WEDNESDAY: Police procedurals "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: NY" don't exactly evoke over the river and through the woods (unless Grandma wears a lab coat and is a DNA expert). But both won their timeslots to give CBS an overall victory with a 2.9/9 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, ahead of Fox's 2.2/7, ABC's 2.0/6, NBC's 1.5/5 and the CW's .4/1. (All based on Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings and shares, with final live and same-day data yet to be released.)
"Criminal Minds" delivered a 3.4/10 and "CSI: NY" a 3.1/9, but both were down, 19% and 18%, respectively. Fox's "Bones" (2.7/9), another Thanksgiving-eve program often about gruesome, grisly murder, also slipped significantly, down 16%, as some viewers tending to hearth and home set aside the electronic hearth, at least for a night.
But the real story was the ratings fate of frenemies Rosie O'Donnell and Barbara Walters, who renewed their public feud despite (or because of) both having TV specials on Wednesday night. As with their split on ABC's "The View," it appears Ms. Walters will win, as NBC's opening of "Rosie Live" closed the same night, driving 20% fewer viewers than "Knight Rider" the week before.
Conversely, ABC's "Barbara Walters Special," in which she interviewed the soon to be president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama, was elected by 76% more viewers in the demo than "Dirty Sexy Money" the week before. But the news wasn't all good for the news reporter, as her interview only clocked 47% of the audience CBS's "60 Minutes" had from their interview with the first couple in waiting.
THURSDAY: The tryptophan must have been particularly potent in this year's turkeys, as the sleep-inducing agent seems to have led some to snooze in front of their sets. While perfectly natural, it had to be hard for retailers, who ideally would want Thursday to stay must-see in order to hype Black Friday. But instead, ratings resembled must-flee Saturday. Fox "won" with a 2.1/7, as the theatrical "Click" clicked with just enough in the demo to put the network past CBS (2.0/6). ABC finished with a 1.8/6, NBC a 1.6/5 and the CW a .6/2.
Accordingly, nearly every other network ran reruns, including in ABC's case a repeat of an evergreen show that had just ran Tuesday night. But in a rare instance of Charlie Brown being a winner, the "Peanuts" hour ("A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" and "This is America, Charlie Brown") attracted more than the attractive Meredith Grey, as the 1.9/6 for "Peanuts" edged the "Grey's Anatomy" (1.8/5) two-hour repeat.
CBS had only one original episode, "Survivor Gabon" (2.3/8), which used survival tactics itself, wisely slated a recap show, as only 42% of last week's viewers tuned in.
SUNDAY: The relatives have all gone home, work starts the next day and things get back to normal. Or at least close, in TV terms. NBC once again wins the night, riding a 5.1/12 fast-affiliate rating for "Sunday Night Football," with the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings drafting 11% more fans than last week's Indianapolis Colts vs. San Diego Chargers fast-affiliate rating. (Final live plus same-day ratings will reflect the post-11p.m. ending and will be higher.)
CBS was second with a 4.1/10 as, just like NBC, it scored with football: An NFL overrun delivered an approximate 7.4/19 from 7-7:30 p.m., followed by "60 Minutes" (4.9/12) getting a good bounce, up 81% from last week's show, which was sacked by Fox's football overrun.
ABC was third with a 3.7/9, led by "Desperate Housewives" (5.6/12), which was 7% off its season average, as well as "America's Funniest Home Videos" (2.3/6), which had its best overall ratings since its season premiere on October 5.
Fox finished fourth with a 2.4/6, as it ran repeats of "King of the Hill" (1.2/3 and 1.5/4) in lieu of a late football game and then had all four of its animated sitcoms under-deliver season averages.
And on a day when America was officially declared to be in recession, it's important to be thankful -- even for incremental improvements, such as the CW's Sunday schedule, which finished fifth with a .4/2. Low, to be sure, but it doubled the ratings from the programs outsourced to Media Rights Capital.
Of course, "Jericho," and "The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course," may not create the high-school hallway buzz of "Gossip Girl." But like Thanksgiving itself, having more at the table is a good thing.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: The compressed calendar between Thanksgiving and Christmas means holiday specials won't seem special but routine. But they're still great to watch, including "Shrek the Halls" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" tonight on ABC.
Tuesday: Not quite as classic as The Grinch -- let alone Rudolph or Charlie Brown -- but ABC's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" should keep you in the spirit.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Stock market values may lead some to refocus on traditional values this Christmas. Will it help ratings for the holiday specials?
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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.