MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- On Friday, the Labor Department reported that joblessness jumped to a 25-year high of 8.9%. On Sunday, Donald Trump -- whose "You're fired" catchphrase caught fire in 2004, when unemployment was 5.5% -- had 31% of last year's "Celebrity Apprentice" finale viewers give the show the pink slip, as it delivered a 3.1/9 rating and share. Still, as a sign of the times of the new network economy, NBC is bringing back the inexpensive reality show about the rich and famous, even though it continues its demo decline. For the season "Celebrity Apprentice" was down 29% from last year, and two thirds from "The Apprentice's" breakout a half decade ago.
Conversely, a show about working together, CBS's "Amazing Race" (3.0/9), which features friends, lovers, siblings and other couples overcoming obstacles (and often each other) to win a worldwide race, held 97% of its fall-finale and full-season average.
These were just two of the five season finales Sunday night, which was won, ironically, on the strength of a series that has yet to have its dramatic denouement, "Desperate Housewives." Its penultimate episode delivered a 4.1/11 to be the highest-rated show of the night, leading ABC to finish first overall with a 2.9/9, followed by NBC (2.5/8), CBS (2.4.7), Fox (1.9/6) and the CW (.3/1) (all based on fast-affiliate ratings; final live-plus-same-day data will be released tomorrow).
Despite its top status, however, "Desperate" hit a low for the season. Lead-out "Brothers and Sisters" (3.0/8) did have its season-ender, which fell 14% from its full season average (scripted series season finales are a more compromised comparison due to last year's writers strike). But for the full season, "Brothers & Sisters" was down 26%. Earlier, "America's Funniest Home Videos" (1.9/7) won the 7 p.m. hour, followed by "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (2.6/8), which was 26% lower than season levels.
NBC preceded the Donald with "Dateline" (1.6/5), which beat the grandfather clock of news magazines, "60 Minutes" (1.5/6). Season finales of "Cold Case" (2.6/7) and "The Unit" (2.4/7) followed "Amazing Race" and showed no spike in interest, indexing at 96% and 100%, respectively, of their Sunday season averages.
Fourth-place Fox had no season finales, but soon will have a series finale if "Sit Down, Shut Up" doesn't shape up and mature beyond last night's 0.7/3. Lead-out "American Dad" (1.1/4) was a repeat, with an original episode at 9:30 p.m.posting a 2.4/6, which was a 17% slump from its season to date average. In between "The Simpsons" (2.5/8), "King of the Hill" (1.8/5) and "Family Guy" (3.2/9) were down 29%, 40% and 22%, respectively, from their season averages.
Of course, even if Donald Trump's pop-culture impact has lessened, his words haven't. Indeed, they're accelerating -- not just for those working the line, but lineups as well: Last week the CW said "You're fired!" to its Sunday schedule and will turn the time back to its affiliates. Based on last night's 0.2/1 and 0.3/1, respectively, for a rerun of off-network drama "Jericho" and 1977 theatrical "The Spy Who Loved Me," this layoff is both performance and economically based.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: "House," which has cured many ratings ills for Fox, has its season finale at 8 p.m.
Tuesday: TV's best broadcast journalists examine the worst villain (so far) of the Great Recession -- Bernard Madoff, on PBS's "Frontline."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Ratings for tonight's "Gossip Girl," which the CW hopes will set up next season's spinoff.
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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.