MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Just six months after appearing on the cover of Time magazine as the "future of television," "The Jay Leno Show" is the past after its series finale Tuesday night.
One need look no further than the rest of Tuesday's grid to see why.
Fox, after all, also needed new blood in prime time, even for its seminal series "American Idol," which featured the first appearance of new judge Ellen DeGeneres. Belting out its second-highest ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic delivery of this season, a 10.1/26, "Idol" was once again the most-watched show on TV. Fox followed up with the series premiere of "Past Life" (2.8/7), which might have a "Leno"-like shelf life if it doesn't improve on last night's 28% audience retention. Still, "Idol" alone was enough for Fox to finish first with an overall 6.5/17.
CBS, just like NBC, needed a new series at 10 p.m. But instead of moving David Letterman to prime time, it developed the drama "The Good Wife," which hit a series high in total viewers and won the hour with a 3.1/9. But that isn't the network's only innovation on Tuesday night: "NCIS: Los Angeles" (4.1/10) held all of its "NCIS" (4.1/11) lead-in to propel CBS to a second place 3.8/10.
ABC, conversely, is relying on a TV veteran on Tuesday nights, with the last "Lost" season. It's highly hyped season premiere defied media gravity by growing last week. And although last night's 5.0/12 declined 9%, it still won the time slot. (A "Lost" review show ran at 8 p.m. and delivered a 1.7/4.)
As for NBC, it did manage to tie ABC for third place with an overall 2.9/8. (The CW finished fifth, with reruns of "90210" and "Melrose Place" each posting a 0.3/1.) But it did it on the relative strength of aspirational reality show "Biggest Loser" (3.5/9, off 10% from regular levels). This should have helped "Leno," as some of his recent ratings highs have come after "Biggest Loser" finales and premieres.
But indicative of the entire media misadventure, the "Leno" series finale was underwhelming, with reality retread Donald Trump lamely invoking his "You're Fired!" routine, and Ashton Kutcher, who just hosted the network's "Saturday Night Live," as one of the guests.
In other words, nothing special for late night, let alone prime time.
Indeed, the "Leno" show only delivered a 1.7/5, about a third of its mid-September premiere and only half of his "Tonight Show" finale.
It lost to ABC's "The Forgotten" (2.0/6), which just about summarizes how fans felt about Leno's show and probably how NBC would like to feel about it.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: Have kids? "A Charlie Brown Valentine" on ABC. No kids? No worries, like all Peanuts specials, it works for everyone.
Thursday: OK, so maybe not so safe for the kids. But adults should love Valentine's Day-themed episodes of NBC sitcoms "The Office," "30 Rock" and "Parks and Recreation."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Albeit a repeat, "Law and Order: SVU" returns to its natural time slot, from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Will it actually out-rate "Leno"?
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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.