Reality Rules the Ratings Roost

Rash Report: Tuesday Night Shows Underdelivered -- Even Top Dog 'American Idol'

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Reality ruled the ratings race on Tuesday, as Fox's "American Idol," NBC's "The Biggest Loser" and ABC's "The Bachelor: After the Final Rose" dominated dramas, as well as the demographic most important to advertisers, adults 18 to 49.

As usual, 'American Idol' was the night's top-ranked program.
As usual, 'American Idol' was the night's top-ranked program. Credit: Fox
But even the winning "contestant shows" lost viewers on a night when every show underdelivered its original-episode average. So while "Idol's" two-hour version was, as usual, the night's top-ranked program, the 9.0/23 rating and share was a bit flat, indexing at 89%. But it still easily topped the two-hour episode of "Biggest Loser" (3.5/9), which itself shed 10% of its viewers, as well as the other reality program in the time slot, ABC's "Homeland Security" (down 11% to a 1.6/4).

Despite the downward trend for all three reality series, hourlong dramas had an even worse night, regardless if they were reruns or originals. CBS ran an all-repeat lineup, with predictable falloff of 30% for "NCIS" (2.6/7), 29% for "The Mentalist" (2.7/6) and 21% for "Without a Trace" (2.2/6). NBC also ran a repeat of "Law and Order: SVU" at 10 p.m., with a similar slide of 31% to a 2.5/6. And for the fourth week running, the CW ran a rerun of "90210," which counted 75% fewer viewers (0.4/1).

Even the lone sitcom scheduled, two episodes of ABC's "Scrubs," were second showings. And it showed in the ratings, too, as the 1.2/3 for the 9 p.m. version and 1.3/3 for the next half hour were off by nearly half from their original-episode averages.

That left the CW's "Reaper" as the only original episode of a scripted series to air. But even results for the show's season-two premiere were grim: The 0.9/2 was 40% below last year's bow and 25% below season one's original-episode average.

Fittingly for a night when so many steady viewers were just not into network TV, there were 39% fewer viewers loyal to Jason Mesnick, the "Bachelor" who jilted his first choice, Melissa Rycroft, on the previous night's season finale of "The Bachelor." Still, "The Bachelor: After the Final Rose" had to smell sweet to ABC, as after setting a ratings record the night before; the "Bachelor" post-proposal show got a 4.1/11 to win the 10 p.m. hour.

For the night, Fox won with a 9.0/23, followed by NBC (3.1/8), CBS (2.5/6), ABC (2.3/6) and the CW (0.6/2).

WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: Last night it was the season premiere of "Reaper." Tonight the CW continues to come back from the rerun dead with its signature show, as "America's Next Top Model" struts its stuff with its season premiere.
Thursday: New episodes of NBC's smartest sitcoms, "The Office" and "30 Rock."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
With CBS repeating its rerun pattern, another big night for first run Fox, as "Idol" leads into "Lie to Me."

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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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