'Muppets Christmas' Lights the Lights for NBC

Rash Report: But CBS Procedurals Win the Night

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Maybe it was the film of Bernard Madoff, the secret billionaire, walking free on the streets of New York. But 21% fewer viewers had the stomach for "Secret Millionaire," Fox's new reality show, which rang up a 2.2/7 rating and share in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic. Instead, some chose what money can't buy -- family togetherness -- by opting to watch "A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa," a new NBC holiday special, which won the time slot with a 2.4/7.

'A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa'
'A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa' Credit: NBC
Muppets madness
The Muppets beat out not only "Secret Millionaire" but CBS sitcoms "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (2.0/6, off 9% from its usual showing) and "Gary Unmarried" (holding steady with a 2.3/7), as well as ABC's "Pushing Daisies" (1.6/5, down 11%). The CW aired a rerun of a program from corporate cousin CBS, "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" (0.9/3), and followed it with "Stylista" (0.6/2) en route to a fifth place 0.7/2 for the night.

Seeing Mr. Madoff stroll the streets of Manhattan after his alleged Ponzi scheme may have grifted $50 billion from an already hobbled economy also might have affected the next two prime-time hours, as perhaps some were inspired to watch CBS's 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. winners "Criminal Minds" (3.9/11) and "CSI: NY" (3.6/10). Whether they delivered a sense of justice is unsure, but they sure delivered the night for the network, which won by locking up an overall 3.2/9.

That was 60% above the second place 2.0/6 for NBC, the network lost a lot of life after the Muppets with, well, "Life" (1.7/5, which was 30% lower than "A Muppets Christmas" and fell 15% from its normal levels) and "Law & Order" (2.0/6, down 9%).

'Dirty Sexy' decline
Fox and ABC tied with an overall 1.8/5. Fox followed up "Secret Millionaire" with a repeat of "Bones" (1.4/4), while ABC pulled in 43% more for "Private Practice" (2.3/6) than lead-in "Pushing Daisies."

Then, at 10 p.m., ABC ran a show more Madoff than Muppets: "Dirty Sexy Money." It may have not been a good night for a drama whose title evokes what ABC describes as "the absurdly wealthy Darling family of New York City mixed up with the wrong people and embroiled in some bad situations." "Dirty Sexy Money" was down 15%, tying a season low with a 1.7/5.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Thursday: CBS runs "Million Dollar Password," and Fox counters with "Secret Millionaire." But you'll be richer for watching the original 1971 version of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" on AMC.
Friday: Between Rod Blagoevich and Bernie Madoff, it's hard to tell the Grinches without a scorecard. The New York Times' David Brooks and syndicated columnist Mark Shields sort it all out in their regular Friday appearance on PBS's "Newshour with Jim Lehrer."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: With nearly every Thursday show a rerun, very low ratings.

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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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