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Your TV Ratings Explained: Let’s Hear It for Glee

Premiere week continues! Which shows swam, sunk, and stunk last night?

Tuned In
Haters to the left: Glee, perhaps boosted by Lea Michele's bangtastic new do, soared to just over 12 million viewers, its biggest audience sans an American Idol lead-in ever. It was the No. 1 show of the night in the crucial under-50 demo (5.5 rating) and was an instrument of destruction in women 18 to 34 (outdrawing ABC, NBC, and CBS combined among that group). The Gleeks helped newcomer Raising Hope draw a respectable sampling (3.1 demo rating). Dancing With the Stars: The Results Show also did well, while CBS's decision to go all-NCIS for the night paid off, particularly in overall viewership (original recipe NCIS was the most-watched show of Tuesday evening with 18.9 million viewers).

Tuned Out
While not a Lone Star–style disaster, Running Wilde slipped to fourth place at 9:30 (a 2.5 demo). Ineffective and minimal marketing hurt new ABC cop show Detroit 1-8-7, which drew around 10 million viewers (owing to the DWTS lead-in), but came in below the premiere of last year's failed ABC 10 p.m. Tuesday drama, The Forgotten, and tied for a weak second with NBC's Parenthood in younger adults. NBC's The Biggest Loser had its worst premiere ratings ever (7.2 million).

Crunching the Numbers
After Black Monday saw Fox's big fall hope crash and burn, the Nielsen high note struck by Glee will be particularly welcome around the network's HQ this morning, and should stall talk of a backlash a while longer. Instead of playing like a typical scripted comedy or drama, Glee has almost become a variety/reality show with fictional characters: Viewers seem to be responding as much to the show's song selection and guest stars as its plotlines. While Raising Hope, quite predictably, lost much of its Glee lead-in, the show has a shot at becoming the live-action comedy contender Fox so desperately needs. Not so Running Wilde: Its numbers were far from disastrous, but fourth place in the demo isn't great, particularly with no comedy competition. Still, Wilde was actually up a tad versus So You Think You Can Dance's numbers in the slot last year, so if it stabilizes in the ratings, it could hang on a while.

Meanwhile, Detroit 1-8-7 got dinged by an effective counterpunch from the folks at CBS, who expanded the season premiere of the successful NCIS: Cool J (NCIS: L.A., if you must) to two hours so that it would run into the 10 p.m. hour. While Cool J didn't do all that great — it was way down from its big series premiere, and dropped every half-hour of its two-hour run — its presence in the later hour no doubt siphoned away some male viewers who wouldn't be caught dead watching the Eye's usual 10 p.m. Tuesday drama, The Good Wife (which returns next week). Also soft: NBC's Parenthood, which declined a bit off of last week's just-okay season premiere.

One last note: For all the drama earlier this year in late night, it has to be worrisome to NBC that, two nights into the season, Jay Leno has been beaten by David Letterman in the overnight household ratings, while among young adults, it's been basically a tie (with both men averaging the same or below Conan O'Brien's fall 2009 numbers). Letterman traditionally starts fall seasons strong, so it's early, but still: Dumping Coco for Leno doesn't seem to have made much of a difference in the late-night race.

Photo: Fox