The Cowboys Win: Bad News for D.C. and ABC

Hayden Panettiere and Milo Ventimiglia in
Hayden Panettiere and Milo Ventimiglia in "Heroes," which racked up Wall Street-like numbers this week. (By Adam Taylor -- Nbc)
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By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Sunday football faceoff between Dallas and Green Bay kicked the stuffing out of the Primetime Emmy Awards, sending football-casting NBC to its seventh consecutive weekly win, and Emmycasting ABC to an ignominious fourth-place finish for the final week of the summer.

Here's a look at the week's Cowboys and five-headed Emmy host:

WINNERS

CBS Premiere Week Monday. For the first time in six years, CBS finished first on a premiere week Monday among the 18-to-49-year-old viewers whom advertisers bill and coo. "Big Bang Theory" enjoyed its most watched 8 p.m. telecast ever; "How I Met Your Mother" logged its biggest season debut in that coveted age bracket; and "Two and a Half Men" copped its strongest numbers with that group since '04. And, miraculously, the season debut of "CSI: Miami" -- Horatio's alive! -- was the night's No. 1 scripted series among all viewers and the No. 1 drama among those 18-49-ers, beating all other dramas that night and, yes, we're talking to you, "Heroes."

Hannity and Colmes. Fox News Channel's prime-time hosts, crowned the two funniest men in television during Sunday's Emmy Awards by pundit Ryan Seacrest, got the last laugh when Seacrest's Emmycast tanked (see Losers) and their show logged its second biggest crowd this year. The occasion? Part 1 of their two-night Sarah Palin interview, which drew nearly 5 million viewers and was the week's fourth-most-watched cable program. Part 2, seen by 4.6 million, was seventh for the week. (Hannity and Colmes's biggest audience this year came the night of Palin's acceptance speech; they were her lead-in on FNC.)

"60 Minutes." The CBS newsmag did its biggest audience since January -- nearly 15 million viewers -- with Scott Pelley's interview with John McCain and Steve Kroft's interview with Barack Obama. In truth, "60 Minutes" owes a lot to its football lead-in audience of 19 million; the previous week, sans presidential candidates, the newsmagazine logged nearly 13 million with a similar football lead-in crowd.

"Fringe." Starting an hour later, and with a "House" lead-in like God intended, the second episode of J.J. Abrams's second series about the pitfalls of plane travel soared to 13.3 million viewers. That's up 46 percent over the what-was-Fox-thinking premiere one week earlier, at 8 p.m. and with no "House" lead-in and the best Week 1-to-Week 2 ratings increase for a new drama on any network in at least five years. The "Fringe" and the "House" audiences got on like ham and eggs, with the former hanging on to 93 percent of the latter's audience.

LOSERS

"Heroes." NBC yesterday acknowledged the number of viewers who watched Monday's season debut of "Heroes" was down 23 percent compared with last year's debut. But the other networks insisted it was down 42 percent. Quite the mystery, until we noticed the other networks said "Heroes" opened with 17 million viewers last year, while NBC put the number at 13.94 million.

Remember how last year NBC took advantage of a new Nielsen rule that allowed it to combine the season debut's Monday audience with its Saturday rerun, because both broadcasts contained exactly the same ads, and apply the "cumed" number to the Monday telecast while expunging the very existence of that Saturday time slot from its Premiere Week? Remember how NBC's research chief patted knicker-knotted reporters on the head and explained patiently that this cumulative number reflects the way people watch television in "the contemporary media environment"? NBC is now saying "never mind" when it pulls out this 13.94 million number. "We don't allow take-backs in our playground," the other networks are responding. We agree. Down 42 percent it is.

Emmy Awards. Sunday's 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards, celebrating all that's best and brightest on cable TV (and broadcast series that do cable-like ratings) and featuring superannuated stars of '70s shows and a five-headed reality-TV host, inexplicably attracted the franchise's smallest audience in its history -- a mere 12.2 million viewers.

"Wipeout." Yes, it did. Its season finale on Tuesday clocked the ABC reality series's smallest audience ever -- about 6 million viewers. After that, a 90-minute "Primetime" newsmag "report" on UFOs drew only 5.7 million viewers, the whole "ooooh-scary UFO" thing having been rendered totally quaint and 2007 by the week's much scarier Economic Collapse story.

The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: NBC's Sunday night football; ESPN's "Monday Night Football"; Fox's "House" season debut; CBS's "60 Minutes; Fox's "Fringe"; ABC's "60th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards"; NBC's Wednesday "America's Got Talent"; CBS's "CSI"; NBC's Thursday "America's Got Talent"; and CBS's "Two and a Half Men."


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