MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Even though the season finale of "Private Practice" underdelivered its recent Thursday-night original-episode average by 10% in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic, it may have been the series finale had ABC not preformed an emergency time-period transplant. But by pairing it with "Grey's Anatomy," the hit drama that spawned the "Private Practice" spinoff, ABC goosed ratings 44%. Together, the two medical melodramas won their time slots, leading ABC to a win with a 3.5/10 rating and share, followed by CBS (3.2/9), NBC and Fox (2.5/7 each), and the CW (1.3/4) (all based on Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings. Final live-plus-same-day data will be released this afternoon.)
The good news for "Grey's" (5.0/13) is that it was the top-rated show on TV last night. The bad news is that it matched its season low, as its 14% underdelivery underscored how hard it's been to hook viewers this May sweeps. And despite the intertwined story lines of some of the main characters, "Private Practice" (3.5/10) held only 70% of the "Grey's" audience. At 8 p.m., "Ugly Betty" (2.0/6) returned and looked 17% prettier to Nielsen than what had recently been running, sitcoms "In the Motherhood" and "Samantha Who?" But compared with its original-episode season average, "Betty" slid 17% last night.
CBS, too, shuffled its schedule in order to maximize May-sweeps ratings, but did so with a rerun of "Criminal Minds" (2.4/7) at 10 p.m., which not surprisingly drew only two-thirds the number of people who usually watch new episodes in its Wednesday time slot. But even a repeat was 9% higher than "Harper's Island," which explains why CBS marooned it on Saturday night. Earlier, "Survivor" (3.6/11) won the 8 p.m. hour but lost 8% of its regular viewers. The losses were bigger for 9 p.m.'s "CSI," which only had about three-fourths of its normal audience, slumping to an original-episode season low of 3.6/9.
But it wasn't because people were watching NBC or Fox during the hour. "The Office" (3.7/10) was off 16% to a season low, and "30 Rock" (2.9/7) dropped 15%. Meanwhile, Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" (2.8/7) cooled 24% to its own version of Hades, a season low.
At 8 p.m., NBC comedies "My Name Is Earl" (2.2/7) and "Parks and Recreation" (2.3/7) combined for 12% less in the demo. Fox's "Bones" also had a 2.2/7, and like nearly every other show, it was down, 22%.
The CW's "Smallville" (1.4/4) and "Supernatural" (1.3/4) were similarly rated but down 18% and 7%, respectively.
Finally, after a promising premiere, NBC's "Southland" fell to a four-episode-low rating and share of 2.1/6, which is only two-thirds of its debut delivery in early April.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Friday: OK, so how did President Barack Obama really do in his first 100 days? Hear from The New York Times' David Brooks and syndicated columnist Mark Shields on PBS's "Newshour with Jim Lehrer."
Saturday: Some of the best few minutes of drama, let alone sports, occur the first Saturday in May with the Kentucky Derby, with post time on NBC at 6:24 p.m.
Sunday: Compared with the seminal "Simpsons" and the push-the-envelope "Family Guy," "King of the Hill" is understated, and thus underrated. While it will live on in syndication, there are just a few weeks of new episodes left, including this Sunday on Fox.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
As with "Grey's" and "Private Practice," Sunday soaps "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters" should be on top as they near season-finale cliffhangers.
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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.