Fox Wins Night With 'House,' 'Bones'

Rash Report: But CBS Sitcoms Gain Viewers

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Fox may have won the night, but CBS may have the last -- or at least the most -- laughs. That's because the network's sitcom lineup has hit on a formula that has worked about as well as any scheduling strategy this season, with last night's season finales performing above last year's ratings.
Hugh Laurie in Fox's 'House.'
Hugh Laurie in Fox's 'House.' Credit: Fox

"Two and a Half Men," for instance, was up 30% over last year's capper with a 4.8/12 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic. And 10% more were laughing with "How I Met Your Mother" (3.3/9) as well as a sitcom scheduled for midseason next year, "Rules of Engagement" (4.3/10, a 19% increase). The Ph.D.-level geeks in freshman sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" didn't test as well, however, delivering a 2.8/8, which was down 15% from original-episode season averages. Overall, however, since sitcoms are generally more resilient during reruns -- and many can eventually be syndicated -- this lineup should help CBS not just in the summer, but perhaps for several seasons to come.

But the night wasn't all smiles for CBS, as despite winning its timeslot, there was a relatively dramatic decline for drama "CSI: Miami" (4.5/12), which fell 15%. For the night, CBS averaged a 4.0/11.

Fox overcomes setbacks
The night's ratings race had inverse news for Fox: Although it finished first with a 4.6/12, the featured finales both finished down from last year: "Bones" (3.4/10) and "House" (5.8/14) declined 3% and 13%, respectively.

Third-place ABC averaged a 3.5/9 and had its dancing shoes on in the first hour, waltzing into first place with the penultimate "Dancing With the Stars" (4.3/13), but this was down 17% from last year's Monday finale. This was followed by one of the first summer series premieres, as "The Bachelorette" scored a 2.9/7, which was up 7% from the recently completed "Bachelor: London Calling" season average, as perhaps the female fan base prefers the suitors' shoes to be wingtips instead of heels. And while it was the lowest "Bachelorette" premiere, the franchise is seemingly an established part of ABC's long-term plans, despite having lost some of its novelty.

"American Gladiators" aspires to last long on NBC as well, but the 1.7/5 for a two-hour version finished fourth. Of course, the episodic escapism of "Gladiators" is easier to miss against season finales and premieres, and the show may perform better as a summer series. "Dateline," conversely, just like news itself, should know no season. But it barely performed better, delivering a 2.0/5 as NBC averaged a 1.8/5.

Finally, the finales on the CW didn't have CBS's laughs, but drama (OK, with "Gossip Girl," 1.4/4, and "One Tree Hill," 1.6/4, melodrama) also had a good night, with the 60% jump for "One Tree Hill" and buzz surrounding "Gossip Girl" giving the struggling network hope for next season's similarly inspired dramas, "Surviving the Filthy Rich" and "90210."

WHAT TO WATCH:
Tuesday: TiVo Alert! Season finales on CBS ("NCIS" and "Shark"), Fox ("American Idol," part one), the CW ("Reaper") and ABC ("Dancing With the Stars").
Wednesday: Rival networks made the choice easy by running repeats against Fox's "American Idol."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Despite declining ratings, Fox still hopes casual fans will create goliath ratings as the two Davids, Archuleta and Cook, compete to be 2008's Idol.

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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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