NBC, Fox Gridiron Grids Win Sunday Night

Rash Report: But ABC's 'Desperate Housewives' Has Good Night Too

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- To the non-sports fan, it might seem that from Labor Day to New Year's Day, the network grids are undergirded with nonstop gridiron action. But to football fans, traditionally there has been a distinct delineation: high school football on Friday (inspiring NBC's excellent drama "Friday Night Lights"); college football on Saturdays; pro football on Sundays.

'Desperate Housewives' had its second highest rating of the season.
'Desperate Housewives' had its second highest rating of the season. Credit: ABC
But upon further review, these distinctions are getting blurred, like everything else in media, sports and culture. The NFL Network now has a Thursday Night Football Game. College football has begun to play some games on Friday nights, delighting ESPN but dispiriting the pep band/cheerleader/hometown team ethos of prep football. And later this month the NFL, filling the post-regular season NCAA void, will begin playing Saturday games.

So it was fitting that college football should blitz Sunday's schedule as well. Fox's telecast of the BCS Selection Show ran after a highly rated 7-8 p.m. hour of an NFL overrun and post-game show "The O.T.," which scored a 6.1/17 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic (based on Nielsen fast affiliate ratings, with final live + same day data to be released Tuesday).

Next up was the BCS, but with most pairings either obvious or already leaked, it fumbled away some of its lead-in. Still, it did deliver a 3.4/9, which, combined with repeats of Fox's "Animation Domination" ("Simpsons," 2.6/6; "Family Guy," 3.0/7"; "American Dad," 2.1/5), resulted in Fox finishing second with an overall 3.9/10.

First place went to NBC (5.6/14), which had an all-pro lineup, both literally and figuratively, with NFL recap show "Football Night in America" (3.4/9 from 7-8:30 p.m.) leading up to the "Sunday Night Football" game between the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings that notched a 6.8/16 from 8:30-11 p.m. (final numbers will rise once the post-prime portion is accounted for).

Football would never be as ubiquitous without its ability to span generations, from grandpas to Pop Warner league kids, as well as gender. But it still has a majority male viewership base, and no doubt there were more than a few desperate housewives after days of football, which followed the big Turkey Day weekend of pigskin. So maybe it's not a surprise that ABC's "Desperate Housewives" (4.8/11) had its second highest rating of the season. And its lead-out, "Brothers and Sisters" (3.7/9) hit its high level of the season. Earlier, a rerun of "America's Funniest Home Videos" (2.0/5) and an original of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" were just below regular levels to put ABC (3.4/8) in third.

Rash gridsEnlarge
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

And for other football-fleeing viewers diving for the remote, it was "Amazing Race" that had an amazing fall finale, as the 3.7/9 was 19% higher than last fall's and last spring's finales. But CBS struggled otherwise, as "60 Minutes," missing an NFL lead-in, only delivered a 2.1/6. And its dramas were no match for ABC, as "Cold Case" (2.2/5) and a rerun of "NCIS: LA" (1.6/4) finished last in their timeslots.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: In one of the many media ironies that make analyzing the shows often more interesting than actually watching them, cable – a much younger medium than broadcast – is often actually more friendly for older stars, such as Kyra Sedgwick in "The Closer" and Glenn Close in "Damages." Now it's the guys' turn, as Ray Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula star in "Men of a Certain Age," premiering tonight on TNT.
Tuesday: Absurdist sitcom "Better off Ted" has its second season premiere on ABC. While it's not likely to see season three, it's clearly a better option than the repeats most networks usually slot between sweeps months.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Ray Romano's old network -- and timeslot -- to have a good night as the CBS sitcom block returns with original episodes.

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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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