Rival nets play ball

Fox gives up ground to rookie competish

Fox’s shift from dramas to baseball Tuesday night opened up some audience for several shows on other networks, with newbies “My Name Is Earl” on NBC and “Commander in Chief” on ABC both spiking upward.

Postseason baseball opened stronger in the ratings than a year ago for Fox, but rival nets were happy not to have “House” and “Bones” in the mix.

CBS was very strong at 8 with record-high scores for “NCIS,” although the net cooled by 10 o’clock, where drama “Close to Home” opened with so-so numbers. Also, NBC was a big winner at 10 with “Law & Order: SVU,” while new drama “Supernatural” continues to look good at the WB.

According to Nielsen nationals, “My Name Is Earl” (6.0 rating/15 share in adults 18-49, 13.23 million viewers overall) was up 18% week-to-week and off just 9% from its boffo bow two weeks ago. It won its timeslot in nearly all key adult demos and remains the season’s highest-rated comedy on any net in adults 18-49.

“Earl” clearly benefited from Fox shifting away from hit drama “House,” which won the 9 o’clock hour last week. Behind “Earl,” “The Office” saw an uptick (3.9/9 in 18-49, 8.27m) but placed third in 18-49.

ABC’s “Commander in Chief” (4.8/12 in 18-49, 16.94m) also took advantage of baseball airing on Fox, rising 12% week-to-week in 18-49 from its solid preem and again standing as Tuesday’s most-watched program overall. It’s the only new series on any net to build in 18-49 from its premiere to week two.

While the show’s sizable 50-year-old-plus audience held steady, it was up across the board in demos, including roughly 15% in both men 18-49 and adults 18-34. “Chief” was a close second to NBC comedies for its hour in 18-49 and won in adults 25-54 (6.5/14); it built sharply on its lead-in from comedy “Rodney” (2.8/7 in 18-49, 7.49m).

This was ABC’s best non-sports showing in the time period since November 2003 in adults 18-49 and since October 2000 in total viewers.

Over at CBS, third-year drama “NCIS” continues to impress (4.4/12 in 18-49, 16.87m), easily topping its previous high scores and winning the 8 o’clock hour in 18-49 and 25-54 for a third straight week to start the season.

Mark Harmon starrer is probably the hottest returning show on any net, coming off an improved second season and a strong summer. It, too, benefited from baseball on Fox, as it didn’t have to face the net’s competing forensics crime drama “Bones.”

“The Amazing Race 8” followed at 9 for CBS (4.3/10, 11.25m), down slightly in demos and up in total viewers from its week-earlier premiere. New drama “Close to Home” closed out the night with a fourth-place 18-49 finish (3.3/8, 10.43m).

“Close,” the latest Jerry Bruckheimer crime skein for CBS, lagged both NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” (6.2/16, 16.24m) and ABC’s “Boston Legal” (3.6/9, 11.76m), although the 3.3 in 18-49 repped a 22% improvement over the 2.7 rating that “Judging Amy” logged in its first airing behind “Amazing Race” last fall.

“Legal” was up 6% vs. last week, and “SVU” rose 19% to its highest 18-49 score since Jan. 11.

Also in the 10 o’clock hour was cable’s top-rated series, FX drama “Nip/Tuck” (2.1/5 in 18-49, 3.89m), up week-to-week and year-to-year.

Elsewhere on the night, the WB’s “Gilmore Girls” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 5.96m) and “Supernatural” (2.4/6 in 18-49, 5.40m) were both up vs. last week in 18-49 and other categories. But UPN’s “Sex, Love and Secrets” (0.6/1 in 18-49, 1.40m) was on par with its very weak opening numbers.

ABC comedy “According to Jim” was flat vs. its week-earlier season preem at 8 (2.9/8 in 18-49, 8.03m), and NBC’s weight-loss skein “The Biggest Loser” was up 13% (3.4/9, 8.36m).

As for baseball, the New York Yankees-Los Angeles Angels game (3.4/9 in 18-49, 8.99m) left Fox fourth for the night, although it was up 6% from last year’s Yankees-Minnesota Twins matchup on the same night — a good start considering the tougher Tuesday competish this year on ABC, CBS and NBC.

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