So it may be burying the lead, since the big story is if the highly hyped return of "Mad Men" led to higher ratings as well. But you'll just have to wait until tomorrow to find out. (Update: Here's Fast National Ratings for "Mad Men", which gave AMC a 76% boost over its prime time rating for this season.) Meanwhile, here's how the broadcast networks fared.
Six shows and four networks won a time period in what seemed like a Nielsen-ratings relay race Sunday night. But in general, network TV lost, as no broadcaster broke above a 2 rating in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic.
A reliable laugh-getter
ABC won the 7 p.m. ET lap, as enough Americans still find "America's Funniest Home Videos" funny for it to deliver a 1.7/6 rating and share, above the 1.4/5 for CBS's "60 Minutes" as well as NBC's "Most Outrageous Moments" (1.0/4 and 1.1/4 for two episodes), Fox's "Til Death" (.9/3 and 1.0/3 for two showings) and the CW's .3/1 for "One Tree Hill."
The baton was passed to CBS's "Big Brother" at 8 p.m., which delivered a 2.0/6, double the rating for ABC's struggling "High School Musical: Get in the Picture" (1.0/3). Fox, conversely, won at 8:30 with its second "Simpsons" repeat (2.3/7), which was up from its lead-in rerun rating of 1.9/6. Another reality repeat, NBC's "America's Got Talent" delivered a 1.5/5, while two CW sitcoms, "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Aliens in America," each scored a .4/1.
Fox not only held on, but accelerated at 9 p.m., with "Family Guy" (2.5/7) and "American Dad" (2.1/6) boxing out the first hour of NBC's "Dateline" (1.9/5 for the hour) and well ahead of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (1.5/4), CBS's "Cold Case" (1.1/3) and the CW's "The Game" and "Girlfriends" (.4/1 each).
'Dateline' rises above
But NBC won the anchor leg with the anchormen and women on "Dateline," which won at 10 p.m. with a 2.2/6 for the hour (and 2.0/6 for the full two hours). This was twice the 1.0/3 for CBS's repeat of "Flashpoint," just about as big a margin over "Desperate Housewives" on ABC, which delivered a 1.1/3 for a second showing. (Fox and the CW, the scheduling equivalent of sprinters, were finished at this point, while the network marathoners go a full four hours.)
For the night, Fox won with an overall 1.8/5, followed by NBC's 1.7/5, CBS's 1.4/4, ABC's 1.3/4 and the CW's .3/1.
With ratings so relatively low, what network needs is a real relay race, which NBC will soon deliver with the summer's best reality, drama and, yes, comedy: the Beijing Olympic Games, which start Aug. 8.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: Need something to watch with the kids? Sure, there's tonight's installment of "High School Musical: Get in the Picture" on ABC. But go back a few generations to the timeless tween/teen pop-culture sensation "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" on ABC Family.
Tuesday: Conversely, don't have the kids in the room as PBS's "Wide Angle" documentary series turns its attention to child soldiers in war-torn Uganda with "Lord's Children."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Sitcoms in general and CBS's Monday-night lineup in particular have proven relatively rerun-resilient, with "Two and a Half Men" and others often making the week's top 10 list.
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NOTE: A share is a percentage of TV households that have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all TV households, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households 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.