Five hours of "American Idol" trumped nearly four hours of Academy Awards during Oscar Week.
Here's a look at the week's Departed and Babels:
The 79th Annual Academy Awards.More than 40 million viewers watched the part of the Oscar ceremony rated by Nielsen -- not including the final 22 minutes because there was no ad break. (No ads, no ratings -- that's how the game is played.) But even if you averaged in those Lost 20-Something Minutes, the Oscarcast probably still would top last year's 38 million viewers. And among 18-to-34-year-olds, there's no denying the trophy show bagged its biggest crowd in five years.
Fox. The network won Oscar Week though it did not air the trophy show, which stands as this season's most watched entertainment broadcast to date. That's because Fox has three nights -- five hours, a.k.a. one-third of the Fox prime-time schedule -- of "American Idol," including two nights when the audience was in the 30 million vicinity and one night when the audience hit 24 million and change.
"Grey's Anatomy."Meredith's medical miracle attracted about 3 million more viewers than "American Idol" Thursday night (or was it the promise that someone would die on "Grey's" that drew us to the episode?). Anyway, among 18-to-34-year-olds -- apparently the most morbid age bracket -- "Grey's" beat all three of last week's "Idol" editions. The 27.4 million viewers who watched Meredith brought back from the dead after like a week under water is that show's biggest haul since nearly 38 million caught it right after the '06 Super Bowl.
Barbara Walters. You're going to hear elsewhere that Oprah's Oscar walkup special beat Barbara's Oscar walkup special. But seriously, while Babs got the pre-Oscar time slot on the East Coast, on the West Coast she got the post-Oscar time slot, at which point viewers already knew Jennifer Hudson won, Helen Mirren won and Eddie Murphy didn't. Oprah's special, on the other hand, aired right after that boffo "Grey's" episode -- and what did Julia Roberts and George Clooney have to do with this year's Academy Awards anyway? Oh, and Oprah only beat Barbara by fewer than 1 million viewers, and it was Babs's best Oscar-walkup ratings in five years. We're declaring the win for Walters.
Oprah. That said, Oprah's Oscar special logged ABC's biggest audience in the Thursday 10 p.m. time slot since Martin Bashir did his victory lap on "Primetime" right after ABC aired his badtastic "Living With Michael Jackson" documentary. (PS: Oprah did a belly-flop the next night when "Building a Dream: The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy," documenting her creation of a school for South African girls, attracted just 8.8 million viewers.)
"The O.C."Yes, it fumbled 73 percent of its "American Idol" lead-in audience and, yes, it dropped 26 percent from its first half-hour to its last. But the very last episode of this once-hot soap posted its highest ratings in nearly a year (though that was only 7 million viewers) and we'd swear we saw Ryan smile four times during the broadcast.
"ER"suffered a series-worst audience of just 10 million viewers; the rest of the "ER" fans jumped over to ABC to watch former "ER" hunk George Clooney get "interviewed" by Julia Roberts on Oprah's alleged Oscar special.
"Jericho"fell to a series low of 8.3 million viewers in its first broadcast opposite "American Idol." Which means "Jericho" may not be as "Idol"-proof as other CBS series.
The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: ABC's broadcast of the Academy Awards; Fox's Wednesday and Tuesday "American Idol"; ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and "Road to the Oscars," Fox's Thursday "American Idol"; CBS's "CSI," and "CSI: Miami"; NBC's Monday "Deal or No Deal"; and CBS's "Two and a Half Men."