CBS rookies, Peacock split bragging rights

HOLLYWOOD — One week does not a season make, but a nice showing for Sunday drama “Cold Case” has wrapped a robust opening frame for the Eye’s rookie class as five of its six new entries have launched with solid to stellar numbers.

NBC will easily capture the opening week of adults 18-49, according to projections based on Nielsen estimates through Sunday, but some of its most high-profile new programs — comedy “Coupling” and dramas “Miss Match” and “The Lyon’s Den” — failed to wow in their bows.

CBS, meanwhile, will cruise to victory in overall total viewers, with its drama “Joan of Arcadia” and comedy “Two and a Half Men” delivering what are arguably the two most impressive opening-week perfs.

And crime continues to pay for the net, whose “The Handler” looks like an upgrade in Friday’s 10 o’clock hour, while Tuesday’s “Navy NCIS” and Sunday’s “Cold Case” also connected with the net’s core aud.

Only Wednesday’s “Brotherhood of Poland, N.H.” was looking shaky out of the gate.

So, though network leaders NBC and CBS are both coming in behind last season’s opening week numbers — due in large part to declines for vets like “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Friends” — it appears CBS is holding the early advantage when it comes to rookie classes.

CBS chairman/CEO Leslie Moonves was cautiously upbeat about the Eye’s opening week perf.

‘Extremely pleased’

“We don’t declare victory or defeat after one week, but we’re extremely pleased,” he said. “We got sampled. That’s all you really want out of the first week.”

Particularly encouraging for Moonves is the fact that CBS generated solid numbers with fewer stunts than its competish.

“With us, what you see is what you get — this was our schedule,” he said, noting that the Eye aired all of its sked in pattern, save for holding off a new hour of comedy on Wednesday in favor of the “Big Brother 4″ finale.

In addition to crediting the creative strength of his skeins, exec said solid marketing and a smart summer strategy helped CBS start off the season well. The Eye mixed repeats of some of its most popular series with three firstrun reality skeins, and as a result, “We had terrific circulation throughout the summer,” Moonves said.

NBC collects on ‘Vegas’

For NBC, best news came from Monday drama “Las Vegas,” which held its own at 10 p.m. opposite CBS’ “CSI: Miami” and moved to its regular 9 p.m. slot last night.

Jury is still out on Tuesday laffers “Whoopi” and “Happy Family,” which air for the fourth time tonight and continue to post credible numbers, while comedy “Coupling” and dramas “Miss Match” came in below expectations.

ABC, thanks to expanded episodes of its hits like “My Wife and Kids,” “George Lopez” and “The Bachelor,” will come in second in 18-49 and rank as the only major net to show year-to-year improvement.

Neither of the net’s new dramas that have bowed, Thursday’s “Threat Matrix” and Sunday’s “10-8,” is an early standout, but hopes are higher for the well-reviewed “Karen Sisco,” which bows Wednesday.

On the comedy side, “Hope & Faith” received great sampling in its preem Friday but is expected to decline as the new “Married to the Kellys” (and not “George Lopez”) becomes its lead-in this week. And Tuesday’s “I’m With Her” also excelled with its premiere, airing behind a high-rated “8 Simple Rules” season opener.

Fox is pretty much on the sidelines until after baseball’s postseason, but early returns have not been good for the net’s Friday lineup, which saw a meager start last week for comedy “Luis” between “Wanda at Large” and “Boston Public.”

Projected 18-49 averages for the week of Sept. 22-28: NBC, 5.1/14; ABC, 4.1/12; CBS, 3.9/11; Fox, 2.6/7.

In total viewers, CBS will prevail easily with roughly 14 million — its largest opening-week aud in three seasons.

* * *

On Sunday, the premiere of “Cold Case,” Jerry Bruckheimer’s latest crime series for CBS, drew a large audience, teaming with a strong showing for movie “Twelve Mile Road” to give the net a competitive finish in key demo categories and a dominant victory in total viewers.

According to prelim nationals, NBC won the night in both adults 18-49 (4.0/11) and 25-54 (5.0/12) despite a less-than-impressive debut for legal drama “The Lyon’s Den.”

“Cold Case” (3.3/9 in adults 18-49, 15.5 million viewers overall) gave CBS its best demo perf in the hour with regular programs since March, winning its hour in adults 25-54. And new Tom Selleck movie “Twelve Mile Road” (3.7/9 in adults 18-49, 15.7 million viewers overall) did well, finishing in a virtual first-place tie in adults 18-49 in its final hour and winning its two hours in total viewers.

NBC was paced by a strong season premiere for 9 p.m.’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (5.1/12 in adults 18-49, 15.5m), up year-to-year and the top-rated program of the night in 18-49. Net also received solid performances from second-year “American Dreams,” which led at 8 in 18-49 (3.6/10) and “Dateline,” whose 3.1/9 in 18-49 was its best score in 11 months.

‘Den’ mediocre

At 10, Rob Lowe drama “Lyon’s Den” (4.2/11 in A18-49, 12.5m) had a mediocre bow, edging out ABC and CBS for first in 18-49 but declining by six-tenths of a ratings point in its second half-hour (3.9 vs. 4.5). It was down 14% from last year’s “Boomtown” bow.

ABC received a solid showing from “The Practice” (4.1/11 in A18-49, 10.2m), which led at 10:30 in 18-49, while “Alias” (4.0/9 in 18-49, 9.6m) ran second in 18-49 from 9 to 10.

Both dramas were down more than a ratings point from their preems of a year ago, but given the ratings tailspin of last season when “The Practice” moved off Sundays, it opened better than expected opposite “Lyon’s Den.”

At 8, new cop drama, “10-8″ (2.7/7 in A18-49, 9.2m), ran fourth, roughly matching lead-in “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

Fox was competitive on the night with an NFL overrun and a repeat of “There’s Something About Mary” (3.3/8 in 18-49), while the WB’s “Charmed” (2.7/7 in 18-49, 5.9m) looked solid with its two-hour season premiere, placing second from 8 to 10 in adults 18-34 (3.2/9).

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