MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Genre, gender and generational counter-programming -- and the novelty of a rare, rerun-free schedule -- created a compelling ratings race last night, which was won by Fox's 4.2/11 rating and share in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic. CBS and ABC were right behind with a second-place-tying 4.1/11, as NBC (2.5/7) and the CW (1.3/3) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
With every network airing original episodes, shows had to compete on their relative creative and commercial merits, as opposed to benefiting from a rival's rerun. CBS, just missing first place by a 10th of a ratings point, passed the test best, as its sitcoms held their original averages at the highest level of any network. Only "How I Met Your Mother" (3.9/10) underdelivered, and even that was by only 7%. Conversely, comedies "The Big Bang Theory" (3.8/11) hit its average and "Two and a Half Men" (5.1/12) and "Rules of Engagement" (4.1/11) increased 2% and 11%, respectively. "Two and a Half Men" won its time period, as did drama "CSI: Miami" (3.9/10), which held 95% of its original-episode average.
Fox and ABC, however, each lost 11% of their regular viewers of shows that were up against CBS's comedies. But ABC's two hour "Dancing With the Stars" (4.9/12) and Fox's "House" (4.8/13) were the top two shows of the night. Although lower rated, "House" lead-out "24" (3.7/9) held its average while "Stars'" lead-out, the new drama "Castle" (2.4/7), was down 14.
While the Nielsen news wasn't as good for NBC or the CW, as each suffered ratings erosion en route to tepid ratings compared with Fox, CBS and ABC, each had created a key constituency for its Monday lineup.
For the CW, it's young women and girls. But based on the 13% tumble for "Gossip Girl" and "One Tree Hill" (each 1.3/3), the appeal is limited for those who don't fall within that demographic distinction.
And while relatively younger males make up the core constituency for NBC's "Heroes," the multimedia hit has lost more of its mojo, as shown by the 18% slide from season-to-date levels to last night's 3.1/7. Lead-in "Chuck" was worse, with a season-low-tying original-episode rating of a 2.1/6. And even though "Medium" was 14% bigger than last week, it was still a bit below its season average.
So overall, a close contest, which was won by Fox -- oh, and viewers, too, who got to choose from an original lineup instead of having reruns make the choice for them.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Tuesday: After last night's all-rerun-free schedule, two new shows! Well, maybe not new, but reconstituted. First is Fox's premiere of "The Osbornes: Reloaded," starring Ozzy, Sharon and their often moody brood. Next is ABC's "Cupid," which may give viewers deja vu, as the network tried basically the same concept a few years ago.
Wednesday: Another new show, CBS's "I Get That a Lot," which features famous people doing Regular Joe jobs, taps into the celebrity obsession that seems to define our times.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
What kind of mood the public is in, as romantic "Cupid" runs up against CBS's "Without a Trace" and NBC's "Law and Order: SVU," two series often featuring serial killers, among other criminals.
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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.