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It’s not in the script

Reality shows feed season leads at Fox, CBS

Powered by their hot unscripted shows, Fox and CBS claimed primetime ratings victories last week to cement their status as season leaders.

Mirroring their battle for the seasonlong adults 18-49 crown, Fox edged past CBS in the key demo for the week of March 14-20 (4.1 rating/11 share to 4.0/11), according to Nielsen Media Research. Much further back were NBC (3.2/9) and ABC (2.9/8).

CBS, with “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” performing well, topped “American Idol”-fueled Fox by 1 share in adults 25-54 (4.8/12 to 4.4/11) and led easily in total viewers (12 million), while the latter prevailed by 3 shares over the Eye in the 12-34 demo (3.6/12 vs. 2.9/9).

In the net

Getting a nice assist from some of the best numbers in more than 10 years for the NCAA men’s basketball tourney, CBS was the only network to improve on its performance of the same week a year ago.

As usual, it was “American Idol” that propelled Fox, with editions of the show Tuesday (11.5 rating/30 share in adults 18-49, 28.43 million viewers overall) and Wednesday (10.8/26 in 18-49, 24.68m) again topping the weekly program rankings.

Also for Fox, Tuesday drama “House” achieved new highs (6.8/17 in 18-49, 17.33m) to rank as the week’s No. 1 drama, and Monday drama “24” won its hour (4.9/12 in 18-49, 12.05m). Leading into “24” were strong slot-premiere scores for “Nanny 911” (4.1/11, 10.45m).

Net, though, continues to struggle Sunday, falling to fourth. Most weeks now, the net does better on Saturday with “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” than with its laffer lineup on Sunday.

For CBS, college basketball might have cut into the net’s Thursday ratings but it provided significant primetime boosts over the weekend. In adults 18-49, net won by 3 shares Friday and by 4 shares Saturday — the net’s weakest nights most weeks.

Eye for nonfiction

On the entertainment side, “Survivor” shifted to Wednesday and easily led its timeslot (6.9/19 in 18-49, 18.42m), while “The Amazing Race 7” (5.0/12 in 18-49, 12.71m) is pacing ahead of recent editions of the series.

Also looking good was Sunday’s “Cold Case” (4.5/11 in 18-49, 17.29m), which posted its best numbers since mid-November.

NBC was paced by rookie hour “Medium” (5.7/15 in 18-49, 15.35m), which led its Monday slot. Preceding the psychic drama was another solid perf by “Las Vegas” (4.5/11, 12.10m), which has consistently led its timeslot in adults 18-34 since “Monday Night Football” ended.

Sunday boxing skein “The Contender” (3.5/9 in 18-49, 7.79m) built by 30% week-to-week, but another first-year show, laffer “Committed” (2.2/5 in 18-49, 4.99m), ended its run meekly Tuesday.

Over at ABC, neither newbie “Blind Justice” (Daily Variety, March 17) nor “Jake in Progress” (Daily Variety, March 21) looked all that great, although the latter comedy at least provided some timeslot gains.

And “Desperate Housewives” looked good in its first regular-slot repeat of the season and its first appearance on air in four weeks (slot-leading 5.2/12 in 18-49, 13.30m).

UPN again topped the WB in adults 18-34 (1.4/4 vs. 1.1/3), with the Frog sliding 15% year-to-year despite solid numbers Thursday for Jeff Foxworthy spec “The Early Daze” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 4.66m). Monday’s “Summerland” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 2.99m) hasn’t done much in-season for the WB after performing well with its first batch of episodes in the summer.

It was another tightly contested battle last week in the evening news derby, with ABC (2.7/10 in adults 25-54, 9.66m) edging past NBC in the demo (2.6/10, 9.68m) for a third straight week.

Comedy sizzle

On cable, “The Comedy Central Roast of Jeff Foxworthy,” produced by Denis Leary’s Apostle Pictures, debuted to 6.2 million viewers — the second-most-watched telecast in net history. Show edged out the stellar numbers for last month’s preem of “Blue Collar Comedy Tour Rides Again” (6.1 million) and falls just short of a 1998 episode of “South Park.” Spec also beat out Sunday broadcast competish (“Arrested Development” and “Sketch Show” on Fox and all WB programs).

On Friday, the Nickelodeon premiere of the feature “Scooby-Doo” scored a big 4.8 million viewers, including 2.7 million in the kids 2-11 demo. Pic drew an additional 5 million Saturday night.

In the hour preceding primetime on Friday, Disney Channel scored with new comedy “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” which averaged about 3.5 million viewers with a pair of episodes. This makes it the most-watched live-action series debut to date on the cabler.

(Denise Martin contributed to this report.)

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