ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," for instance, continued tripping the light fantastic while tripping up rival networks. Night two of the results show delivered a 3.6/10 rating and share in the ad-centric adults 18-to-49 demographic, winning the 8 p.m. EST hour over established entities such as Fox's "Bones" (3.1/9, off 6% from its average) and the CW's "America's Next Top Model," which matched its season average of a 2.1/6.
But during "Dancing's" timeslot, new shows were more like wallflowers. NBC's series premiere (at least this decade) of "Knight Rider" stalled at a 2.5/7, half the score of last February's TV movie that convinced the network to bring the show back. Just slightly lower-rated was the series premiere of "Gary Unmarried," which hitched up a 2.4/7. This was far from a promising premiere, but was up 14% from lead-in "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (2.1/6), which indicates viewer curiosity.
Things got a lot better for CBS in the next two hours, as cop capers "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY" had their fall premieres and won their timeslots, giving CBS an overall win with a 3.6/10. "Criminal Minds" (4.7/12) was up 34% and "CSI" (4.0/11) jumped 14% from last September, a significant achievement for shows in their fourth and fifth seasons.
No magic for Blaine
Both shows -- and CBS -- were helped, however, by uncompetitive counter-programming. For the third straight night the "Dance" floor cleared out for ABC, as lead-out "David Blaine: Dive of Death" only mesmerized a 2.6/7. This repeated the pattern of Monday and Tuesday, when "Boston Legal" and "Opportunity Knocks" lost at least half of the show's dance partners. Accordingly, ABC ended up in second place with a 2.9/8 for the night.
Still, "Dive of Death" beat "'Til Death," the Fox sitcom struggling to keep half of "Bones'" lead-in. "'Til Death" was down a quarter from its premiere two weeks ago to a 1.4/4, and lead-out "Do not Disturb" delivered a 1.3/3, a 32% drop from its debut. The poor performance of the comedy combination resulted in Fox finishing fourth with an overall 2.2/6.
NBC was third with a 2.5/7, as "America's Got Talent" (2.7/7) was at 93% of its season average. Lead-out "Lipstick Jungle" then delivered a 2.4/6, 14% lower than its first showing last February.
And after the lipstick, makeup and fashions of "Top Model," "90210," the only actual rerun on this night of repeating patterns, fell to a 1.1/3, giving the CW a fifth-place finish with a 1.6/4.
The only telecast not rated, of course, was President Bush's address to the nation on the financial crisis. But regardless of the ratings, let's hope -- for his sake and ours -- he doesn't have to repeat the scary scenario spelled out Wednesday to a wary, and weary, country.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Thursday: With so much returning programming, something has to be "must-see!" ABC has season premieres of "Ugly Betty" and "Grey's Anatomy," while NBC has the season premieres of "The Office" and "ER." CBS returns "Survivor," this time from the central African country of Gabon.
Friday: Who says there are no good dramas, reality shows or comedies on Friday nights? The first presidential debate is scheduled. (Whom Sen. Barack Obama debates is not yet clear, however...)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Will "Grey's" still be red-hot, or have audiences begun to cool over the cool, but uneven, show?
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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.