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TV Ratings: CBS Back on Top

Tuned in: So, yes, CBS — after temporarily being bumped from the top of the ratings by a World Series–powered Fox — was once again back on top of the ratings last week, riding a big NFL game and an interview with President Obama to victory in both overall viewers and those under 50. More interesting: ABC climbed into second place in both measures, despite the fact that — unlike its main broadcast rivals — it had no professional sports franchises helping pad its numbers.

Tuned out: NBC came in third for the week, with only a strong Sunday night football game saving it from fourth. That distinction went to Fox, which found itself in Nielsen's big-network basement despite having the fifth game of the (admittedly yawn-inducing) World Series. It wasn't that Game 5 was horribly rated (it was actually up vs. the 2008 Series, when the Yankees weren't involved). What hurt Fox was that Game 5 replaced House (as opposed to a lower-rated Fox show), while Glee was a repeat.

Crunching the Numbers: After 200 episodes, ABC's Dancing With the Stars continues to step lively: It was the No. 1 show on TV last week, with its nearly 20 million viewers outrating even Sunday night football on NBC (but not the 33 million viewers who watched the prime-time overrun of CBS's late NFL game Sunday). And while President Obama might have gotten a "shellacking" last week, it turns out that, yes, he can still draw a crowd on the telly: Boosted by that big NFL lead-in, his latest 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft brought in more than 15 million viewers, a bigger audience than the World Series capper or any scripted entertainment series on TV last week.

Meanwhile, CBS often gets criticized for its reliance on crime dramas. But it's hard to argue with the consistency with which such shows perform among viewers. Last week, Criminal Minds, The Mentalist, CSI, and NCIS all ranked in Nielsen's top 20 shows — and, save for The Mentalist — all three shows have been on a long, long time. The strength of the whodunnit genre can be seen on other networks: Castle might not get a lot of media buzz, but it was among the 20 most-watched entertainment shows on TV last week (its big Dancing lead-in helps.)

If older folks like to see criminals locked up, the young 'uns these days are in a mood to laugh. Last week among viewers 18–49, the top three scripted shows were all comedies: Modern Family, Big Bang Theory, and Two and a Half Men (if Glee hadn't been a repeat, there'd have almost certainly been four comedies sitting atop the weekly rankings). With Family Guy, How I Met Your Mother, The Simpsons, Mike & Molly, and The Office ranking among the top 20 entertainment shows, it's safe to declare that the long comedy drought that plagued the networks for so long is now officially over.

Photo: CBS