Although 'Earl,' 'Will & Grace' and 'Four Kings' Improved Net's Position

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Although it didn’t return the network back to its former glory days, NBC’s new Thursday night comedy block started off solidly with small gains in three out of the four half-hour time slots.

Thanks to “Will & Grace” and newcomer “Four Kings,” NBC moved into third place for 18-to-49s in the time period, behind CBS and ABC. “Will & Grace” at 8 p.m. improved on NBC's season average in the time period (formerly home to “Joey”) by 21%, with 7.98 million viewers and 3.5 rating and a 10 share among adults ages 18-to-49. “Four Kings” at 8:30 built on its 18-to-49 lead-in by 20%, with 4.2/11 ratings/share for the advertiser-coveted demographic and 8.8 million viewers overall.

A share is a percentage of TV households that have their sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all TV households. So a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households with TV.

“My Name is Earl” at 9 p.m. lifted NBC to second in its time period for 18-to-49s, with 5.2/13 ratings/share for 18-to-49s and 11.2 million viewers overall, and improved on NBC's 18-to-49 season average in the time period by 24%. “The Office” continued to increase its lead-in from “Earl,” holding a season-high 87% of the adults 18-to-49, although that wasn’t enough to best the rating “The Apprentice” got in the time period during the first half of the season.

CBS won the night for total viewers (21 million) and 18-to-49 share (6.8/18), while ABC’s two-hour premiere of the second season of “Dancing With the Stars” gave it a second-place finish from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. with 17.33 million viewers and a 4.7/12 ratings/share among adults 18-to-49.

“ER” stayed in second place during the 10 p.m. period behind CBS’s “Without a Trace,” but it dipped below its season-to-date average in the first half hour, likely due to “The Office” as its lead-in. NBC remains optimistic about the off-beat comedy, however, encouraged in part by the fact its episodes regularly rank in the top 25 downloads on iTunes.

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