The TV Column's ratings winners and losers: CBS wins the week
Fox had the return of "American Idol," NBC had the Golden Globe Awards and all that Jay Leno drama, but CBS won the week because "NCIS," "Two and a Half Men," "Big Bang Theory," "NCIS: Los Angeles," and "The Mentalist" were all top-10 shows. Oh, and its AFC semifinal game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts clocked an "Idol"-beating 31 million viewers.
Here's a look at the week's ups and downs:
-- "American Idol." Fox suits breathed a sigh of relief when Tuesday's season debut bagged an average of 30 million viewers -- on par with last season's opening crowd -- despite its Paula Abdul-less-ness and the previous day's super-depressing news that Simon Cowell was walking after this season -- for mercenary reasons.
-- Golden Globe Awards. Broadcasting the trophy show live across the country boosted its audience by 2 million viewers compared with last year, which meant that many more people got to hear "Avatar" director James Cameron's inspiring message to America about how badly he had to pee.
-- "Life Unexpected." The first episode of CW's uncharacteristically sweet and non-vampire-laden new drama series, about a 15-year-old girl's reconnection with her biological parents, attracted nearly 3 million viewers Monday. It's CW's second-best new-series launch this season, behind only "Vampire Diaries," which had attracted an impressive 5 million viewers to its opening. "Life" outstripped the first episode of "Melrose Place," which clocked only about 2 million viewers, and stomped on the unveiling of "The Beautiful Life," which was DOA (1.4 million viewers) despite all the hoopla about star Mischa Barton and the show's pervasive Ashton Kutcher vibe (he was its executive producer/tweeter).
-- Fox News Channel. The week a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, FNC was the No. 2-ranked basic cable network for the week, with a prime-time average of 2.4 million viewers -- just 211,000 behind perennial front-runner USA. CNN, meanwhile, ranked No. 15 in prime time with an average of 1.13 million viewers, and MSNBC was 28th in line with 670,000 prime-time viewers.
-- "The Jay Leno Show." While Conan O'Brien enjoyed some of his highest ratings since taking over "The Tonight Show" after announcing on Tuesday, Jan. 12, that he would not participate in NBC's plans to move the show to a later time slot, prime time's "The Jay Leno Show" did not enjoy the same ratings spike. In fact, by Thursday, Jay was shedding viewers compared to the previous week -- but then, Jay's been cast as the heavy in NBC's real-life late-night drama.
-- "Project Runway." The Heidi Klum-hosted fashion competition returned to earth with a thud Thursday when its seventh-season opener attracted 2.9 million viewers. That's nearly a third fewer people than caught the sixth season unveiling -- and move to Lifetime network -- in August. But, in fairness, it's on par with the crowd that came to see the premiere of its final season on Bravo, in July '08.