Strength in Numbers: 'CSI' Crossover Trilogy Raises Ratings

Rash Report: But ABC, 'Grey's Anatomy' Win Night with Adults 18-49

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- Most of the focus on the new-season ratings race comes down to new shows. But with the majority of the prime-time grid undergirded by veteran series, it's often how they perform that's more decisive.

The trilogy crossover event this week gave 'CSI' its best rating since the first two weeks of the season.
The trilogy crossover event this week gave 'CSI' its best rating since the first two weeks of the season. Credit: CBS
CBS, for example, is winning Tuesday with two new shows, "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "The Good Wife," which routinely win their time slots. But the launching pad for both is "NCIS," which has defied TV gravity and grown in its seventh season.

Conversely, the "CSI" franchise, which generated the genre of police procedurals that has defined drama for most of this decade, is beginning to show its age, as nearly every show, even if it's a hit, does after its fourth or fifth season.

What to do? Savvy storytelling, building into a sweeps stunt, in a crossover plot for all three "CSI" shows. The trilogy crossover began Monday, with "CSI: Miami," which as usual won its time slot by matching its original episode season-to-date average of 4.0/11 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic. Two nights later, the story -- and the ratings -- picked up, as 19% more viewers than normal tuned into "CSI: NY" (3.8/10) despite it running against the highly rated CMA Awards on ABC.

And last night the original "CSI" was up 8%, matching "Miami's" rating -- 4.0/10 in the fast affiliate ratings, with final live-plus-same-day data to be released Friday afternoon.

While this wasn't enough to win the time slot (ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" did, with the 5.4/13 its best rating in six weeks) it was "CSI's" best rating since the first two weeks of the season. And while only time (and Nielsen) will tell, it may have also been enough to make "CSI" star Laurence Fishburne, who replaced original top cop William Peterson, more of the "team," both to the other "CSI" characters and, as importantly, to viewers, who have watched less since his arrival last winter.

The "CSI" demo delivery was matched by its lead-in, "Survivor" (4.0/11), which was also up 8% from last week as it won its time slot. And "CSI's" lead-out, "The Mentalist," (3.5/10) was just a tenth of a ratings point below both last week and its season-to-date average.

But overall it was only good enough for a second place 3.8/10, as ABC won with a 4.0/10 based on the strength of not only "Grey's," but the program it spun-off, "Private Practice," (3.9/11) which had its highest rating since the season premiere, spiking 15% from last week and 3% from its season average. At 8 p.m. "FlashForward," however, matched last week's series low 2.6/7.

Fox (2.5/7) finished third, as it too used existing shows to make inroads on what has been a traditionally tough night for the network. "Bones" (2.9/8) was up a tenth of a ratings point from its usual levels, and "Fringe" (2.2.5) was just a tenth below.

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

NBC fell to fourth with a 2.4/6, with sitcoms "Parks and Recreation" (2.1/6), "30 Rock" (2.9/7) and "The Office" (4.0/10) all just a tenth of a ratings point below last week. "Community" (2.1/6) was down two-tenths. But as usual, it was a new show that seems like a veteran one with the same old problems, as "The Jay Leno Show" (1.6/4) attracted less than half the viewers of time slot rivals "Private Practice" and "The Mentalist."

Of course, there still is room for new shows to be a time-period changer, if not a game-changer. The CW (fifth, with a 1.7/4) has one, at least with its desired demographic of young women and girls, and apparently it's doing pretty well with some of their moms and dads as well: "Vampire Diaries" (2.0/5) matched its second -highest rating ever and was just a tenth of a ratings point below its prime-time premiering NBC sitcoms. This may also have helped lead-out "Supernatural," (1.3/3) which was up a tenth from last week and its season average.

Friday: For a Friday, "Smallville" has had big ratings, at least by CW standards. Find out why at 8 p.m.
Saturday: OK, it's still a bit too soon for holiday movies. But it's never too early for movies that bring families together, or remind us of when they did: TBS airs "The Wizard of Oz."
Sunday: AMC's Sunday night moves from "Mad Men" to a story about a man who may be driven crazy as it remakes "The Prisoner."

Big ratings for the big game Sunday night between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts.

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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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