Increased drama increases ratings

As the number of insults, tantrums and crying jags increased in the “Big Brother” house last week, so too did the ratings.

The CBS summer staple saw each of its three editions hit season highs. For the first time this summer, each “Big Brother” seg placed among the week’s top 10 programs in the adults 18-49 demo.

Viewership has risen in recent weeks as houseguest Dick Donato has stirred the pot with intimidation and relentless name-calling that’s kept the CBS censors busy. It will be interesting to see if the ratings stay strong if Donato, up for eviction this week, is kicked to the curb on Thursday’s live results show.

Ratings for “Big Brother” have jumped sharply after a modest start in early July, with last week’s Sunday seg up 33% from the Sunday premiere in adults 18-49 (2.8 vs. 2.1) and last week’s Tuesday edition shooting up by 32% in adults 18-34 (2.5 vs. 1.9) over this season’s Tuesday opener.

This summer’s overall average 18-49 rating for “Big Brother” (2.8) reps an 8% increase over the 2.6 at this point a year ago for “Big Brother: All-Stars,” according to Nielsen.

“Brother” and a decent start for quizzer “Power of 10″ highlighted the primetime week for CBS, which finished a close second to Fox for the week in adults 18-49 while winning in adults 25-54 and total viewers.

Fox has prevailed in 18-49 for a network-record 27 consecutive weeks and should easily continue to 28 as the current frame includes the finales of “Hell’s Kitchen” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”

The Murdoch net’s 2.2 rating/7 share in adults 18-49 edged out CBS (2.0/7), with the Eye followed by NBC (1.8/6), ABC (1.5/5) and Univision (1.3/4). In its first summer, the CW struggled to an eighth-place finish (0.6/2), behind cablers USA (1.0/3) and TBS (0.7/2).

Fox remained hot thanks to top-10 performers like “Hell’s Kitchen” (4.3/12, 8.90m) and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” (3.2/10 in 18-49, 8.73m on Wednesday), with “Kitchen” grilling up the frame’s top numbers in 18-49, 25-54 (4.6/12) and 12-34 (3.3/11).

On Monday of the current week, “Kitchen” ended its third season by matching the show’s best numbers to date (4.5/12 in 18-49, 9.68m). It finished the season up about 10% over its year-ago averages in both 18-49 (4.1/11 vs. 3.7/10) and total viewers (8.6 million vs. 7.8 million).

And though “Dance” was preempted on Thursday, the net ran its 18-49 winning streak on the night to a record 12 weeks thanks to the NFL preseason contest featuring the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys (2.8/10, 7.51m).

For CBS, the top night of “Big Brother” came Tuesday (3.0/8, 7.21m), leading out of a special preview episode of Drew Carey-hosted gameshow “Power of 10″ (2.7/9, 9.23m). One night later, in its regular slot, “Power” dimmed some to a 2.1/7 in 18-49 and 7.77 million viewers.

Net’s top-scripted performers were repeats of “CSI” (2.6/8 in 18-49, 9.82m) and “Two and a Half Men” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 9.05m).

NBC was led as usual by Tuesday’s “America’s Got Talent” (3.2/10 in 18-49, 10.84m), the week’s No. 2 show in 18-49 and No. 1 in total viewers. Also noteworthy were demo victories for newsmag “Dateline” on both Monday (2.4/7, 7.93m) and Wednesday (2.4/7, 6.65m).

ABC’s top perf came from an original “Wife Swap” on Monday (2.4/8, 6.45m), although it didn’t help its lead-out, the premiere of “Fat March” (1.6/4, 4.35m).

Also stumbling and bumbling for ABC were Wednesday’s combo of “Knights of Prosperity” (0.8/2, 2.18m at 9:30 p.m.) and “The Nine” (0.7/2, 1.94m). Skeins, which struck out with auds during the regular season, were quickly pulled from the sked after their pitiful perfs.

USA, basic cable’s No. 1 network for the week, posted above-average numbers Monday for the 10 o’clock hour of “WWE Raw” (1.9/6 in 18-49, 5.45m). Also chipping in were dramas “Burn Notice” (1.6/5, 4.14m), “Psych” (1.3/4, 4.43m) and “Monk” (1.2/4, 5.10m), according to Nielsen.

“Burn Notice” tied in the 18-49 rating for the week with TNT’s “The Closer” (1.6/5), with the Kyra Sedgwick-led drama easily cable’s No. 1 program for the frame in both adults 25-54 (2.4/6) and total viewers (7.53 million).

Lifetime’s “Army Wives,” meanwhile, continues to perform well (1.2/4, 3.74m), hitting a bull’s eye with the net’s target female demos. It was Sunday’s No. 1 cable program in women 25-54 (2.3/6) for an 11th straight week, and has become cable’s No. 1 original drama series among women 18-34.

Another standout performer for the week was Comedy Central’s “Roast of Flavor Flav” on Sunday (2.1/6 in 18-49, 3.76m). It was the No. 1 program in its 10 p.m. time period in both 18-49 and 18-34 (3.0/10) and up about 30% over last year’s roast of William Shatner.

Elsewhere, FX’s “Rescue Me” was on the rise Wednesday (1.3/4, 2.54m), while Sci Fi was pleased with the Friday bow of its new drama “Flash Gordon” (0.7/3, 2.14m). And the debut of “L.A. Ink” on TLC was easily cable’s No. 1 show of Tuesday night in key demos (1.7/5 in 18-49, 2.88m) and won the 10 p.m. hour among adults 18-34 (2.2/7).

Disney Channel made it five straight weeks as cable’s most-watched network in primetime (3.06 million), paced by theatrical “Ella Enchanted” on Friday (5 million viewers) and Sunday’s episode of “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” (4.8 million).

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