Reality skein powers primetime wins for Fox

They’re singing in the corridors at Fox these days as “American Idol” is back and the net is once again competitive in the primetime ratings race.

Powered by a three-night season premiere of the music talent show, Fox scored a solid victory for the week of Jan. 19-25 in the key adults 18-49 (5.6 rating/14 share) and dominated among the narrower 18-34 crowd (5.8/17), according to Nielsen.

The Murdoch net was followed in 18-49 by a Golden Globes-boosted NBC (5.0/13), while CBS (3.1/8) and ABC (2.6/7) were well off the pace.

“Idol’s” appeal stretched to viewers outside the 18-49 demo, as well, helping the net score a victory in total viewers (12.8 million) — its first without major sports help since last May when “Idol 2″ ended its run.

After placing fourth in the November sweep, “Idol” has Fox positioned for a much stronger showing in the February ratings, which starts one week from Thursday. Net has won three straight weeks in 18-49 (the other two came courtesy of NFL playoff action) and is the only network up vs. a year ago in the demo at the season’s halfway point.

Last week, three hourlong editions of “Idol” audition episodes averaged a big 12.7 rating/31 share in adults 18-49 and 29 million viewers overall, sweeping the top rankings in both categories. Compared with last season’s opening three nights, it was up 6% in 18-49 and 14% in overall audience.

‘Fat’ lead-in

Show had its usual halo affect on the Fox sked, too, as new unscripted skein “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance” opened big on Monday (9.1/20 in 18-49, 19.65m) and Wednesday drama “The OC” hit new highs (5.6/13 in 18-49, 12.72m).

NBC was a strong second in most categories and grabbed the gold in adults 25-54 (5.6/13), paced by powerful results for the “61st Annual Golden Globe Awards” (9.9/23 in 18-49, 26.80m), which matched a five-year high in the 18-49 demo.

Many of the Peacock’s key series aired in repeats, but a pair of “Friends” rebroadcasts overpowered the competish from 8 to 9 on Thursday. Also, Monday’s “Average Joe Hawaii” hit new highs (5.6/13 in 18-49), “The Apprentice” performed admirably opposite “Idol” on Wednesday (4.9/12 in 18-49, 12.33m), and “ER” led its hour in 18-49 with a repeat for the first time this season (5.0/14).

At CBS, Sunday drama “Cold Case” (3.9/9 in 18-49, 15.75m) was a strong second opposite the Golden Globes, matching its highest 25-54 perf to date (5.3/11). But Saturday’s “Star Search” isn’t doing much, settling for a 1.9/6 in 18-49 in week two.

Elsewhere, key Eye series like “Everybody Loves Raymond” and the “CSI” franchise were all in reruns.

ABC was paced by Wednesday reality tandem “The Bachelorette” (5.2/12 in 18-49, 11.56m) and “Celebrity Mole” (4.0/10, 8.32m) and received one of the best results in a couple of years for Friday’s “20/20″ (4.0/12 in 18-49, 12.17m), which featured a John Stossel report on “Lies, Myths and Downright Stupidity.”

‘Faith’ boosts ‘Bonnie’

Also Friday, second-year comedy “Life With Bonnie” again impressed (3.3/9 in 18-49), leading its timeslot in the demo, building on its “Hope & Faith” lead-in (3.1/10) and ranking as the net’s highest-rated scripted series of the week.

The WB, getting a boost from its Thursday and Friday comedies, topped UPN for fifth in adults 18-34 (1.8/5 vs. 1.5/4) and tied ABC and CBS for third in persons 12-34 (1.9/5). Frog did especially well on Thursday, hitting some season highs, while rookie Tuesday drama “One Tree Hill” pitched in with its top scores to date (1.7/4 in 18-49, 4.35m).

UPN saw another strong delivery for “America’s Next Top Model” (2.2/5 in 18-49, 4.93m) and its repeat on Wednesday (1.6/4, 3.93m).

Among ad-supported cable networks, USA finished on top in adults 18-49, 25-54 and total viewers. Highlighting the sweep were strong showings for the network preem of theatrical “Blow” on Sunday (2.0/4 in 18-49, 3.93m) and Friday drama “Monk” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 5.61m).

Week’s top 18-49 series ratings came from MTV’s “Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica” (2.5), Discovery’s “American Chopper” (2.4) and MTV’s “Real World” and Spike’s “WWE Entertainment” (both at 2.2).

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A CLOSER LOOK: Thursday at 8 is the toughest hour on the sked, but the absence of an original “Friends” or “Survivor” last week allowed some first-year shows to strut their stuff.

At Fox, “Tru Calling” established new highs in nearly all key categories, including 18-49 (2.3/6), teens (2.7/9) and total viewers (5.28 million). It beat out UPN’s “WWE Smackdown” to rank third for its hour in 18-34 (2.2/6).

Also, the WB’s “Steve Harvey’s Big Time” set new highs (1.6/4 in 18-49, 4.48m), and lead-out comedy “All About the Andersons” (1.3/3, 3.35m) retained most of that aud and grabbed its best results since moving to Thursday, including a 2.3/6 in women 18-34.

Unable to rise up was first-year ABC drama “Threat Matrix” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 5.69m), whose perf no doubt made easier the decision by net execs to shorten its season order.

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