Fittingly, the familiar fall ritual of football once again dominated the TV traditions many have settled into, with only the order of games and pre-games changing. NBC's "Sunday Night Football" and CBS's "NFL Post-gun" were first and second this week, reversing their order from last week. "Sunday Night Football" scored a 7.4/17 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, with "Post Gun" notching a 7.3/21.
NBC's "Pre-Kick" and ESPN's "Monday Night Football" similarly swapped places, with this week NBC climbing to a ninth place 4.6/12 over "MNF's" 10th place 4.5/12.
No dramatic changes regarding dramas, either. (That is unless you consider how the shows, not the characters, are getting killed off, with CW offing Media Rights Capital's Sunday schedule, and ABC reportedly plotting against sophomore series "Pushing Daisies," "Eli Stone" and "Dirty Sexy Money" by not ordering any more episodes.)
As for the shows the networks (and viewers) can't seem to get enough of, ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" also reversed rankings, with each slipping a spot on the overall list. This time "Desperate" (6.2/14) was fourth and "Grey's" (6.1/15) fifth, at least according to the Nielsen fast affiliate ratings (final live-plus-same day to be released late Friday).
Fox's "House" (5.6/15) went from fifth last week to sixth this one, and CBS's "CSI" (a fast affiliate 4.9/12) dropped from sixth to eighth.
And despite the country really needing a good laugh, there was still only one sitcom on the list: CBS's "Two and a Half Men" (5.3/12), which was seventh this week, one spot above last week's list.
The negative news for network TV is once again there are no new shows on the top 10 list and only two freshman -- Fox's "Fringe" (4.1/10, good for 17th) and CBS's "The Mentalist" (3.5/9, 26th) -- made the top 30.
But the good news is maybe familiarity doesn't breed contempt, but content, as all but two shows on this week's list had higher ratings than last. "Sunday Night Football" and CBS's "Post Gun" shot up 11% and 6%, respectively, while NBC's "Pre Kick" kicked in 6% more viewers. And had the Nielsen referees pulled the chain just one link further it would have put "Monday Night Football" even with last week, as it indexed at 99%.
The ratings rise for the dramas wasn't dramatic, but "Desperate," "Grey's" and "House" were up 6%, 3% and 2%, respectively, while "CSI" came close with a 96 index.
Lone laugher "Two and a Half Men" rose 7%.
As for the only new show on this week's top 10? Replacing last week's list crasher -- ABC's "CMA Awards," which was seventh -- was CBS's "60 Minutes," which reported its highest ratings in nine years with a third place 6.3/16.
Of course, the 40-year-old show with octogenarian correspondents had a bit of help, as the future president and first lady sat down for an exclusive interview. In other words, the only difference this week from last was between country music stars and a Barack star.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Friday: Most of you reading are media professionals, so you can call it "viewerism" instead of voyeurism: Ashley Dupree, the call girl who hung up Eliot Spitzer's political career, is interviewed by ABC's Diane Sawyer on "20/20."
Saturday: Comedy goes country as crooner Tim McGraw hosts "Saturday Night Live."
Sunday: Now this is sweeps! ABC runs the "American Music Awards," NBC has "Sunday Night Football," Fox's Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland) returns in a two-hour "24" movie, "Redemption." And CBS's resurgent "60 Minutes" highlights their regular lineup.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Cumulative Sunday ratings should be a pre-Thanksgiving Christmas present for the networks.
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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.