Only two networks delivered above a 2 average rating in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, with NBC and Fox tying with an overall 2.6/7 rating and share. CBS was third -- barely -- with a 1.7/5, followed by a fourth-place showing by the CW (1.6/4). ABC languished in last with an overall 1.5/4.
From a programming perspective, only Fox had the fall video vibe (if not the ratings) as it ran original episodes of "Bones," which delivered a 3.0/9, which was a bit below last week's two-hour premiere. Fox followed "Bones" with the season premiere of "'Til Death" (2.3/6), which fell 18% from last year's season premiere and 26% from the series premiere two years ago. The tepid tune-in certainly didn't help the series premiere of "Do Not Disturb," which most viewers did not, as it slipped 18% from its lead-in to a 1.9/5.
NBC's performance was due to a summer series, "America's Got Talent," which had a good summertime rating (2.9/8), but hardly one worthy of what autumn hits are supposed to deliver. This was followed by another reminder of summer -- a rerun -- of "Law & Order: CI," which won the 10 p.m. ET timeslot with a 2.1/6.
CBS's semblance of summertime prime time was reflected in repeats ("Criminal Minds," 1.9/5, and "CSI: NY," 1.7/5) and reality ("Greatest American Dog," 1.6/5). And ABC channeled CBS by combining both repeats and reality in the first two hours, as "Wife Swap" (1.3/4) and "Supernanny" (1.2/3) led into an original "20/20," which was ABC's highest-rated show of the night with a 2.0/6.
Where the pretty people roam
The CW's relatively competitive counter-programming was an original "America's Next Top Model" (2.0/6), but that led into an "encore" of an encore concept, "90210," the remake of the old "Beverly Hills, 90210." Wednesday night, the old episode of the new version delivered a 1.2/3.
As for the new season, it will still look like Indian summer at least through the weekend, with more reruns, reality and sports. Indeed, what is really needed are new episodes of returning shows and more programming premieres to break the pattern. That -- and higher viewing levels after the first cold snap -- should finally heat things up.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Thursday: If the ridiculous race for the Oval Office has you down, move to the sublime "The Office" at NBC, which airs reruns at 9, 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. ET.
Friday: Star-struck viewers should make ABC the top-rated network, as a special "20/20" will feature news anchor Charlie Gibson's interviews with vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Meaning it may be one of the only times that Eva Longoria Parker is ever overshadowed, as she hosts the network's 2008 Alma Awards, honoring the best performances by Hispanics in the entertainment industry, earlier in the night.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
CBS's "Flashpoint" isn't flashy, but is the type of show that is a building block of a successful schedule. It runs another original on Friday in an attempt to become a permanent part of the lineup.
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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.