Drama soared to new heights Tuesday

For one week anyway, Tuesday night on Fox wasn’t all about “American Idol.”

Sure, the music competition put up its typically whammo numbers, but it was the net’s third-year drama “House” setting records this time, following “Idol” with the best delivery for any scripted skein in nearly a year.

The competing dramas on CBS and NBC were in repeats Tuesday, but that probably didn’t matter much on this night, as fans of “House” turned out in huge numbers for the drama’s first fresh episode in three weeks.

The Hugh Laurie-fronted drama had been picking up steam on its own — up double-digit percentages vs. the previous year — and used the colossal coattails of “Idol” to soar to new heights Tuesday.

According to Nielsen nationals, “House” racked up a huge 11.1 rating/27 share in adults 18-49 and 27.34 million viewers overall — retaining 82% of its demo lead-in from “American Idol” (13.5/33 in 18-49, 33.65m).

Combined, they gave Fox its best ratings ever for a regularly scheduled night of programming.

“House” rose nearly 10% from the previous high set by its season finale last May (10.2/25 in 18-49, 25.5 million) and gave Fox its best 18-49 score for a drama since “The X-Files” eight years ago.

The 11.1 demo rating edges out the 11 that ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” opened this season with, making it the highest for any scripted program on television since an episode of “Grey’s” last February.

Also impressive was that the audience that started “House” largely stuck with it throughout — a rare occurrence for a program that follows a higher-rated one. It earned an 11.3 rating in 18-49 at 9 o’clock and dipped just slightly to an 11 at 9:30.

One problem for Fox, if you could call it that, is that “House” has been and will continue to be preempted by extended editions of “Idol.” It is skedded, for example, to sit on the bench for the last two Tuesdays of the February sweep.

On the other hand, no Tuesday repeats of “House” will air through May, and the net may have the luxury of airing original episodes of the show on other nights to use its full-season order before the end of the season.

As for “American Idol,” it was up 9% in 18-49 and 12% in total viewers vs. the same night a year ago, and is up by about 5% for the season in both categories through five telecasts.

No other program topped a 2.3 rating in 18-49 opposite Fox’s heavyweights on Tuesday, a night when CBS aired repeats of dramas “NCIS” and “The Unit” and NBC did the same with “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”

CW’s “Gilmore Girls” held up well at 8 o’clock (2.1/5 in 18-49, 4.27m). Show, a favorite among young femmes, likely benefited from Nielsen’s first week of incorporating some collegiate dorm viewing in its national sample.

Its tally in women 18-34 (4.1/10) was the series’ best since last January.

Not so hot was ABC’s serialized comedy “Big Day,” which ended its run meekly (1.4/3 in 18-49, 4.27m).

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