'CSI,' 'Without a Trace' bring in big numbers

Paced by a strong start for “CSI” and winning performances by “Survivor” and “Without a Trace,” CBS has captured the opening Thursday of the television season, according to preliminary Nielsen nationals. The Eye edged out the Alphabet for supremacy among adults 18-49 while winning rather comfortably among adults 25-54 and total viewers.

NBC’s “The Office” also opened the season strong, while ABC did OK with new drama “Big Shots” closing out the night.

Although ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” (projected 8.8 rating/21 share in adults 18-49, 20.9 million viewers overall from 9 to 10:02 p.m.)remained the night’s No. 1 program among adults 18-49, “CSI” (8.0/19 in 18-49, 24.8 million viewers overall) scored a rare victory over the medical drama in adults 25-54 (9.7/21 to 9.1/20) and was easily the night’s most-watched program overall — rising in all key categories from its year-ago premiere.

“Grey’s Anatomy” was down 20% from last year’s premiere and delivered one of its lowest firstrun Thursday scores since bowing on the night a year ago. Still, it stands as premiere week’s No. 1 premiere in adults 18-49, with “CSI” edging out Fox’s “House” for the No. 2 spot.

NBC was also looking good in the 9 o’clock hour with the one-hour season premiere of “The Office” (5.1/12 in 18-49, 9.7 million viewers overall), which matched its series high in 18-49 and was up nearly 10% year-to-year despite moving to a more competitive timeslot.

CBS vet “Survivor” won to open the night (4.6/13 in 18-49, 14.2 million viewers overall) despite tumbling more than 25% year-to-year. ABC’s second-place “Ugly Betty” (3.8/11 in 18-49, 11.0 million viewers overall) was off more than 20% itself, although this year’s premiere was the show’s best average since February. NBC was on ABC’s heels with the one-hour premiere of “My Name Is Earl” (3.7/11 in 18-49, 8.5 million viewers overall), which was on par with its year-ago half-hour opener.

And in the 10 o’clock hour, CBS was triumphant with the slot return of “Without a Trace” (4.8/13 in 18-49, 16.7 million viewers overall), which was up more than 15% from last year’s debut of “Shark” in the time period. ABC ran a competitive second in the hour with the series premiere of “Big Shots” (projected 4.5/12 in 18-49, 11.0 million viewers overall), although the drama lost about 1 ratings point in the 10:30 half-hour. NBC’s “ER” (4.1/11 in 18-49, 9.9 million viewers overall) ran third, off nearly 40% from its year-ago debut.

Fox was pretty much on the sidelines Thursday with reality entries “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 7.4 million viewers overall) and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” (1.8/4 in 18-49, 5.4 million viewers overall), while CW’s “Smallville” was solid in kicking off its season at 8 (1.9/6 in 18-49, 5.1 million viewers overall).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: CBS, 5.8/15; ABC, 5.7/15; NBC, 4.3/11; Fox, 1.9/5; Univision, 1.7/4; CW, 1.4/4.

In total viewers: CBS, 18.6 million; ABC, 14.4 million; NBC, 9.4 million; Fox, 6.4 million; CW and Univision, 3.8 million.

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