'Big Bang Theory,' 'Mother' top night

Times may be tough but auds are still looking to laugh.

The CBS Monday comedy block continued its hot streak last week, hitting some season highs and then topping itself to kick off the current week. Especially impressive has been the opening-hour duo of “The Big Bang Theory” and “How I Met Your Mother,” which achieved series-best deliveries in key demos.

The Eye was also boosted during the week of Dec. 8-14 by the conclusion of “Survivor: Gabon” as well as best-yet scores for Thursday drama “Eleventh Hour,” which aired behind an episode of “CSI” featuring the debut of series regular Laurence Fishburne.

Overall for the sesh, it was a tight two-way race in 18-49 between CBS (3.3 rating/9 share) and NBC (3.2/9), with the latter benefiting from its highest-rated “Sunday Night Football” contest of the fall, according to Nielsen “live plus same day” estimates. Fox (2.2/6) and ABC (1.9/5) were well off the pace, followed by Univision (1.5/4), USA (1.2/3) and ESPN (1.1/3).

CBS won by larger margins in both adults 25-54 (4.3/11 to 3.6/9 for NBC) and total viewers (11.9 million to 8.8 million for NBC), and the Peacock prevailed easily among persons 12-34 (2.4/8 to 1.9/6 for CBS and Fox).

For CBS, which has moved ahead of ABC for the season lead among adults 18-49, the week started on a good note with winning scores from “The Big Bang Theory” (3.7/10 in 18-49, 10.50m), “How I Met Your Mother” (4.2/11, 10.49m) and “Two and a Half Men” (5.2/13, 15.59m) and an improved score for “Worst Week” at 9:30 (3.4/8, 10.44m).

All four gained ground to kick off this week, as well, with the fourth-year “Mother” and second-year “Big Bang” hitting series highs in 18-49 and “Men” achieving its best score in nearly three years. CBS seems to be benefiting from the absence of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” which has been off the air for a few weeks, as well as ho-hum scores for competing Monday dramas on NBC and Fox.

Elsewhere for the Eye, Thursday saw the best scores since its season premiere for “CSI” (5.8/15, 20.86m) and series highs for “Eleventh Hour” (3.8/10, 13.40m).

CBS also had a strong Sunday, starting with a huge NFL overrun (10.3/30 in 18-49, 30.72m for the final half-hour of the Pittsburgh-Baltimore game) and continuing with “60 Minutes” (4.4/12, 18.80m) and the finale of “Survivor: Gabon” (4.4/10, 13.77m), which was down vs. the franchise’s fall 2007 edition but in line with its most recent season-ender last May.

At NBC, the “Sunday Night Football” game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants (8.6/21 in 18-49, 23.05m) drew the highest demo score for any primetime telecast this television season. It also drew the largest overall aud for any Sunday game in the franchise’s three-year run on the Peacock.

NBC was represented well by “The Office” (4.7/12 in 18-49, 8.76m), which ranked fifth in 18-49 and was the week’s top scripted program in 18-34 (5.4/15). And Tuesday’s “The Biggest Loser” hit season highs (3.6/10 in 18-49, 9.36m) one week from its finale.

Fox’s quiet week was paced by Tuesday drama “House” (5.6/15 in 18-49, 14.05m), which had one of its best scores of the season but was the net’s only top-20 program. New series “Secret Millionaire” won its Wednesday timeslot (2.8/8, 7.26m) but didn’t look as strong with another seg a night later.

ABC’s top shows were preempted or in repeat, making for an ugly week. Its highest-rated program was Monday’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (3.7/10 in 18-49, 11.02m), which led into the two-hour series finale of “Boston Legal” (2.3/6, 9.88m).

MyNetwork achieved more all-time highs (0.8/2 in 18-49, 2.41 million viewers overall) finished ahead of CW (0.6/2, 1.53m) for a third straight week, with the former getting a nice assist from holiday specs and Wednesday movie “Home Alone” (1.4/4 in 18-49, 3.64m), which set net records in some demos.

USA finished atop the cable leaderboard thanks to “WWE Raw” and repeats of “House,” but ESPN had the frame’s No. 1 program in the “Monday Night Football” matchup between Carolina and Tampa Bay (4.5/12, 11.58m).

Disney Channel’s “Suite Life on Deck” was the week’s most-watched scripted program on cable, averaging 4.29 million viewers on Friday.

Also of note, Bravo’s “Top Chef” on Wednesday (1.7/5, 3.02m) and VH1’s “Real Chance of Love” on Monday (1.2/3, 2.61m) hit season highs.

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