On UPN, 'Mars' Ascending

Kristen Bell stars as a teen detective in
Kristen Bell stars as a teen detective in "Veronica Mars," which just got its best ratings ever. (By Scott Garfield -- UPN Via Associated Press)
By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, September 30, 2005

Despite wicked competition, UPN's "Veronica Mars" kicked off its second season with its largest audience ever.

Granted, we're talking only 3.3 million viewers here, and the previous high was 3.1 million.

It helped that Tyra Banks had another good night.

"Veronica's" lead-in, Banks-hosted reality series "America's Next Top Model," retained 100 percent of its previous week's audience of 4.5 million in the 8 p.m. hour.

In the same time slot, Martha Stewart continued to set records.

Last week, she scored the smallest audience ever for an "Apprentice" episode -- about 7 million viewers.

This week, Martha broke her own record, falling to about 6 million viewers.

At 9, opposite "Veronica," ABC's "Lost" clocked more than 23 million viewers. That makes it the show's second-most-watched episode ever, behind only the previous week's second-season debut.

The second episode hung on to virtually all of the audience for that debut. Which, coincidentally, ABC reran last night at 8, where it clocked nearly 12 million people. Or, maybe they were 12 million of the people who'd watched it last week.

Anyway, those 12 million represented the second-best performance ever for a "Lost" repeat.

Then, the good news stopped for ABC.

At 10 p.m. the second episode of "Invasion," the network's new aliens-are-among-us-in-Florida-after-a- hurricane [insert FEMA joke here] drama, fumbled a whopping 11 million of its lead-in's 23 million viewers.

Put another way, "Invasion" -- or, as a pal at another network has taken to calling it, "Erosion" -- lost all but 53 percent of the audience that had been delivered to it by, ironically, "Lost."

In fairness, ABC notes, "Invasion" did finish first in the 10 p.m. hour among those 18-to-49-year-olds advertisers crave.

But not by much, we respond.

While "Invasion" was eroding, the second-season debut of CBS's "CSI: NY" was frittering -- 6 million viewers from last fall's series premiere. Wednesday night it settled for 13.3 million viewers, which put it ahead of "Invasion" but well behind NBC's "Law & Order" and its crowd of more than 15 million.

On Fox, a repeat episode of reality series "Nanny 911" was a tremendous improvement at 9 p.m. over that time slot's previous occupant, "Head Cases" -- the new TV season's first cancellation.

The "Nanny 911" repeat averaged 6.5 million viewers. One week earlier, the final -- aka second -- episode of "Head Cases" had attracted only 3.1 million.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company