Thursday Viewers Stick With What They Start

Rash Report: Program Compatibility Crucial for Fox, NBC

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- TV tonality told the tale of last night's ratings race, as viewers seemed to pick Thursday themes and stick with them. NBC was helped, and hurt, by this viewing behavior, as consistent comedies "The Office" and "Community" had relatively promising premieres. But the very nature of what makes them unique -- single camera, no laugh track -- was relatively less compatible with "The Jay Leno Show," which had benefited from broad, accessible shows like "America's Got Talent." Accordingly in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, "Leno" its lowest ratings yet, with a 2.7/8 rating and share. While this was good enough to win at 10 p.m., it was off 23% from last night and just over half of Monday's broadcast bow.

'The Office'
'The Office' Credit: Trae Patton
Instead, it was the easy flow from Fox's first episodes of the season for "Bones" (3.0/9) and "Fringe" (2.9/8) that won the night with an overall 3.0/9 rating and share that broke NBC's winning streak. (All based on Nielsen fast affiliate ratings, with final live-plus-same-day data released this afternoon.)

NBC, however, was close with a second place 2.9/8. And led by "The Office" (4.0/11) it won during the 9 p.m. hour, just as the acerbic sitcom hopes to win Sunday night at the Emmy Awards (although despite being the night's highest rated show, it bowed 18% lower than last fall's season premiere). "The Office" shared a cube with the equally caustic "Community" (3.7/10) which held an impressive 93% of its lead in, which is even better than the show that will probably take home the Emmy did, "30 Rock."

Consistency was key in the 8 p.m. hour for NBC as well, albeit uniformly lower-rated, as the season premieres of "Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday" delivered a 2.0/7, which was just slightly below the 2.1/6 for SNL-alum Amy Poehler's "Parks and Recreation."

The timeslot winner was actually CBS's "Survivor." And while it did just that, it clearly didn't thrive, as the season premiere's demo delivery was down 20% from last spring and 22% from last fall. Then CBS was consistent with its summer repeats, which led to a third place 2.5/7.

ABC also had consistent content, as a two-hour "Grey's Anatomy" (1.5/4) led into spin-off "Private Practice" (1.0/3). But it was also in keeping with the summer rerun pattern, which delivered a summer-like 1.3/4.

Rash grids

See how all the shows did in the ratings.
That puts ABC in last place, as the CW's "Vampire Diaries" (1.6/5) helped bring the network out of its usual fifth-place dungeon to a fourth-place 1.4/4. While that's prime-time progress for the network, this was down 24% from its series premiere a week ago. Lead-out "Supernatural" (1.2/3) held a more healthy 86% from last Thursday.

By this time next week, the true test of TV tonality will happen, however, as even the rerun pattern needs to stop repeating sometime. Three distinctive dramas will return -- CBS's "CSI," and "The Mentalist" as well as ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" -- and one promising one, ABC's "Flash Forward," will premiere. A week later, the doctors are back in on ABC's "Private Practice," so an even more pure tonality test can ensue.

Friday: Need a sanity antidote to Glenn Beck sticking his tongue out on the cover of this week's Time magazine? Tune in "Shields and Brooks" on PBS's "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."
Saturday: The sad passing of Patrick Swayze brings new attention to some of his finest films, including "Dirty Dancing," which will be shown on ABC Family.
Sunday: As regular Rash Report readers know, there's a lot that isn't working on TV. Find out what is by watching the Emmy Awards on CBS.

DVR's in overdrive, as "Mad Men" fans record either the show or the Emmys, which may make "Mad Men" Sunday's biggest winner.

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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

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