What a Difference a Week Makes -- for Olympics and 'Idol'

Rash Report: 'Idol' Roars Back to Reclaim Night

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- NBC, just like the U.S. Alpine skiing team, needs a rally.

Lindsey Vonn acknowledges the crowd after taking a giant spill on the giant slalom run.
Lindsey Vonn acknowledges the crowd after taking a giant spill on the giant slalom run. Credit: AP
Just last week, a gritty Lindsay Vonn won gold in the women's downhill, with her teammate Julia Mancuso winning silver, just two medals in a record-setting, six-medal day for Team USA.

Just as important for NBC, its Vancouver coverage was the first show to beat Fox's "American Idol" in six years.

But yesterday, Vonn took a giant spill on the giant slalom run, which had an even bigger impact on Mancuso, who had to end her run prematurely. The post-race backbiting between the frenemy teammates was more evocative of reality TV, such as "Idol," than the idols Olympic athletes are supposed to be.

Fittingly, "Idol" had a comeback of its own, with a 24% ratings rise from last week in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic. The two-hour tryout for the final 12 men averaged an 8.7/23 rating and share, compared to a 5.5/15 for the Olympics on NBC.

CBS (1.5/4) and ABC (1.3/4) were a distant third and fourth, respectively, as each ran reruns. CBS ran "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (1.1/3), "Gary Unmarried" (.9/2), "Criminal Minds" (1.7/4) and "CSI: NY" (1.7/5). ABC ran two repeat showings of "Modern Family" (1.2/3 at 8 p.m. and 1.7/4 at 9 p.m.), "The Middle," (1.4/4 at 8: 30 p.m. and 1.4/3 at 9:30 p.m.), and "Cougar Town" (1.4/4 and 1.1/3 in the 10-11 p.m. hour). The CW averaged a fifth place .3/1 with repeats of "Life Unexpected" (.4/1) and "Gossip Girl" (.2/1).

Whether the U.S. skiers will continue their athletic and cooperative descent remains to be seen. But NBC itself should be able to rally, as tonight it has what usually is one of the Winter Olympics' most memorable events, the finals of women's figure skating. But it will still have to face "Idol," as its judges in Hollywood scrutinize just like skating judges in Vancouver, and it will send four singers home.

See how all the shows did in the ratings.
See how all the shows did in the ratings.
Thursday: Olympics -- Not just women figure skaters, but women hockey players, as Teams USA and Canada go for gold on MSNBC. Non-Olympics -- 1994 Academy Award-winning "Forrest Gump" on AMC.

Friday: Olympics -- A long list of short-track speed skating races. Non-Olympics -- Sick of the games? Then choose a movie mocking them, with "Blades of Glory" on ABC.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: "Idol" to win the first hour, with the Olympics to win afterward.

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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.

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