NBC surprises; 'Rich' leaves Fox poor

Four was definitely a crowd for Fox on Thursday, as the net posted meek ratings to open the November sweep opposite popular programs on the other major nets.

ABC narrowly won the night among young adults over CBS, with the Eye leading the way in total viewers, while third-place NBC was stronger than usual. That left Fox on the outside looking in, falling behind even Univision and the CW.

November struggles are nothing new to Fox, which in recent years has rallied in the second half of the season behind “American Idol” and “24,” but it appears to have dug itself a pretty big hole after several weak showings from its entertainment skeins.

One night after gameshow “The Rich List” opened D.O.A., the net’s Thursday lineup flopped. Laffers “‘Til Death” and “Happy Hour” lost a good chunk of their aud following a baseball-dictated hiatus, and viewers chose not to spend the 9 o’clock hour in “The OC.”

Fox’s struggles continued on Friday, where it also placed sixth in 18-49 (again behind CW and Univision) as “Vanished” tanked on its new night.

Overall on Thursday — the opening night of the four-week sweep — ABC had the edge over CBS in adults 18-49 (5.5/14 to 5.4/13), with NBC third (4.8/12). The Latin Grammy Awards lifted Univision to fourth (2.6/6), followed by the CW in fifth (1.8/4) and Fox in sixth (1.5/4).

This repped the Alphabet’s highest Thursday 18-49 rating to start a November sweep in at least 15 years, and the net’s biggest regular-program demo score on a Thursday in any sweep in at least 15 years.

ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” (9.0/21 in 18-49, 21.03m) again led the 9 o’clock battle over CBS’ “CSI” (7.0/16, 20.77m), with NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” (4.7/11, 13.22m) hitting a season high on the night.

It was neck-and-neck between Fox’s “The OC” (1.5/3, 3.39m) and CW’s “Supernatural” (1.4/3, 3.38m). “OC,” with the tough task of bowing against sweeps episodes of the established dramas, came in with just half of its rating on the same night a year ago (3.0/8), when it aired at 8.

Net also did nothing kicking off the night, as “‘Til Death” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 4.33m) and “Happy Hour” (1.4/4, 3.20m) were overwhelmed by CBS’ “Survivor” (5.4/14, 15.30m). Also handily beating the Fox laffers were stronger comedies “Ugly Betty” on ABC (4.4/11, 13.62m) and “My Name Is Earl” (4.1/11, 9.48m) and “The Office” (4.2/10, 8.81m) on NBC.

“Earl,” featuring guest star Roseanne Barr, matched its season high in 18-49, while “The Office” clocked in with its best score since its season premiere.

Over at CW, “Smallville” (2.1/5 in 18-49, 5.01m) remained solid, placing second at 8 in men 18-34 (2.7/9).

And in the 10 o’clock drama battle, NBC’s “ER” (5.7/15 in 18-49, 13.85m) easily led in all demos over CBS’ “Shark” (3.7/10, 13.32m) and ABC’s “Six Degrees” (3.1/8, 7.40m), with the two rookies both at season-low levels.

Compared with the opening Thursday of last year, ABC was up 90% (5.5 vs. 2.9), CBS declined 29% (5.4 vs. 7.6), NBC was flat (at 4.8), CW was on par with the WB (at 1.8) and Fox slid 35% (1.5 vs. 2.3).

CBS went on to win Friday, as “Ghost Whisperer” remained hot (prelim 3.6/11 in 18-49, 11.1 million), winning its hour over competish that included NBC’s solid gamer “1 vs. 100” (prelim 3.2/10, 10.5 million) and Fox’s transplanted first-year drama “Vanished” (prelim 1.0/3, 3.4 million).

Also for CBS, “Close to Home” (prelim 3.0/9 in 18-49, 11.6 million) and “Numbers” (prelim 3.2/10, 11.1 million) won their hours, with the latter edging out Chevy Chase’s guest-starring perf on “Law & Order.”

ABC was above average, but placed third from 9 to 11 with a two-hour “20/20” (prelim 2.7, 7.8 million).

And the Eye also had it on Saturday, edging out Fox for the night’s lead in adults 18-49 (prelim 2.4 to 2.3) and winning easily in total viewers. Standout was 10 o’clock mag “48 Hours Mystery” (season-high 2.8/9 in 18-49, 8.9 million).

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