW's "Supernatural" (0.7/2) cut its regular rating in half by running a rerun, and Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" (3.4/9) cooled down 11%.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Friday: For most, Friday's network prime schedule is a nightmare. So switch to "the stuff that dreams are made of" by watching "The Maltese Falcon" on TCM.
Saturday: As parents know, it's still OK to be wild about Harry: ABC runs "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
Sunday: Two shows tell a lot about the different demographics of two networks: CBS returns to a made-for-TV movie, "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler," about a Polish woman saving Jewish children during the Holocaust, while Fox debuts "Sit Down, Shut Up," an animated sitcom about high-school staff members.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Significant sampling for "Sit Down, Shut Up," as it follows "The Simpsons" and leads into "Family Guy."
~ ~ ~
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.