‘Lost’ crushes ‘Clay’-tastrophe

Morning Ratings Flash - Josef Adalian

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 (temporarily) killed off a main character, averaged a stunning 18.9 million viewers and a 7/19 among adults 18-49, according to prelim national Nielsen data. In addition to achieving personal best numbers, “Lost” beat the 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. Oddly-produced hour — which abandoned traditional Christmas special schmaltz in favor of a jarring “special within a special” format — earned a measly 2/5 in adults 18-49. 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 spesh may have been driven by commerce rather than common sense, however: The spesh is being released on DVD next Tuesday.

Elsewhere Wednesday, the big “Lost” numbers boosted Barbara Walters’ annual “10 Most Fascinating People” (5.4/14, 16.4 million viewers) to its best demo score since 1999.

At 10 p.m., NBC rebounded as “Law & Order” (5/13, 15.7 million viewers) 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 12.1 million for the night, just edging out CBS (3.4/9, 9.8 million). Fox, with its annual Billboard Music Awards broadcast, was fourth for the night (3.1/8, 6.7 million), while the penultimate seg of “America’s Next Top Model” gave fifth-place UPN (2/15, 4 million) a nice boost.

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