Who says this isn't an exciting new TV season! "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" came back bigger than ever, with numbers ABC hasn't seen since the last millennium. New-series plans are going up in flames all over the prime-time landscape -- it's like one of those over-testosteroned Jerry Bruckheimer flicks. Speaking of Bruckheimer, looks like his reign has ended as king of new-drama development. And, who knew a series promising viewers "Sex, Love & Secrets" wouldn't even open? Really, television doesn't get more exciting than this.
Here's a look at the week's highs and lows:
"My Name Is Earl." NBC picked up the so-called "back nine" episodes of its new sitcom, making it the first fall comedy to get a full-season order of 22 episodes. The Jason Lee starrer is this season's No. 1 sitcom among the 18-to-49-year olds advertisers favor.
"Desperate Housewives"/"Lost." ABC's sophomore series were the week's No. 1 and 2 programs among those viewers advertisers pay a premium to reach and No. 2 and 3 among viewers overall (behind CBS's "CSI"). Two weeks into the TV season, both shows have come back stronger than last season, averaging nearly 28 million and more than 23 million viewers, respectively. ABC hasn't seen averages like that for a scripted show since "Home Improvement" days in the mid-'90s.
"Commander in Chief." The only new series to crack the top 20 last week was the unveiling of ABC's White House hour starring Geena Davis as the president. With nearly 16.4 million viewers, it scored the largest audience for any Tuesday drama series debut on any network in five years. On the dark side, it skewed old, like most political shows; it is in fact the oldest-skewing new series of the season. Median age: 54.7 years. ABC targets 18-to-49-year-olds.
"Night Stalker." A strong turnout by young men helped the first episode of this drama -- in which pregnant women are yanked out of their homes by scary beasts and the fetuses ripped from their bodies -- clock ABC's biggest scripted series Thursday premiere in more than five years. So what won't young men watch? See "Inconceivable" under Losers, below.
"Sex, Love & Secrets." Sex, love, secrets, Denise Richards -- what's not to love about this UPN series? And yet, inexplicably, only 1.4 million watched its Tuesday unveiling, making it last week's least watched broadcast, while, in the same time period, more than 16 million sat through POTUS Davis droning on about principles of feminism on "Commander in Chief." It's a world gone mad. UPN has shut down production.
"Inconceivable." Men really do not want to watch a show about a fertility clinic. Wonder why? Ask your mother. While 2.2 percent of the nation's 18-to-49-year-old women tuned in to NBC's new drama on Friday, only 0.8 percent of men in that age group could bring themselves to do the same. Stats are pretty much identical for men in the fertility-clinic sweet spot -- 25 to 54 years old. Which may explain why the show logged NBC's lowest younger demos in the time slot since at least 1987. If only they'd added Pamela Anderson to the cast, instead of Angie Harmon. Anyway, NBC has yanked the show off its schedule for this week.
"Alias." Fifth-season debut of the now-pregnant, now-Mrs. Ben Affleck's action drama suffered the show's worst opening numbers ever -- just 8.2 million viewers. We wondered why and, since we've never gotten this one, turned to one of its most ardent fans, who directed our attention to a recent "Alias" promo in which ABC managed to jam the words "child," "father," "daddy," "pregnancy" "hormones" and "baby" into just 30 seconds, and added, "Loving a show is like loving a man -- you're only going to get your heart broken."
"E-Ring." Bruckheimer's new Pentagon drama had to be rescued like a little girl when it failed Wednesdays at 9, opposite ABC's "Lost" and CBS's new "Criminal Minds," starring Mandy Patinkin (voice of an angel). NBC sacrificed Martha Stewart to the ratings gods, moving "E-Ring" to the kiddie playground on Wednesdays at 8, where it will do battle with mediocre and aging sitcoms on ABC, CBS and Fox, while Stewart will die a hero's death at 9.
The week's 10 most watched shows, in order, were: CBS's "CSI"; ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost"; CBS's "Without a Trace"; ABC's "Grey's Anatomy"; CBS's "CSI: Miami," "Survivor: Guatemala" and "Cold Case"; ABC's "Commander in Chief"; and NBC's "Law & Order: SVU."