Amidst NBC Family Feud, ABC Series Play Nice and It Pays Off

Rash Report: Intertwined 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'Private Practice' Episodes Help Net Wins in Key Demo

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- Two shows with a common lineage follow each other and work together toward the betterment of the parent network. While that might sound like a setup to yet another Jay Leno/Conan O'Brien punchline, it actually happened on ABC Thursday night, with winning ratings results.

'Private Practice'
'Private Practice' Credit: ABC
"Grey's Anatomy" and its spin-off, "Private Practice," already run next to each other, and ran into each other with intertwined storylines. Both won their respective 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. hours, and ABC won the night overall with a 3.4/10 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic (based on Nielsen fast affiliate ratings, with final live-plus-same-day data to be released Friday afternoon).

"Grey's" (4.7/12) actually under-delivered its season-to-date original-episode average by 16%. But "Private Practice" was up 17%, as it pulled a few "Grey's" viewers who may not usually stay for the full two hours. While the story stunting was about 20% lower-rated than when it was tried last February, expect ABC to try it again, perhaps in sweeps.

Earlier, ABC showed good journalistic judgment by swapping a planned "Grey's" rerun for a news special about the horrific Haitian earthquake, which delivered a 1.4/4.

ABC's dramas may have been the most specific example of programs that are supposed to play nice on the prime-time playground, but they weren't the only ones. At least in terms of TV tonality, the CBS and CW lineups are quite similar.

CBS, for instance, featured a night of police procedurals, centered on the genre's originator, "CSI." But it, too, was down 11% from regular levels to a 3.3/9. Retaining ratings better was "CSI's" lead-out, "The Mentalist" (3.4/9), which was off only two-tenths of a ratings point. Maybe fans got their fix at 8 p.m., as CBS ran a "Mentalist" rerun (1.9/6). Overall CBS finished in a second place tie with a 2.9/8.

Fox shared second place, as "Bones" (3.3/10) won prime time's first hour with its highest-rated Thursday episode ever after an 18% spike in ratings. This was followed by "Fringe" (2.6/7), which was up 13%.

"Bones" and "Fringe" may not be as closely themed as CBS's forensic frenzy, but both are pseudoscientific dramas. The CW's two dramas are closer in content, but also shared a trait that's been common for almost all CW shows: They were reruns. Accordingly "Vampire Diaries" (0.7/2) and "Supernatural" (0.6/1) could only average a fifth-place 0.6/2 for the network.

As for NBC (fourth with a 2.0/5), at least before it got to "The Jay Leno Show," the source of the sour relationships so openly explored on and off the network, its sitcom lineup seemed all in the family. After "Community" (2.3/7), "Parks and Recreation" (2.1/6) featured a guest appearance by Will Arnett, the husband of star Amy Poehler. Right after Tina Fey, Poehler's pal from their "Saturday Night Live" days, had two episodes of her sitcom "30 Rock" run, with each delivering a 3.2/5.

Rash gridsEnlarge
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

But then it was time for "Jay Leno," whose ratings results -- a 1.3/4 -- once again showed what the NBC family feud is all about.

Friday: With NBC's Jeff Zucker reportedly threatening to keep Conan O'Brien off the air for up to three-and-a-half years, the late night drama, and resulting comedy, from Conan, Jay Leno and David Letterman may be better than anything NBC schedules to replace "The Jay Leno Show."
Saturday and Sunday: The best reality show, drama (and sometimes comedy) plays out on the NFL playoffs, with games Saturday and Sunday on CBS and Fox.

No doubt Golden Globes' host Ricky Gervais will be funny. But will he raise 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

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