NBC gains in shuffle but ABC dominates

A sked move helped NBC take a step in the right direction with its struggling newbies Wednesday, but the return of “George Lopez” and another dynamo showing by “Lost” made ABC unstoppable on the night.

The Alphabet won Wednesday in key ratings categories for a third straight week, although its “Invasion” is losing ground at 10. Also, the WB rolled out its sked on the night, with “One Tree Hill” and the new “Related” doing OK in their preems.

NBC saw immediate improvement for its struggling pair of “E-Ring” and “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart,” which switched timeslots but remained fourth in adults 18-49 for the 8-10 p.m. block, according to Nielsen.

At 8, “E-Ring” looked more competitive (2.5/7 in 18-49, 8.51 million viewers overall), rising 19% from its weak showing at 9 last week. Pentagon drama placed third in 18-49 and second in total viewers.

“Martha” (2.5/6 in 18-49, 6.34m) had its best showing in its three episodes by shifting to 9 o’clock, where it ran fourth in 18-49 — 1 share behind Fox’s “Nanny 911″ (2.8/7, 7.44m).

Peacock closed out the night at 10 with “Law & Order” slipping back to third place in 18-49 (4.0/10, 12.60m) — behind CBS’ “CSI: NY” (4.6/12, 14.57m) and “Invasion” (4.4/11, 11.38m). “Law” had the weakest lead-in of the 10 o’clock dramas.

“Invasion” was down another 14% week-to-week in 18-49, retaining less than half of its lead-in from “Lost” (9.2/22 in 18-49, 22.38m), which was down a bit vs. last week but easily remained Wednesday’s top show.

“George Lopez,” which had been airing Fridays, showed some spunk with its one-hour season premiere (3.5/10 in 18-49, 9.13m), winning in 18-49 by 17% over Fox’s season finale of “So You Think You Can Dance” (3.0/8, 8.20m).

As expected, “Lopez” had an impact on CBS laffers “Still Standing” (2.1/6, 6.98m) and “Yes, Dear” (2.2/6, 6.79m), which declined 22% and 24%, respectively, week-to-week.

Also for CBS, new 9 o’clock drama “Criminal Minds” (3.3/8, 11.98m) again ran second to “Lost,” on par with its timeslot premiere last week.

At the WB, “One Tree Hill” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 3.46m) kicked off its third season on a new night and time by placing third for the 8 o’clock hour in young female demos. New sisters drama “Related” followed at 9 with a decent preem (1.3/3, 2.77m), edging out week two of season two for UPN’s “Veronica Mars” (1.0/3, 2.73m).

“Veronica” was preempted by baseball in Los Angeles, as was the net’s “America’s Next Top Model” at 8 (2.3/6, 4.81m); still, latter was up week-to-week and second in 18-34.

ESPN covered baseball’s postseason on Wednesday, with the Red Sox-White Sox game (7:15-9:43 p.m. ET) averaging 6.36 million viewers and a 2.1 rating in 18-49. The Angels-Yankees contest (10:05 p.m.-1:16 a.m. ET) pulled in 5.52 million viewers and a 2.2 in the demo.

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