'Monday Night Football' Most-Watched Event in Cable History

Rash Report: Vikings' Brett Favre Beats the Packers, and Ratings Records

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Don't like the new fall season's storylines? That's OK. The subplots about Monday's shows may be more compelling in their own right.

Brett Favre
Brett Favre Credit: AP
Fox moved its hit "House," about a medical malcontent who seems to make many patients sick before he gets them better, to Mondays, and has the highest broadcast ratings of the night.

CBS's sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" features geeks who may not inherit the earth, but inherit the best sitcom timeslot on TV, and build upon "Two and a Half Men" to become TV's most-watched comedy.

Indicted former House Majority Leader Tom Delay tries to prove a right winger needn't have two left feet as he's a featured contestant on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."

The season's seminal shift of Jay Leno from late night to prime-time is upstaged by his talk show rival's sex scandal.

But wait! The least likely Monday media narrative is this: A soon-to-be Hall of Fame quarterback, so paralyzed with indecision he makes Hamlet look resolute -- decides to join what was his biggest, bitter foe -- and leads them to 4-0 days before his 40th birthday. In the process, Brett Favre also leads the game to the most-watched event in cable history.

The ratings record for the Minnesota Vikings victory over the Green Bay Packers also proved again that it doesn't always take big markets to get big numbers. It just takes a big story. Fans responded, as the game was watched by over 21.8 million viewers and 15.1 million households, receiving a 9.0/23 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic.

As for broadcast, Fox won the night with an overall 4.2/10, but in a pattern repeated by other shows on rival networks, once the game started at 8:30 p.m., nearly every show was flat or down from last week. "House," for example, fell 12% from last week to a 5.4/13. (Lead-out "Lie to Me," however, was improbably up 7% to a 3.1/7.)

Second-place CBS (3.9/9) saw slippage, too: "How I Met Your Mother" (3.4/9) skidded 6%; "Accidentally on Purpose" fell to a series low of 2.8/7; "Two and a Half Men" (4.4/10) had 8% less adults and "Big Bang" (4.7/11) fell 11%. At 10 p.m. drama "CSI: Miami" (3.9/10) was off a scant 5%.

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See how all the shows did in the ratings.

ABC (3.1/8) was third, as "Dancing" (3.5/8) had two-tenths of a ratings point lower than last week, and "Castle" (2.2/6) held even.

NBC's fourth-place finish (1.9/5) was due to a season low 2.4/6 for "Heroes," a series low 1.7/4 for "Trauma" and a 1.5/4 -- which is actually a tenth of a ratings point higher than its series low -- for "The Jay Leno Show."

As for David Letterman, full Nielsen data isn't yet available. But preliminary estimates indicate an overnight household rating of a 4.2, which if it holds would not only have beaten late-night rival Conan O'Brien's "Tonight Show" (1.7 preliminary household rating) but primetime's Jay Leno as well (3.0 household rating.) Based on how uncomfortable Letterman looked, or how Leno may feel after seeing the ratings, both might have wanted to tune into the Vikings-Packers game themselves, just to get away from it all.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Tuesday: Sure, you expect to learn something on PBS's "Nova." But who knew it did drama, too, such as "Darwin's Darkest Hour," a re-telling of the race to publish his theories ahead of a rival scientist.
Wednesday: Well, if you're from Minnesota or Michigan, the Major League Baseball playoffs start today, as the Twins play the Tigers to decide who wins the American League Central Division title, with the winner "getting" to play the Yankees (gulp!) In other divisional playoff series, it's the Boston Red Sox vs. The Los Angeles Angels in the American League. In the National, the St. Louis Cardinals play the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies try to unseat the world champion Philadelphia Phillies. All Divisional Playoff Series Games run on TBS.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
A dominant baseball lineup used to be called "Murderer's Row." CBS's dominant Tuesday TV lineup could be called the same thing, if not because of its first-place ratings then because of its themes, as "NCIS," "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "The Good Wife" often have murder mysteries either central or at the periphery of their plots.

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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.

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