'Idol' keeps network on top for 14th frame

More scripted faves returned to the primetime lineups on its rivals last week but Fox remained on top in key demos behind “American Idol.”

Four hours of “Idol” — including Wednesday’s special “Idol Gives Back” — kept Fox perched atop the 18-49 demo scoreboard for a 14th consecutive frame.

Shows returning with original episodes, meanwhile, performed about as expected, with most exhibiting modest year-to-year erosion. ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” back in originals for the first time since the writers strike ended, tied CBS’ “CSI” as the week’s top scripted program in 18-49.

Overall for the April 7-13 frame, according to Nielsen national estimates, Fox made it look easy in the 18-49 demo with a 3.8 rating/11 share, followed by CBS (3.0/8), ABC (2.4/7), NBC (2.1/6) and Univision (1.5/4).

Fox was also on top in categories including adults 25-54 (4.4/11) and persons 12-34 (2.9/10), and the net edged past CBS for the lead in total viewers (10.27 million to 10.25 million).

Tuesday’s performance show of “American Idol” was the week’s top program in all categories (9.2/24 in 18-49, 24.67 million viewers overall), but the music megahit also appeared twice more among the top five. Thursday’s special results show dominated its hour (7.0/19, 20.13m), and Wednesday’s “Idol Gives Back” (6.8/18, 17.75m) crushed the competish as well despite declining by about 30% vs. last year’s event, which included an elimination.

“Hell’s Kitchen” also continued to cook for Fox behind “Idol” on Tuesday (5.3/13, 11.21m); “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” benefited on Thursday when it followed the “Idol” results show (4.0/10, 10.90m); and the net took the checkered flag Saturday with a NASCAR race from Arizona (2.6/8, 7.23m).

Not so hot, though, were rookie dramas “New Amsterdam” on Monday (2.2/5, 7.44m) and “Canterbury’s Law” on Friday (1.1/3, 5.25m).

At CBS, the NCAA men’s basketball title game between Kansas and Memphis stood as the week’s No. 2 program in 18-49 (7.3/19) and No. 5 in total viewers (19.50m). It was on par with the previous year’s Florida-Ohio State matchup.

Elsewhere, the net was solid with the return of “NCIS” on Tuesday (3.0/8, 14.05m); ran second to “Idol”-boosted Fox on Thursday behind “CSI” (5.9/15, 20.09m); and again swept Friday with “Ghost Whisperer” (2.5/8, 8.55m), “The Price Is Right” (2.1/6, 8.08m) and “Numbers” (2.3/7, 9.54m).

ABC welcomed back the winning “Desperate Housewives” (5.9/14, 16.37m), which was within 8% of its perf on the same Sunday a year ago even without the usual sked partners on either side of it. “Oprah’s Big Give” (2.9/8, 8.95m), finishing its run at 8 o’clock, came in well below what “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” averages in the timeslot.

“Dancing With the Stars” was the Alphabet’s other top performer, both with its Monday performance show (4.9/13, 19.68m) and Tuesday’s results seg (3.6/9, 17.02m).

NBC’s best news came Thursday from “The Office” (4.9/12 in 18-49, 9.33m), which delivered best-since-premiere scores with its first new seg since November. It was the top program of the night among adults 18-34 (6.0/16) and the No. 1 scripted show of the week in men 18-34 (6.1/17).

Skedmates “30 Rock” (2.7/7, 5.77m) and “Scrubs” (3.4/8, 6.58m) were less impressive in their first episodes back in a while, though “30 Rock” was up slightly year to year despite facing Fox’s “Idol.”

Other standouts for NBC were Monday drama “Medium” (3.5/9, 10.86m), which hit season highs, and Tuesday’s “Biggest Loser” (3.7/9, 9.00m), which continued to pick up steam in advance of its finale.

It was a very slow week for CW, whose “America’s Next Top Model” aired a clip show (1.1/3, 2.38m). Top performer was “Friday Night Smackdown” (1.4/4, 4.30m).

Spike edged out USA for the week’s cable lead among adults 18-49 (0.91 rating to 0.88), logging its best average in the demo and its largest overall aud (2.2 million) since the launch of “CSI” on the net in September 2004. Boosted by weekend runs of the early “Stars Wars” pics, it also logged network-best-ever averages among men 18-49 (1.36 million) and men 18-34 (1.28 million).

Other standouts included Lifetime’s Saturday debut of original telepic “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” (1.6/5, 5.82m), which drew the largest aud for a movie on the net in 13 years. Starring Dermot Mulroney, Gretchen Mol and Emily Watson, pic was the top-rated program on television Saturday among women 18-49 (2.6/8) and women 25-54 (3.2/9).

VH1 posted cable’s best demo delivery of the frame with Sunday’s finale of “Rock of Love 2 With Bret Michaels” (3.0/7, 5.03m), which did a big 5.2/13 in women 18-34.

And Nickelodeon drew cable’s largest overall aud for the week with Friday’s “SpongeBob SquarePants: Pest of the West” (6.14 million), a spec that bagged 3.5 million kids 2-11.

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