MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Maybe Americans were so mad about the song and dance from AIG's CEO that they tuned out the song-and-dance reality shows designed to get away from the world's woes. Whatever the reason, both Fox's "American Idol" and ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" results show -- as well as NBC's weight-loss reality show "Biggest Loser" -- lost viewers last night. But then again, so did CBS's dramas, which returned from two weeks of repeats and delivered their lowest original-episode ratings this season.
Indeed, with "Law and Order: SVU" the only program overdelivering on its original-episode average -- up 31% to a 3.4/10 rating and share in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic -- Americans must have either tapped into the populist rage on cable news networks or just turned off the set and opted to celebrate St. Patrick's Day instead.
"Idol," for instance, was down 18% from its season average. But the 8.0/22 for a two-hour episode still gave Fox an easy Tuesday win.
ABC, which finished first on Monday night with the season's first dance, fell to fourth with an overall 2.2/6, as a "Dancing With the Stars" recap and results show got a 2.7/7, only 51% of Monday's premiere. That was twice the drop-off from last spring's first results show. And the recap show (1.7/5) barely showed up itself, finishing fourth in the time slot.
That allowed NBC to finish second with a 3.3/9, as "The Biggest Loser" (3.2/9) combined with "Law and Order: SVU." But "Biggest Loser," too, lost viewers, slipping 16% from its season average.
Despite the Nielsen reality check for "Idol," "Dancing" and "Biggest Loser," they still have a competitive edge on dramas this year, in part because they avoid the ruinous rerun cycle that takes viewers out of regular prime-time patterns. Third-place CBS (2.9/8) is a case in point, as despite spiking from last week's repeats, "NCIS" (3.1/9), "The Mentalist" (3.2/8) and "Without a Trace" (2.5/7) all delivered original-episode lows.
The CW ran both an original ("Reaper," .8/2) and repeat ("90210," .3/1) to finish fifth, with a .6/2.
Overall, it was a down night. The only other show to match its original-episode average was ABC's "Primetime: What Would You Do?" The series asks "what people actually do in the face of everyday dilemmas that test their character and values," and earned a 2.3/7, higher than any week since mid-February.
(All based on Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings, with final live-plus-same-day data delayed until Thursday.)
WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: Given the outrage over the obscene and absurd AIG bonuses, it's either the worst or the perfect time for a sitcom premiere that centers on a "morally questionable" company. Judge for yourself with "Better off Ted's" debut on ABC at 9:30 p.m.
Thursday: March Madness begins on CBS! Mad about wall-to-wall basketball? No worries: ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice," as well as NBC's "The Office" and "30 Rock," are all first run.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
"Better of Ted" would be better off with a better time slot than following "Scrubs," so expect low ratings.
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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.