It delivered a 4.7/12 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, which was down 12% from Monday's premiere, but on track with last fall's first "results show."
Overall, ABC delivered a 3.8/10, 17% below Fox's first-place finish of 4.6/11. CBS and NBC tied for third with a 3.3/8, and the CW finished fifth with a 1.2/3.
Despite "Dancing's" strong showing, the show ran after a program with a title that seems off-kilter with the financial crisis consuming Wall and Main streets -- "Opportunity Knocks" (1.8/5), the new game show lead-in that needs some luck of its own, as it only delivered 38% of "Dancing's" ratings.
Fox's finish was due to a 5.1/13 for "House," but the premiere of CBS's "NCIS" (3.6/10, 13% higher than last fall's first showing) and a two-hour edition of NBC's "Biggest Loser" (3.0/8, even with last fall's premiere) meant a loss of 9% from last week. "Fringe" followed with a 4.1/9, down a sharp 20% from last week, as the science-fiction serial faced ABC's "Stars" and CBS's "The Mentalist" (3.5/9), which premiered 25% higher than last season's "The Unit," the program it replaced.
At 10 p.m. ET, "Dancing With the Stars" still dominated, as NBC's second-place "Law and Order: SVU" slid 21% from last year's premiere to a 3.8/10. And CBS's "Without a Trace" can report 40% of the audience missing from last fall's premiere, as it delivered a 2.8/7.
The CW, meanwhile, ran programs about rich people who always seem to escape the tough times in the stock market and supermarket: "90210" delivered a 1.5/4, which was down 12% from last week and was at 70% of its season average. And "Privileged" (0.8/2) also fell like a Dow stock, down 27% from last week.
As for tonight, there are more diversions from the financial crisis, but the schedule will be interrupted by a presidential address on money matters at 9 p.m. If well delivered, it should help calm the markets -- and nerves. But if President Bush calls it a "fireside chat," call your broker in the morning and be prepared for even more episodes of "Dancing With the Stars."
WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: It's a night of big premieres, with CBS's "Gary Unmarried," as well as new episodes of "The New Adventures of Old Christine," "Criminal Minds" and "CSI: New York." NBC counters with the series premiere (at least this decade) of '80s remake "Knight Rider" and the very current "Lipstick Jungle." But the most important show will be President Bush's national address about the big drama on Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue as Congress considers the bailout package.
Thursday: With so much returning programming, something has to be "must-see!" ABC returns "Ugly Betty" and "Grey's Anatomy," while NBC has the season premieres of "My Name is Earl," "The Office" and "ER" and CBS returns "CSI."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: "Knight Rider" worked great for a night last year. Will it work for a season?
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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.