Football drama ties 'Moonlight' in demo

Its numbers weren’t exactly high wattage, but NBC’s “Friday Night Lights” opened its second season on a positive note Friday night.

The critically acclaimed drama, whose first-year ratings made it a tough choice for the Peacock to renew, tied CBS rookie drama “Moonlight” for its hour’s lead among young adults. Competition for both will pick up this week when ABC enters the fray with new crime drama “Women’s Murder Club.”

The second Thursday of the season, meanwhile, saw CBS and ABC battle to a draw among adults 18-49 on a night when most of the top shows declined by double-digit percentages vs. their premieres of the previous week. And USA’s original episode of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” helped the cabler gain a larger share of the night’s 10 o’clock pie.

Looking at Friday preliminary Nielsen estimates, “Friday Night Lights” averaged a 2.2 rating/7 share in adults 18-49 and 6.5 million viewers overall, tying in the demo with week two of vampire detective drama “Moonlight” on CBS (2.2/7 in 18-49, 8.3m). Repeats of ABC’s “Private Practice” (prelim 1.6/5, 4.9 million) and Fox’s “K-Ville” ran farther behind (prelim 1.2/4, 3.3 million).

“Friday,” honored with a Peabody award and tabbed AFI’s television program of the year, won the hour outright in adults 18-34 (1.7/6) and male demos. In both 18-49 and total viewers, it was up 10% from its average over the final month of its first season last spring.

As for “Moonlight,” it’s not a juggernaut either, but it held onto most of its demo lead-in from 8 o’clock winner “Ghost Whisperer” (prelim 2.4/8, 8.7 million) and won the slot by 2 shares in adults 25-54 (3.1/9).

“Numbers” (prelim 2.7/9, 9.5 million) capped the Eye’s winning night, up a tick vs. its season preem of a week ago. ABC’s “20/20″ moved up to second (prelim 2.4/8, 7.2 million), with NBC’s “Las Vegas” slipping to third (2.1/7 in 18-49, 7.4 million).

On Thursday, ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” (7.6/19 in 18-49, 18.51m from 9 to 10:02 p.m.) once again stood as the night’s top program among adults 18-49, opening up a bit more of a cushion over CBS’ “CSI” (6.4/16 in 18-49, 20.97m). In a reversal of premiere week, “Grey’s Anatomy” moved ahead of its drama rival in adults 25-54 (8.3/19 to 7.9/18), while “CSI” was the night’s most-watched program overall for a second straight week. 

NBC’s “The Office” held tough with another hourlong episode (4.6/11, 8.66m), moving up to a tie with “CSI” for the slot lead in men 18-49 (5.0/13).

In the opening hour, CBS’ “Survivor: China” (4.5/13 in 18-49, 14.14m) was an easy winner, with ABC’s “Ugly Betty” (3.4/10 in 18-49, 9.90m) and NBC’s combo of “My Name Is Earl” (3.3/10, 7.98m) and “30 Rock” (3.4/9, 7.33m) in a tight battle for runner-up status. “30 Rock,” in its season premiere and featuring guest star Jerry Seinfeld, achieved a series high in 18-49 but still placed third.

Closing out the night, it was a tight three-way demo battle between CBS’ “Without a Trace” (3.7/10 in 18-49, 14.20m), NBC’s “ER” (3.7/10, 9.09m) and ABC’s “Big Shots” (3.6/10, 8.24m), with “Trace” the easy leader among total viewers. “Big Shots” declined 20% week to week and fell well behind its slot rivals in the second half-hour.

In the same hour, USA’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” got off to a solid start with its first original episode on the cabler (1.3/4, 3.76m) — roughly double what the net generated in the time period on the same night last year.

Fox remained a distant fourth but was the only net rising vs. the previous week. “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 8.63m) was up a bit, while “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” (1.8/4, 5.74m) was flat.

And CW’s “Smallville” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 4.95m) was on par with the previous week’s season opener, while “Supernatural” didn’t do much in its season preem (1.2/3 in 18-49, 2.97m).

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