MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Tuesday's two youth-appeal franchises showed how quickly pop culture shifts: "American Idol" beat an American icon, Charlie Brown, as well as every other competitive program, even though "Idol" itself was down 12% from its season average to a 9.2/24 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic. Still, that was more than six times the amount that tuned in for "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown" and "A Charlie Brown Valentine" (1.5/4 each), a delivery that was down 12% from last year's specials, which ran on a Saturday, and only a third of the "Peanuts'" specials' gold standard, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
Charlie Brown didn't just get crushed by "Idol." The lovable loser lost to "The Biggest Loser" (3.7/9 over its two-hour run), which itself lost 5% of its regular tune-in. This was mostly due to CBS running an original episode of "NCIS" (3.7/10) after last week's repeat. Still, Charlie Brown was able to beat "90210" (1.2/3) on the CW, which itself was off a quarter from original episode levels.
Despite being down, "Idol" still had an up week, at least as far as its unparalleled position as a promotional platform. First were Sunday's big Grammy Award performances by Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson, two "Idol" alums. Then last night "Idol" helped lead-out "Fringe" (4.1/10) stay close to CBS's "The Mentalist" (4.2/10), despite CBS's new hit hitting a series high in total viewers. Sure, "Fringe" fell 14% from last week's showing, which was the third consecutive week Fox's freshman drama ran against a "Mentalist" rerun. But "Idol's" generational pull has helped keep it keenly competitive with adults 18-49, despite "The Mentalist" doubling "Fringe's" household rating.
ABC, CW behind the pack
Just as in prime-time's opening hour, the 9 p.m. ratings race between Fox, CBS and NBC left ABC and the CW in a distant fourth and fifth, as two episodes of ABC's "Scrubs" doubled down with a 2.0/5, and the CW's "Privileged" (.6/2) cut a quarter of its regular original episode average.
The troubles continued for ABC at 10 p.m., as "True Beauty" -- running without its "Bachelor" lead-in due to the presidential press conference on Monday night -- had a homely 1.6/4, which is 45% off its Monday average. CBS's "Without a Trace" (3.4/9) was second, as NBC's "Dateline" (4.0/11) won the timeslot.
But of course Fox won the night overall, as "Idol's" cultural combination of young singers and old songs turned the generation gap into a ratings gulf. Its overall 6.8/17 was 79% higher than the second place tie between NBC and CBS (3.8/10 each), and was well beyond ABC's 1.7/4 and The CW's .9/2.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: The president from Illinois confronts crisis from the very beginning of his administration. No, not Obama -- that was Monday night. Instead it's "Looking for Lincoln," PBS's perspective on the 16th president marking the 200th anniversary of his birth. Thursday: CBS's "Survivor" is a survivor story in its own right, starting its 18th season at 8 p.m.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Yet another big night for "Idol."
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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.