Auds are hooked on Alphabet’s ‘Lost’

ABC's hit steamrollers NBC's Aiken spec

More viewers than ever found “Lost” Wednesday, as the ABC thriller soared to its best ratings yet — crushing NBC’s much-hyped Clay Aiken special in the process.

Midseason finale of “Lost,” which apparently killed off a main character, averaged a stunning 18.9 million viewers and a 7.0/19 among adults 18-49, according to preliminary national Nielsen data. In addition to achieving season-best numbers, “Lost” beat the combined young-adults scores of CBS, NBC and Fox in the 8 p.m. timeslot and gave network TV its best 8 p.m. drama demos since the series finale of “Beverly Hills, 90210” in 2000.

NBC’s decision to air its “Clay Aiken Christmas Special” opposite the last original episode of “Lost” — rather than wait a week, when the ABC smash will be in repeats — proved to be a disaster. Hour — which abandoned traditional Christmas-spec schmaltz in favor of a jarring “special within a special” format — earned a fourth-place 1.9/5 in adults 18-49 and 8 million viewers. That’s even worse than previous timeslot duds “Hawaii” (2.5/7) and “LAX” (2.1/6) or Fox’s own low-rated Aiken-less “American Idol” holiday hour.

Scheduling of Aiken’s special may have been driven by commerce rather than common sense, however: Spec is being released on DVD on Tuesday.

Viewers clearly have an appetite for the right kind of Christmas programming. Last week’s Nick Lachey/Jessica Simpson special delivered big-time for the Alphabet, while chestnuts such as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” still draw plenty of eyeballs.

Elsewhere Wednesday, the big “Lost” numbers boosted Barbara Walters’ annual “10 Most Fascinating People” (5.4/14, 16.3 million viewers) to its best demo score since 1999.

At 10 p.m., NBC rebounded with “Law & Order” (5.0/13, 15.7 million viewers), which had its best numbers since premiere week opposite a repeat of “CSI: NY.” ABC’s “Wife Swap” remained strong in adults 18-34, scoring its biggest margin of victory yet over “L&O.”

Overall Wednesday night averages saw ABC spanking the competish, averaging 15.6 million viewers and a 5.7/15 in adults 18-49. NBC recovered from its 8 p.m. Clay-tastrophe to average a 3.5/9, and 12 million for the night, edging out CBS (3.3/9, 9.5 million). Fox, with its annual Billboard Music Awards broadcast, was fourth for the night (3.1/8, 6.9 million); kudocast was down 33% from year-ago ratings and scored its worst perf in 15 years.

At the weblets, the penultimate seg of “America’s Next Top Model” tied its season-best adults 18-34 rating to give fifth-place UPN (2.0/15, 4.1 million) a nice boost for the night. The WB averaged a 1.5/4 and 3.5 million eyeballs.

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