'Dancing With the Stars' Starts Strong

Rash Report: But ABC's 'Castle' Doesn't Hold Viewers

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- With its most-watched premiere ever in terms of total viewers and second-highest among ad-centric 18-to-49 year olds, ABC's two-hour "Dancing With the Stars" waltzed over the competition with a 6.1/15 demo rating and share. That was up 9% from last spring's premiere and 13% from last fall's.

'Dancing With the Stars'
'Dancing With the Stars' Credit: ABC
Combined with the 3.0/8 for "Dance" partner "Castle," which had its series premiere, ABC won with a 5.1/13 overall average, beating Fox (4.2/11), CBS (4.0/10), NBC (2.6/7) and the CW (.5/1).

Up against the ratings results for ABC's dancers, most other programs seemed to have two left feet. Fox's "House" (4.8/13) and "24" (3.6/9) fell 14% and 5% from their original-episode averages. The geeky guys on NBC's "Chuck" (down 16% to a 2.1/6) and "Heroes" (3.2/8, off 18%) had an even harder time against "Dancing," as each fell to its lowest original-episode rating of the season.

On the CW, both "Gossip Girl" (.4/1) and lead-out "One Tree Hill" (.5/1) were once again wallflowers, with each running repeats.

Conversely, CBS's sitcoms had some smooth moves of their own, with each just about meeting or exceeding their original episode averages. "The Big Bang Theory" was up 6% to a 3.6/10; "How I Met Your Mother" matched its average, with a 3.6/9; and "Two and a Half Men" was up 4% to a 4.8/12. "Rules of Engagement" was just 5% below last week's season-premiere average, with a 3.7/9.

At 10 p.m., ABC's scripted series "Castle" finished second, but it held only half of "Dancing's" lead-in audience. By comparison, recent reality partners "The Bachelor" and "True Beauty" performed better, with "True Beauty" holding three-quarters of "The Bachelor's" audience. Even more troubling is that many who sampled the series premiere didn't stick around: "Castle's" second half-hour held only 85% of those who tuned in for its first half-hour.

Unlike the programming in the first two hours (reality on ABC, sitcoms on CBS, medical drama on Fox, sci-fi on NBC and soap opera on the CW), all three 10 p.m. dramas were police procedurals. So while "Castle" beat NBC's "Medium" (2.5/6), many viewers stuck with the genre's originator, as the "NY" version of the "CSI" franchise (4.3/11) rose 23% above its season average.

Tuesday: Two versions of kidnapped kids offer an example of how dramas and documentaries can tackle similar subjects. CBS's "Without a Trace" has the team investigating the disappearance of a Secret Service agent's son, and PBS's "Independent Lens" recalls the 1977 kidnapping of a Japanese girl by North Korean government agents in "Abduction: The Megumi Yokata Story."
Wednesday: With Bravo's "Top Chef" and Fox's "Hell's Kitchen," NBC tests the too-many-cooks theory with the series premiere of restaurant reality series "Chopping Block" at 8 p.m.

With CBS dramas in repeats, another big night for reality TV, as Fox and NBC square off with two-hour versions of "American Idol" and "The Biggest Loser."

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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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