Santa Claus Comin' to Town Helps ABC

Rash Report: But Fox Wins Night Thanks to 'House'

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- Tuesday's ratings race provided a prime-time primer on the different life cycles of programs. Even the highest rated shows show their age after about five seasons, often peaking, albeit still powerful.

Fox's "House," for instance, which made its debut in 2004, has become a powerhouse and still might have some growth, particularly when it runs after "American Idol" come January. It delivered a 5.0/13 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, easily beating CBS's "NCIS" (3.7/10) the savvy navy drama that CBS enlisted in 2003 and which recently hit a series high. "House" also topped a two-hour edition of "The Biggest Loser" (3.4/9), which although it made its premiere in the same year, has faded quicker, reflective of most reality shows.
'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town'
'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town'

Evergreens and hybrids
Of course, there are exceptions. Some shows are evergreens, such as 1970's "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," which is just one tree in the forest of holiday specials in the next few weeks. Its 3.1/8 was just 6% below last year's delivery.

And then there are hybrids. "90210" is a freshman CW drama which is an update of a series that debuted in 1990. Forgive the network if it gets nostalgic, as last night's .5/1 for a repeat was only two-thirds of its season to date average and a shadow of the show's mid-1990's cultural impact.

At 9 p.m., the only two new season hits squared off, with CBS's "The Mentalist" (3.8/9) just edging Fox's "Fringe" (3.7/9). (Another first year series, The CW's "Privileged," seems less likely to see a second, at least in considering the .3/1 for a repeat.)

Sitcom survivor
On ABC, "According to Jim" had its season premiere, delivering a 2.2/6 and a 2.0/5 for back-to-back episodes. Considering the sitcom has faced the gamut of series life stages -- premiere, hit, fade, and then the TV equivalent of purgatory, hiatus -- it's remarkable that the first episode was 16% higher than last January's premiere.

The ratings race results in the last hour, however, show how some shows get more important, if not better, with time. "Law and Order: SVU" easily won its time slot with a 3.6/10, which was 9% higher than its season to date average. Often one of NBC's top rated shows for the week, it concurrently displays how valuable a franchise "Law and Order" has been, as well as the challenges facing the network, considering it debuted in 1999.

To be sure, NBC's rivals would like the same problem in the hour. CBS's "Without a Trace" hit its season average of a 2.6/7 and ABC's "Eli Stone" continued its sophomore struggles, hitting a season low 1.5/4.

Another test
Fox was first for the night with an overall 4.3/11, followed by NBC (3.5/9), CBS (3.3/9), ABC (2.2/6) and The CW (.4/1).

Wednesday night will provide another interesting test of program life cycles, as CBS's "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" has now been around long enough to not only be watched by kids and moms, but even a few grandmothers, too, who remember the holiday hit since its 1964 first showing.

Wednesday: My, how they grow up so fast. The wee ones can take in "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" at 8 p.m., follow up with "Grammy Nominations Concert Live" at 9 p.m., and then get comfortable for "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" at 10 p.m., all without changing the dial from CBS. (Actually, this suggested lineup is for demonstration purposes only. Please do not try this at home.)
Thursday: Take a one night flight from reindeers to panthers, as the original "Pink Panther" (1964) runs on TCM.

"Rudolph" runs against NBC's "Christmas at Rockefeller Center," which will go beyond Beyonce to include the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and more. Who will kids (and their young moms) watch?

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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
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