MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Reality's recent ratings surge continued Tuesday, as Fox's "American Idol" and NBC's "The Biggest Loser: Couples" were the top two rated shows on a night when reruns of scripted series outnumbered original episodes. Accordingly, Fox not only won, but outrated its combined competitors with a 9.2/25 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, well above NBC (3.7/10), CBS (2.6/7), ABC (1.5/4) and the CW (.6/2).
"Idol," which has been sliding recently, was actually up 6% from last week and was only off its season average by 4% as it continues to cull contestants in its "Lucky 13" round. "The Biggest Loser," however, hit its average of 3.8/10 as the NBC weight-loss show has gained a spot as one of reality TV's mainstays. Like "Idol" and other hot shows such as ABC's "The Bachelor" and "Dancing with the Stars," "Biggest Loser" has cracked the code by understanding in these recession-wracked times that viewers are using reality TV to avoid reality.
Conversely, the other two reality series on Tuesday's schedule, ABC's "Homeland Security" (tumbling 22% to a 1.4/4) and "Primetime: What Would You Do?" (off a similar 21% to a 1.9/5) may be too real for those looking for easy escapism.
Of course, scripted series have traditionally been a way to get away from everyday pressures, but it's a less attractive prime-time proposition when only two of the eight dramas or sitcoms were original episodes: NBC's "Law and Order: SVU," which won at 10 p.m. with a 3.6/10 and the CW's "Reaper" (.9/2), which held last week's already weak season premiere levels.
But the rest were repeats, including CBS's entire lineup ("NCIS," 2.8/8; "The Mentalist," 2.8/7; and "Without a Trace," 2.1/6, which all lost at least 15% of their original episode average. The CW ran its fourth straight "90210" rerun, with predictable results -- the .4/1 was less than half of its "Reaper" lead-in and two thirds less than its original episode average.
And in-between ABC's news-reality bookends were two repeats of "Scrubs" (1.0/3 and 1.1/3), the NBC-turned-ABC sitcom that like so many scripted series wilting against reality TV's resurgence may soon be without a network.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: With Bravo's "Top Chef" and Fox's "Hell's Kitchen," NBC tests the too many cooks theory with the series premiere of restaurant reality series "Chopping Block" at 8 p.m.
Thursday: The available memory on your DVR, as it's the first week in several when ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice" and NBC's sitcom schedule are all original episodes.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
After a fast start, ratings for Fox's "Lie to Me," have been slipping -- despite having an "Idol" lead-in. Tonight it flips time slots and leads into "Idol," which will be "Lie to Me's" truest test of audience interest yet.
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.