Schedule Shifts Still Leave 'Idol' on Top

Rash Report: But Nearly All Tuesday Shows Off in Ratings

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Schedules but not viewers shifted Tuesday night, as audience anchors "American Idol" and "The Biggest Loser: Couples" led Fox (6.1/16 rating and share) and NBC (3.4/9) to the top two spots in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic, ahead of revamped schedules on CBS (2.4/6) and ABC (1.9/5), as well as the CW (1.0/2).

'American Idol'
'American Idol' Credit: Fox
"Idol" (8.2/23) held relatively steady compared with recent weeks but was down 13% from its season average (which is higher due to the January jolt it gets coming out of the NFL playoffs). Lead-out "Fringe" (3.9/9) won its time slot but lost half of the audience from "Idol."

"Biggest Loser" didn't lose or gain any viewers, as it matched its 3.7/10 season average. But a rerun of "Law and Order: SVU" (2.7/7) was off 28% from its usual level and trimmed down 30% from its "Loser" lead-in.

"SVU" was just a tenth of a ratings point behind time-slot winner "The Mentalist" (2.7/7), which CBS slid from its usual 9 p.m. time slot to take place of "Without a Trace." Despite being a repeat, "The Mentalist" held 96% of the viewers from "Without a Trace." That might tempt CBS to keep navy drama "NCIS" (2.8/7) as its "Idol" fighter at 9 p.m., as even though it, too, was a rerun, it held about three-quarters of its usual rating. Doing so may help CBS protect "The Mentalist," which, along with "Fringe," is one of just two new shows to become hits this season.

With "NCIS" shifting out of its usual 8 p.m. time slot (confused yet?), second showings of CBS sitcoms "The Big Bang Theory" (1.6/5) and "Two and a Half Men" (1.8/5) -- which themselves usually run Monday -- delivered only about half of the hour's usual viewers.

ABC didn't go as far as CBS in shuffling, as the hoofers on the "Dancing With the Stars" results show (3.2/8) continued in the 9 p.m. hour. But it was off 16% from its season average, and was probably hobbled by its lead-in, the recently returning "According to Jim" (1.0/3 for back-to-back episodes). After "Dancing" ABC then tried "The Unusuals" (1.5/4) a night earlier, which not only delivered its lowest rating yet, but lost to two reruns, making it likely "The Unusuals" will face midseason series' usual fate -- eventual cancellation.

The CW's schedule, like Fox's and NBC's, is anchored -- but in a different sense of the word, as reflected in the ratings for "Reaper" (.9/2) and "90210" (1.0/2).

WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: If you're into America's favorite genre, "America's Next Top Model" on the CW and "American Idol" on Fox make it a good night.
Thursday: Say what you will about sweeps, but every network show is an original episode Thursday night. With all genres well-represented, set your DVRs!

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
OK, so Tuesday's "Unusuals" didn't work so well. But ABC isn't giving up, and doesn't have to wait a week to track its progress, as "The Unusuals" runs again. But this time it has to face at least one original episode, CBS's "Criminal Minds" (NBC's "Law and Order" is a repeat).

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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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