MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Just a few weeks before Hanukkah and Christmas, and not only no holiday specials, but half the network primetime programming in repeats? Sounds like a night for Ebenezer Scrooge. Or Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), Fox's malevolent medical miracle worker.
His bah-humbug bedside manner was healthier than ever, as "House" was the top-rated program in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, delivering a 5.6/15 rating and share, slightly up from its season to date average. Combined with "Fringe" -- which was down 31% to a 2.7/7 due to running a rerun -- Fox won the night with an overall 4.2/11.
"Fringe's" timeslot rival, CBS's "The Mentalist," was also a repeat, and was down 22% as well. But true to form -- whether they run reruns or original episodes -- the race between the season's only two new hits was close, as the 2.8/7 for "The Mentalist" just edged "Fringe." Lead-in "NCIS" (2.7/7) and "Without a Trace" (1.8/5) were also second showings, down 27% and 33%, respectively. Accordingly, CBS was also down, slipping to third place for the night with an overall 2.4/6.
CBS's corporate cousin, the CW, also ran reruns, with "90210" (.6/1) losing two-thirds of its original episode average, and "Privileged" (.4/1) down more than half as the network finished fifth with an overall .5/1.
Not a 'Loser' after all
All this may have made viewers hungry to try something different, which may have helped NBC's "Biggest Loser: Families" (3.6/10) gain 16% during a two hour episode. But lead-out" Law and Order: SVU" kept its size steady, just about matching its season average with a 3.7/10, which was also NBC's overall second place rating and share.
And on ABC, ghosts of episodes past didn't haunt, but low ratings did, as the network, despite running all originals, fell to fourth with a 1.7/4. "America's Funniest Home Videos" (1.9/5) was down 14%, and two episodes of lead-out "According to Jim" (1.6/4, 1.7/4) fell from the already low season premiere ratings of last week, with the 9 p.m. episode down 27% and the 9:30PM version falling 15%. At 10 p.m. "Eli Stone" (1.4/4) continued sinking like one, as each week has bottomed to a new season low.
As for "House," it seems that unlike old Ebenezer, the good/bad doctor has yet to turn his Scrooge-like personality around. This is probably a good thing. Because as much as an epiphany episode might have filled last night's void of no Christmas specials, giving "House" a jump-the-shark Tiny Tim moment would probably lead to tiny ratings come January.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: OK, back to holiday specials: While no show may say Christmas like the classic "Peanuts" special, there is always room for something new: "Little Spirit: Christmas in New York" runs on NBC.
Thursday: And if "Little Spirit: Christmas in New York" doesn't get you in the holiday spirit, how about Christmas in Midtown Manhattan, as NBC's "30 Rock" has its holiday episode.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Will the post-premiere week of "Secret Millionaire" perform like this year's Dow? Or has Fox found a formula for these hard times?
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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.