The Nielsen dominance of CBS cannot be denied. Leaving aside the reality competition of American Idol, the Eye's lineup of populist fare overwhelmed everything in sight last week, with the network claiming every other spot in the top fifteen. Every. Single. One. NCIS and NCIS: LA were the two most-watched scripted shows of the week, followed by a mix of more crime dramas (The Mentalist, Blue Bloods), comedies (The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men), reality (Survivor), critically beloved soap opera (The Good Wife), and news (60 Minutes). CBS is like Bieber, Gaga, Kanye, and Lady Antebellum all wrapped in one generally predictable, incredibly popular package. Sure, Fox is tops with the advertiser-worshiped demo of viewers under 50, thanks almost entirely to the strength of American Idol and Glee. Much media coverage of the ratings race focuses on this fact, and understandably so since many advertisers base their buys on those figures. But performances like last week's show that in terms of populist appeal, CBS has left its rivals dining on its dust.
And then there are ABC and NBC. The two networks attracted an average audience of 6.6 million and 5.5 million viewers last week, respectively; add those two numbers together and you barely match the Eye's average audience of 11.2 million viewers. For the second consecutive week, Harry's Law was NBC's most-watched show, and it finished a so-so No. 33 for the week. ABC did better, with Desperate Housewives and Modern Family pretty much tying at No. 19 for the week. Even with adults 18 to 49, these two nets lagged: ABC had only three shows in the top twenty, while NBC had but one (the soon to be Scott-free The Office.) Threat Level Midnight, indeed.
Behind the Numbers
Nielsen doesn't publish a list combining averages for network and cable shows. But if they did, it'd quickly become clear just how much cable has joined the big leagues in terms of mass-appeal programming, particularly with younger viewers. To wit: Last week's Jersey Shore averaged a 4.0 rating in adults 18 to 49, making it the No. 6 show in all of TV among that demo — ahead of Grey's Anatomy, The Big Bang Theory, and House. History's Monday-night smash Pawn Stars averaged a 2.4 in the young demo, outrating Castle, Law & Order: SVU, and CSI: Miami for the week. It also hurts us, deeply, to tell you that more people under 50 watched MTV's Teen Mom last week than such fine shows as Parenthood and The Good Wife. It's not all good news for MTV, though: Last week's Skins drew fewer young eyeballs than repeats of George Lopez on Nick at Nite.