But at 10 p.m., ABC turns into a wallflower, as "Boston Legal" (2.1/6) basically sat out the timeslot to the 3.9/10 for CBS's "CSI: Miami." (NBC's recently canceled "My Own Worst Enemy" was just that at 10 p.m. as well, delivering only a 1.7/4.)
For the night, ABC was second with a 3.6/9, as CBS -- with a lineup of guy sitcom characters you'd have to drag out onto the dance floor -- was first with a 4.1/10. From 8 to 9 p.m., "The Big Bang Theory" (3.9/10) and "How I Met Your Mother" (4.3/11) were both up 8% over their season average, with "Big Bang" tying its season-high rating. "Two and a Half Men" (5.3/12, up 6%) and "Worst Week Ever" (up 3% to a 3.2/8) were mismatched dance partners from 9 to 10 p.m., as "Worst Week" only held 60% of the adult 18-49 audience from "Men."
NBC also was out of step, as its third-place lineup (2.6/6) was indicative of some of the challenges the network faces in sweeps -- and beyond: A new series ("Worst Enemy") canceled, a sophomore one slumping ("Chuck," slightly off its already low season average with a 2.4/6) and a hit with less impact, as "Heroes" (3.5/8) could use a rescue itself, as it was off 17% from its season average.
Fox and the CW also seemed to have two left feet in trying to compete with "Dancing with the Stars." "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" (1.8/5) was down 14%, and "Prison Break" (2.1/5) was off 9% for Fox, which finished fourth with a 1.9/5. And the CW's double run of "One Tree Hill" resulted in the network finishing fifth with an overall .8/2, as an 8 p.m. repeat (.6/2) seemed to hurt the 9 p.m. original episode (1.1/2), which was off a third from season-to-date levels.
Tonight's two-hour finale will give ABC and "Dancing with the Stars" a Cinderella moment in a sweeps, where all the networks have seen their share of programs turn into pumpkins. The challenge, when the next season begins in 2009, is to find more "Dance"-worthy partners to capitalize on the popular program.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Tuesday: Thanksgiving -- or any other holiday -- is not complete without Charlie Brown. ABC runs "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" at 8 p.m.
Wednesday: With the words "Rosie" and "live" in the same title, you gotta watch, as the unpredictable Rosie O'Donnell premieres "Rosie Live" on NBC at 9 p.m.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
"It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" declined in the demo before Halloween. If "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" does, too, is it a signal that younger viewers, many of whom did not grow up with the comic strip, are being stripped away from the TV specials?
~ ~ ~
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.