Britney boosts 'How I Met Your Mother'

Fox trotted to another ratings victory last week, but CBS and ABC got back in the game as some of their core series returned. The Eye also got this week off to a good start with the post-strike return of “CSI: Miami” and a guest shot by Britney Spears on “How I Met Your Mother,” which lifted the laffer to its best demo numbers ever.

ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” kicked up its heels last week for the first time since November, while the return of its Monday comedy block and the start of college basketball’s March Madness lifted the Eye to a higher-than-usual finish.

Fox still had enough to win for an 11th consecutive week among young adults despite claiming just three of the week’s top 20 shows in adults 18-49. “American Idol” remains down year to year, but its two-hour performance show Tuesday (10.4/26 in 18-49, 27.34 million viewers overall) and Wednesday’s one-hour results segment (9.8/25, 26.08m) towered over any shows for the week.

Overall for the week ended Sunday, Nielsen estimates that Fox cruised to victory in the 18-49 demo with a 3.7 rating/10 share, followed by CBS (3.0/9), ABC (2.8/8) and NBC (2.1/6). The Eye claimed eight of the week’s top 20 programs; ABC, six; Fox and NBC, three apiece.

Fox also led in adults 25-54 (4.2/11 to 3.5/9 for CBS) and total viewers (10.1 million to 8.8 million for CBS), winning in the latter category for a network-record 10 straight weeks.

The Eye, which moved up to an outright second-place finish in adults 18-49 for the first time in 10 weeks, was bolstered by hearty numbers for its Monday comedies (Daily Variety, March 19), which hadn’t aired all-original episodes since November. “How I Met Your Mother” (4.3/11, 9.61m), “Two and a Half Men” (5.4/13, 9.61m) and “Old Christine” (4.3/11, 11.47m) all hit season highs.

College basketball helped the net win Thursday, Friday and Saturday in key demos despite a roughly 6% year-to-year falloff.

Fox, meanwhile, pretty much rode “Idol” and its Wednesday skedmate, rookie hit “The Moment of Truth” (4.2/12 in 18-49, 10.92m), which beat in demos a special off-night episode of CBS’ “Survivor” (3.8/11, 11.56m).

Net’s midseason rookie crop of “Canterbury’s Law” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 5.71m), “New Amsterdam” (2.3/6, 7.27m), “Return of Jezebel James” (1.1/4, 3.13m) and “Unhitched” (1.5/4, 3.11m) all continue to struggle, with “Jezebel” getting pulled from the sked following its meager week-two perf.

At ABC, “Dancing With the Stars” returned with healthy numbers Monday (5.6/15 in 18-49, 21.15m), and the net again won Sunday with its nonscripted lineup of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (4.0/11, 11.36m), “Oprah’s Big Give” (3.4/9, 9.81m) and “Here Come the Newlyweds” (2.8/8, 6.73m).

“Miss Guided” had a quiet but decent bow Thursday (average 2.2/7 in 18-49, 6.95m for its hour), but it may have been mismatched with “Lost” (4.6/12, 11.46m), which hit a low with its last firstrun seg until April 24.

NBC did nothing over the weekend but had some nice perfs earlier in the frame, including “Medium” on Monday (3.3/9 in 18-49, 10.07m), “The Biggest Loser” on Tuesday (3.2/8, 7.89m) and “Celebrity Apprentice” on Thursday (3.2/8, 8.83m). “Loser” held up despite brutal reality competish from “American Idol” and “Dancing With the Stars.”

Thursday saw credible season-finale numbers for “Lipstick Jungle” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 6.95m).

CW’s few highlights included Wednesday’s “America’s Next Top Model” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 3.79m) and Tuesday’s “One Tree Hill” (1.4/3, 3.00m), which celebrated its 100th episode with near-season highs.

TBS edged out USA for the week’s 18-49 lead among cable nets (0.96 rating vs. 0.94), with the Turner net receiving a strong Sunday boost from theatrical “Sahara” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 4,02m). USA claimed the week’s top cable program in “WWE Raw” (2.0/5 in 18-49, 5.02m for its two hours).

MTV’s “Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Gauntlet 3” topped the week among adults 18-34 (2.5/7). Also among the top 10 cable shows in this demo were Thursday’s “America’s Best Dance Crew” (2.0/7) and Monday’s “Making the Band 4” (1.8/5).

HBO’s second week of “John Adams” held up well, averaging 2.1 million viewers Sunday. Not so hot was the second-season preem of FX drama “The Riches,” which settled for 1.51 million viewers Tuesday.

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On Monday of the current week, a guest appearance by tabloid fodder Spears lifted CBS laffer “How I Met Your Mother” to the best demo rating in its three-year run, while the return of “CSI: Miami” also lifted the Eye.

According to Nielsen, “How I Met Your Mother” (4.5/12 in 18-49, 10.67m) was a solid second to ABC’s “Dancing” in the 8:30 half-hour among adults 18-49 and total viewers and edged out the hoofing hit in adults 18-34 with the night’s highest broadcast score in that category (3.6/10). “Mother,” featuring Spears as a ditzy receptionist, built sharply on its lead-in from “The Big Bang Theory” (3.4/10, 8.53m), was up 5% over its potent return of the prior week, and set series highs in 18-49 and key male demos.

CBS remained strong at 9 o’clock with “Two and a Half Men” (5.2/13, 14.23m) before dipping at 9:30 with “Old Christine” (3.8/9, 9.77m). The first original seg of “CSI: Miami” since fall (4.9/12 in 18-49, 16.06m) hit some season highs in dominating at 10.

At ABC, “Dancing With the Stars” won the 8-10 p.m. time period overall in both 18-49 (5.0/13) and total viewers (20.52 million), down 9% from its season premiere of a week earlier. Declining more in its second week was “The Bachelor” (2.6/7, 7.27m), which placed third at 10.

NBC started slowly with “My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 4.18m) before picking up steam behind “Deal or No Deal” (3.1/7, 10.14m) and “Medium” (3.0/8, 8.91m), while Fox’s “New Amsterdam” continued its decline (2.0/5, 6.19m).

A standout cable performer was MTV’s “The Hills” (2.8/7 in 18-49, 4.79m), which pulled a big 4.7/13 in adults 18-34, while USA’s “WWE Raw” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 5.07m for its two-hour average) was the most-watched cable show overall.

At ABC Family, the return of college drama “Greek” set net records in adults 18-34 for an original series telecast (1.1/3 or 712,000 viewers) and drew 1.42 million viewers overall. It was the top cable show in the 8 o’clock hour among females 12-34 (1.6/5).

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