Two Davids Give 'American Idol' a Bump

Rash Report: Leads to a Hot 'Hell's Kitchen'

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- While they may not have been goliaths like Reuben and Clay or Taylor and Catherine, the two Davids finale finally stabilized Fox's "American Idol."
'Idol' finalists David Archuleta and David Cook
'Idol' finalists David Archuleta and David Cook Credit: Michael Becker/Fox

It has been a season, after all, that will be remembered for Paula Abdul forgetting how many songs had been sung and many viewers forgetting to watch as the monster hit concurrently dominated and declined. But the 10.1/28 rating and share in the ad-centric adults 18-49 demographic topped last year's Jordin Sparks/Blake Lewis showdown by 4%, setting up another rebound for tonight's crowning of either David Archuleta or David Cook. Chef Gordon Ramsay's kitchen-career competition, "Hell's Kitchen," (5.2/13) followed with its highest demo delivery ever, leading to a winning nightly average of 7.7/20.

'Kitchen' vs. 'Dancing'
"Hell's Kitchen" apparently melted away a bit of the interest in ice skating champion Kristi Yamaguchi, who swapped figure skates for ballroom shoes and became the latest jock to win ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" (5.4/14). Although three-fourths of the show's two-hour crowning won its timeslot, the finale was down 17% from last fall and 20% from last year's. Overall, ABC had a 4.2/11 after a 1.8/5 for a lead-in "Dancing" recap show.

While these two highly hyped finales made it a terrific TV night, an underrated CBS show -- savvy navy drama "NCIS" -- had its fifth-season ender, delivering a 3.4/9, the same as it did last year. That was no small feat, considering it went up against "Idol" and "Dancing" and had to gain back interest after the strike-struck season. Lead-out "Shark" (2.3/6) had its season -- and series -- finale as well, showing how hard it is to create a hit program even with a top talent like lead James Woods. For the night, CBS finished third with a 3.1/8.

Reruns on NBC
And as opposed to CBS gamely running the ABC and Fox finale gauntlet, NBC ran reruns of "Law and Order: SVU" (1.4/4 and 2.1/5) after a 1.4/4 and 1.5/4 for two episodes of "Most Outrageous Moments."

While this may be strategic scheduling from a financial perspective, the savings have to be weighed against lost viewers as, not surprisingly, the network's overall 1.6/4 was only about half of CBS's delivery and 21% of Fox's. Indeed, it actually came closer to the CW's .9/2, which was sown from a "Reaper" repeat (.7/2) followed by its season finale (1.1/3).

WHAT TO WATCH: Wednesday: In accordance with a compelling new study reported by Ad Age's Brian Steinberg about how "American Idol's" watercooler talk has dried up a bit, compelling new study all but CBS will run repeats against part two of the "Idol" finale. Otherwise, season finales on CBS ("Criminal Minds," CSI: NY"), NBC ("Law and Order") and ABC ("Boston Legal") make it another night to appreciate first-run scripted series before the onslaught of summer repeats and reality. Thursday: ABC saves its best for last. Just before the summer season starts, the last new episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Ugly Betty" will try to make viewers anticipate the fall season.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: While "Grey's" will win handily, will the post-strike audience attrition impact the final episode?

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NOTE: A share is a percentage of TV households that have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all TV households, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households with a TV. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live plus same day. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of a commercial minute, live-plus-3 viewing basis.) John Rash is senior VP-director of broadcast negotiations for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.
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