Fox still on top with 'Idol,' 'Kitchen'

It’s been in the shadow of television’s biggest reality shows, but the finale of NBC’s “Biggest Loser” posted some hefty numbers Tuesday night.

The two-hour weight-loss skein wrapped up its fifth season in style, winning the evening’s middle hour in key demos opposite “Dancing With the Stars,” “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Big Brother.” It also chipped away some at “American Idol,” which remained the night’s dominant show despite more ratings declines, according to Nielsen.

NBC had been looking for something to sked opposite Fox’s “Idol” for years and discovered it this season in “Loser,” which had typically aired only in the fall. Impressively, this edition improved on last fall’s edition in all categories despite facing “Idol” competition that “Loser 4″ did not face.

Tuesday’s “Loser” finale, in which Alison Vincent became the first female winner of the show, bagged the Peacock’s strongest young-adult rating in the time period (excluding the Olympics) in nearly 2½ years (4.4 rating/11 share) and averaged 11.39 million viewers overall. And in its first hour, “Loser” logged a higher 18-49 score (3.7) than any NBC series opposite “Idol” since 2004.

At the same time, “Idol” (8.8/23, 23.65m) dipped to some of the lowest scores it’s posted since its second and third seasons in 2003 and 2004. Although it was down 14% vs. the same night a year ago, it nonetheless matched the combined deliveries of ABC, CBS, NBC and CW in 18-49 from 8 to 9.

In its final hour, “Loser” beat out in demos Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen” (4.7/12, 10.56m) and ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” results show (3.6/9, 15.42m) and trounced CBS’ “Big Brother” (2.3/6, 6.20m). “Dancing” and “Brother” both were flat week to week in the demo, while “Kitchen” cooled along with “Idol.”

There had been some thought that two-hour episodes would burn “Loser” out but that hasn’t been the case. Show consistently performed better than anything else NBC has tried opposite “Idol” in the 8 o’clock hour and then typically spiked up in its second hour, combining with “Law & Order: SVU” to lift the net to second-place finishes in 12 of the 14 Tuesdays since “Idol” bowed.

In the fall, when it doesn’t face “Idol,” NBC plans to air 90-minute episodes, followed by new comedy “Kath & Kim.”

Elsewhere Tuesday, “SVU” was back in originals for the first time since the writers strike ended and dominated the 10 o’clock hour (4.7/13 in 18-49, 13.27m) over ABC’s “Boston Legal” (2.1/6, 8.84m) and CBS’ special “48 Hours” (1.5/4, 5.16m). Eye newsmag was a late replacement for quickly canceled reality dud “Secret Talents of the Stars,” but didn’t fare any better.

CBS did better kicking off the night with “NCIS” (3.1/8, 15.13m), which was up slightly week to week and ran second for its hour in 25-54 and total viewers.

Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” delivered its strongest preem scores to date with a pair of episodes at 9 p.m. (1.7/4 in 18-49, 3.39m) and 10 p.m. (2.0/5, 3.53m) — the top cable shows of the night. In men 18-34 (2.3/7), it was just two ticks behind NBC’s “SVU” for the timeslot lead.

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