Jack Bauer's Toughest Case Yet: Monday Night Competition

Rash Report: Two-Part Season Premiere Down in Key Demo, but '24' Still Strong

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) may be facing his toughest case yet: rescuing ratings for "24," Fox's anti-terrorism drama that coincided with the war on terror.

'24' was off about 12% and 17%, respectively, from last year's Sunday and Monday two-night season premiere.
'24' was off about 12% and 17%, respectively, from last year's Sunday and Monday two-night season premiere. Credit: Richard Foreman/FOX
Only this time the TV tough guys aren't shadowy Bosnian terrorists, Middle Eastern fanatics or African warlords. Or even rival heroes, such as the ones on NBC's "Heroes." Instead it's goofy guys, trying to choose a mate (ABC's "The Bachelor"), get one (CBS's "Two and a Half Men" and "Big Bang Theory") or how to deal with the consequences of having one (the CW's "Life Unexpected").

Not that "24" still isn't a prominent prime-time player for Fox, especially with harder-to-reach male viewers. But based on fast-affiliate ratings (Nielsen live-plus-same-day data is delayed due to the holiday) in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, "24" was off about 12% and 17%, respectively, from last year's Sunday and Monday two-night season premiere.

Delivering a 3.4/8 rating and share, "24" still put Fox in third place overall for the night. But it was beat by "The Bachelor," which hit a season high 3.8/9. "The Bachelor" led into "Castle," which also set a season high with a 2.8/8, which helped ABC finish second with an overall 3.5/9.

As for CBS, which finished first with a 4.2/10, it wasn't just "Two and a Half Men" (5.3/12) and "Big Bang Theory" (5.2/12) that jeopardized Jack Bauer, but "How I Met Your Mother" (4.0/10) and "Accidentally on Purpose" (3.5/9), which hit a season and series high, respectively. At 10 p.m. "CSI: Miami" won the hour with a 3.6/10, although this tied a season low.

And while as usual the CW finished fifth with a 1.0/3, it has to be encouraged by the 1.2/3 for the series premiere of "Life Unexpected," which out-rated its "One Tree Hill" (1.1/3) lead-in. Indeed, maybe the results will make the network realize that its glitz and glamour TV tonality -- "Gossip Girl," "Melrose Place," "90210," "The Beautiful Life" (since canceled) -- may not resonate during the Great Recession, especially when its intended audience may be hardest hit.

Rash grids

See how all the shows did in the ratings.
As for NBC, the supernatural power of "Heroes" was no match for mere mortal Jack Bauer, as it hit a series low 1.8/4. However "Heroes" lead-in, "Chuck" (2.5/6), who has been recast as a bit Bauer, and Bond, himself, was only a tenth of a point below last week's timeslot season premiere.

But then NBC, which finished fourth with a 1.9/5, turned to "The Jay Leno Show." And as witnessed by the family feud that has riveted the network, in not the nation, no NBC executive, let alone James Bond, Jack Bauer or Chuck, could have defused this bomb, as its 1.3/3 was only a tenth of a ratings point ahead of the CW's "Life Unexpected."

Monday: With nearly every Ad Age reader interested in music, and media, PBS's "Independent Lens" -- "Copyright Criminals" -- should also be interesting, as it examines music, money and artistic expression.
Tuesday: Kristen Chenoweth's cameo on Fox's "Glee" was great, and makes it likely she'll be a worthy guest judge on "American Idol."

A ratings rise for Fox News if the Republicans upend politics by winning the Massachusetts Senate seat once held by Ted Kennedy.

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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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