Sunday Night TV Ratings Cool Off

Rash Report: Most Shows Deliver Below Season-to-Date Averages

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- With Sunday morning TV focused on swine flu, Sunday evening ratings seemed to catch a bit a of a chill, at least as far as the Nielsen ratings results in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic. Because just like last Thursday -- the first night of May sweeps -- Sunday's second big night had smaller ratings, compared to season-to-date original episode averages, for most shows.

'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition'
'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' Credit: ABC
Still,ABC was the ratings a winner, delivering an overall 3.2/9 rating and share, ahead of CBS and Fox (tied for second with a 2.2/6), NBC (2.0/6) and the CW (0.3/1). (All based on Nielsen fast affiliate ratings, with final live-plus-same-day data released Tuesday.)

But ABC's big three Sunday series were all down. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (2.8/8), which often wins the 8 p.m. hour, was off 15% and finished second. And even timeslot winners "Desperate Housewives" (4.7/12) and "Brothers and Sisters" (3.1/8) -- the type of serialized drama that should rise right before cliffhangers -- were off 4% and 9%, respectively.

CBS's dramas had an even more dramatic decline, as "Cold Case" (2.2/5) and "The Unit" (2.0/5) fell 19% and 17%, respectively. But unlike "Extreme Makeover," CBS's reality rival "Amazing Race" (3.1/9) -- which plays like a hybrid between reality and serial drama -- was only off 6%.

NBC's Sunday serialized reality show, "Celebrity Apprentice," also held its season-to-date average of 3.0/8.

The CW ran a serialized drama of a different kind -- the endlessly repeating "Jericho," which delivered a 0.2/1. This lead into theatrical "Four Weddings and a Funeral," 0.3/1.

Sitcoms didn't fare much better either, as Fox's "animation domination" was lifeless, at least in the ratings. Most concerning for the comedy lineup was week two of "Sit Down, Shut Up" (1.9/5), which not only slid 17% from last week's program premiere, but was a 33% lower rated than its "Simpsons" (2.9/9) lead-in and 44% lower than its "Family Guy" (3.4/9) lead-out. But even these two sitcom stalwarts slid, although it was only 3% for "The Simpsons" but a more significant 13% for "Family Guy." Original episodes of "King of the Hill" (1.3/5) and "American Dad" (2.5/6) were off, too, with demo declines of 19% and 14%. Not surprisingly, the only second showing of the night, an "American Dad" repeat at 7 p.m. barely registered with a 0.9/3.

Oh, and the sole show to over-deliver its average (albeit by just one-tenth of a ratings point)? ABC's "America's Funniest Home Videos" (2.2/8). Maybe more notable on a day when the swine flu news -- and speculation -- was so scary is what the escapist video show did beat: Network newsmagazines "60 Minutes" on CBS (1.6/6) and "Dateline" on NBC (1.1/3), which were off 38% and 15%, respectively.

Monday: NBC is calling it the season finale for "Chuck," but the underrated dramedy is more likely having its series finale. So it's probably too late to get hooked, but it's still worth a look.
Tuesday: "NCIS" -- the low buzz but highly rated type of series that works so well for CBS -- begins a two part season finale.

With every network series an original episode on Monday it's a rare test of true viewer preference.

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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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