New episodes of original series a big hit

ABC is picking up a head of steam in the season’s homestretch, proving how formidable it can be when all its players are on board.

Much like the start of the season when “Dancing With the Stars” bolstered two nights of the sked, the Alphabet has looked reinvigorated with original episodes of all its top series. Net won Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday among adults 18-49 and was the only major net up vs. the same frame a year ago.

Fox still prevailed in the adults 18-49 demo (3.9 rating to 3.7 for ABC), winning for a 13th straight week, but ABC closed the gap by logging its highest-rated frame since the week of the Academy Awards in late February. CBS (3.1/9) and NBC (2.6/7) were well behind the leaders, according to Nielsen estimates.

ABC and Fox tied for the week’s lead in adults 25-54 (4.2/11), while CBS led in total viewers, averaging 11.25 million to ABC’s 10.71 million.

An extra hour of “Grey’s Anatomy” certainly helped the Alphabet’s cause, as the show’s spinoff characters were introduced in a two-hour Thursday episode (Daily Variety, May 7). But the medical drama was just one of four ABC shows among the week’s top 10 in 18-49.

“Desperate Housewives,” “Lost” and “Dancing With the Stars” also excelled for the Alphabet, which is off to a good start for the May sweep as well. Through Sunday, ABC led Fox in 18-49 (3.6 to 3.4), while CBS was on top in total viewers (11.1 million).

Leading the way for ABC last week was “Grey’s” (9.1 rating/24 share in adults 18-49, 21.23 million viewers overall), the No. 3 show for the frame in 18-49 (behind two editions of Fox’s “American Idol”) and the No. 1 program in adults 18-34 (8.9/25).

Other demo victors for ABC during the April 30-May 6 sesh included “Housewives” (6.6/16 in 18-49, 17.16m), “Lost” (5.3/14, 12.33m), “Dancing With the Stars” (4.9/13, 18.97m) and Sunday’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (2.5/8, 7.67m), “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (4.4/12, 11.85m) and “Brothers & Sisters” (4.1/11, 10.83m).

Hanging in there for ABC on the comedy side is Wednesday’s “Notes From the Underbelly” (2.3/7, 6.00m), which again was on par with its “According to Jim” lead-in.

Most of Fox’s damage was done over the midweek stretch of Tuesday and Wednesday: The “American Idol” results show on Wednesday (11.0/28 in 18-49, 28.75m) and Tuesday’s performance program (10.2/29, 26.73m) were the week’s top shows in 18-49 as well as total viewers, while Tuesday drama “House” (8.8/22 in 18-49, 21.13m) was in the top 5.

Also, “Bones” led its Wednesday hour (3.1/10 in 18-49, 10.56m), while toon vets “The Simpsons” (3.7/11, 7.77m) and “Family Guy” (3.9/10, 7.95m) again produced on Sunday, winning their slots in 12-34.

Handicapping the net was a sixth-place finish on Friday with repeats of “Nanny 911″ (1.1/4 in 18-49, 2.83m) and “Bones” (1.1/4, 3.57m).

CBS was paced by top 10 dramas “CSI” (5.6/14 in 18-49, 19.02m) and “CSI: Miami” (5.1/14, 17.24m), while its Monday comedy combo of “Two and a Half Men” (4.7/12, 13.71m) and “King of Queens” (4.7/11, 13.03m) tied for No. 11 in 18-49 and were the week’s top half-hour laffers.

Elsewhere for the Eye, “Ghost Whisperer” led its Friday hour as usual (2.6/10, 9.25m) while Tuesday’s “NCIS” (3.2/9, 13.83m) and Wednesday’s “Criminal Minds” (3.5/9, 13.28m) were runners-up to “American Idol” in their timeslots.

Fourth-place NBC picked up a bit, rising to its best week since March behind slot winners “Heroes” (5.4/13, 11.92m) and “Law & Order: SVU” (4.1/11, 11.41m).

Also helping out was Sunday spec “Saturday Night Live in the ’90s: Pop Culture” (3.6/9, 7.88m), which gave the net its strongest Sunday in demos since January, and “Law & Order” scored a rare demo victory on Friday (2.6/9, 8.88m).

CW was led by “America’s Next Top Model” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 5.23m) and “Gilmore Girls” (1.8/5, 4.08m) as well as the return of “One Tree Hill” (1.5/4, 3.25m). Latter placed second to “Idol” in Wednesday’s 9 o’clock hour in 12-34 (2.3/7).

The NBA Playoffs propelled TNT to the lead among basic cable nets, with Thursday’s Golden State-Dallas contest the top-rated program of the week in 18-49 (2.2/7, 4.83 million viewers overall); Tuesday’s game between the same teams also did well (1.9/6, 4.16m).

And in the evening news race, ABC’s “World News” with Charles Gibson (2.0/9 in 25-54, 8.10m) opened up some distance on NBC’s “Nightly News” with Brian Williams (1.8/8, 7.49m), with CBS’ “Evening News” with Katie Couric well behind (1.6/7, 6.05m), attracting its smallest weekly aud since Couric came aboard.

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