'Canterbury,' 'Jezebel' fail to excite viewers

“American Idol” continued to tower over everything else in primetime last week, leading Fox to its 10th consecutive demo victory — although the net isn’t getting much production out of its scripted newbies.

Sked additions “Canterbury’s Law,” “New Amsterdam,” “The Return of Jezebel James” and “Unhitched” have all failed to excite viewers in their early episodes, but “Idol” is so monstrous that it hardly matters.

Fox isn’t alone in struggling with scripted firstrun fare. ABC struck out with “Cashmere Mafia,” CBS with “Welcome to the Captain” and NBC with “Quarterlife.” And dramas “Eli Stone” on ABC and “Lipstick Jungle” are both putting up modest numbers in their head-to-head encounter on Thursday.

Just about the only scripted skein to bow with any success in 2008 is Fox’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” which wrapped its short run a few weeks ago and is expected back next season.

Nielsen national estimates for the week of March 10-16 show Fox cruising to victory in the 18-49 demo with a 4.1 rating/12 share, followed by NBC (2.2/6), which edged out ABC and CBS (2.1/6). The top five English-language networks were down 20% in 18-49 vs. the same week a year ago, with CBS skidding by 38% and ABC by 25%. NBC limited its losses to 12%, while Fox eased by 7%.

Fox also won in other categories, including adults 25-54 (4.7/12), persons 12-34 (3.7/11) and total viewers (11.3 million).

Tuesday’s performance edition of “American Idol” was the week’s top-rated program (11.0/28 in 18-49, 29.88 million viewers overall), although Wednesday’s results show wasn’t far behind (10.3/26, 27.13m). The megahit more than doubled the demo score of the next two shows in the rankings: island vets “Lost” on ABC (4.9/13, 12.08m) and “Survivor” on CBS (4.3/13, 13.22m).

Fox also received help during the frame from Wednesday’s “Moment of Truth” in its new 8 o’clock slot (first-place 4.2/12, 10.58m).

On the downer side were the premieres of “Canterbury’s Law” on Monday (1.7/5 in 18-49, 7.72m) and “The Return of Jezebel James” on Friday (1.1/4, 3.18m). Also, Sunday laffer “Unhitched” struggled in its second outing (2.3/6, 4.43m), and Monday drama “New Amsterdam” wasn’t a whole lot stronger in the demo (2.5/6, 8.83m).

NBC had no shows in the top 10 among 18-49ers but placed second thanks to the likes of “Law & Order” (3.3/9 in 18-49, 11.85m), “Celebrity Apprentice” (3.2/8, 8.24m) and “The Biggest Loser” (3.0/8, 7.66m). And in a boost to its late local newscasts, the net finished No. 1 or tied for No. 1 in the 10 o’clock hour on six of seven nights in 18-49.

At CBS, “The Price Is Right” (1.9/7 in 18-49, 8.14m) was Friday’s top-rated program of the night for a fourth straight week. Other than “Survivor,” though, the net’s only top 20 shows in the 18-49 demo were Monday comedies “Two and a Half Men” (3.8/10 in 18-49, 11.82m for a repeat) and “The New Adventures of Old Christine” (3.4/8, 9.62m for an original).

Outside of “Lost,” ABC’s top performers included Sunday’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (4.1/11, 12.05m) and “Oprah’s Big Give” (3.6/9, 9.74m), although the latter has cooled following its hot start.

CW generated 5 shares for its strongest shows (vets “America’s Next Top Model,” “Smallville” and “Friday Night Smackdown”) but just a measly 2 share for its unscripted skeins “Girlicious” on Monday and “Beauty and the Geek” on Tuesday.

MyNetwork achieved a network best 18-49 average for the week (600,000 viewers) — a nice jump from the 360,000 it delivered in the same week a year ago. Leading the way was Wednesday’s “Secrets of Street Magicians Finally Revealed” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 1.81m).

TBS and USA shared the week’s cable lead in adults 18-49 (0.96 rating for each), with the former getting a boost from “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” on Wednesday (1.5/4 in 18-49, 3.24m) and the latter benefiting from three hours of “WWE Raw” wrestling on Monday.

Wednesday saw nice premieres for vets “South Park” on Comedy Central (1.8/5 in 18-49, 3.07m) and “Top Chef” on Bravo (1.1/3, 2.26m). Comedy also was pleased with the post-”South Park” preem of “Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil” (1.3/4, 2.31m).

A couple of movies fared well on cable during the week, with Lifetime drawing a sizable aud Saturday for original movie “Wisegal,” starring Alyssa Milano, Jason Gedrick and James Caan (0.9/3 in 18-49, 3.40m). It was the top cable show of the night in women 18-49 (1.4/5).

And ABC Family was looking sharp on Sunday from 8 to 10 p.m. with original movie “The Cutting Edge 3: Chasing the Dream” (1.0/3, 3.06m) — cable’s top program in the slot in persons 12-34 (1.2/4) and total viewers.

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