'Grease,' 'Apprentice' take tumble

Jack is back, and Fox’s “24” got off to a good start with its special two-hour premiere Sunday night. News wasn’t as good for NBC’s unscripted combo of “Grease” and “The Apprentice,” which took a tumble in their second outings.

CBS, meanwhile, dominated the opening 90 minutes of the evening with NFL playoff action from the nail-biter contest between the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers. The Eye will score even bigger numbers Sunday when the Patriots battle the rival Indianapolis Colts with a Super Bowl berth on the line.

According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, “24” averaged a 6.1 rating/14 share in adults 18-49 and 15.7 million viewers overall from 8 to 10, opening with a 5.8 rating in the first hour and rising to a 6.3 in its second hour. The drama thriller was a self-starter, following a repeat of “The Simpsons”; it was down from last year’s bow (7.0/15 in 18-49, 16.3 million), which had the benefit of a football lead-in, but on par in key demos with the 2005 season opener, which also aired behind football.

Show’s opening-night perf is all the more impressive given that game and postgame coverage of the AFC playoff game between New England and San Diego on CBS didn’t wrap until 8:30 p.m. in the East. And in its second hour, “24” nearly caught ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” (6.8/15 in 18-49, 16.7 million viewers overall), which hit a firstrun series low for the second straight week.

At CBS, the conclusion of the playoff game from 7 to 8:20 p.m. ET should come in with about a 13 rating in 18-49 and more than 35 million viewers overall. “60 Minutes,” airing from 8:30 to 9:30 in much of the country, should net roughly a 4.7 rating in 18-49 and 17 million viewers overall, but prelim numbers for the net’s “Cold Case” and “Without a Trace” were murkier due to their late starts.

NBC’s “Grease: You’re the One That I Want” (prelim 2.7/6 in 18-49, 8.2 million viewers overall) and “The Apprentice: Los Angeles” (2.8/6 in 18-49, 7.3 million) were both down more than 30% from their good premiere-week numbers. And the season premiere of the net’s “Crossing Jordan” did little at 10 (2.2/5 in 18-49, 6.7 million).

“Grease” at least performed markedly better than “The West Wing” in the hour a year ago and may have had an effect on ABC’s unscripted skein “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (prelim 4.0/9 in 18-49, 10.9 million), which was off sharply year-to-year.

ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” (4.8/12 in 18-49, 12.5 million) had a good night, winning its 10 o’clock hour in demos and rising week-to-week even though lead-in “Desperate Housewives” was lower.

National ratings for Sunday will be issued by Nielsen on Wednesday, a day later than usual, due to Monday’s holiday.

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