No pop for NBC finales of 'Chuck,' 'Heroes'

Ratings may have drifted downward this season for nearly every scripted skein, but reality programs continue to keep the broadcasters from sagging even more.

As “American Idol” towered over the program rankings once again, Fox made it 12 straight weeks atop the primetime demo leaderboard. But it wasn’t the only net to get a nice jolt from unscripted fare.

Among the standouts during the last full week of April were a pair of Sunday vets that spiked sharply from their older-skewing newsmag lead-ins: CBS’ “Amazing Race” and NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

“Race” has quietly had an impressive spring season, now consistently topping ABC reality rival “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and winning its 8 p.m. time period. Once deep in the Eye shadow of the more popular “Survivor,” “Race” is catching up in the ratings with the island adventure series, which is still a winner itself.

For NBC, two-hour segs of “Celebrity Apprentice” have helped the net compete in the second half of Sunday, with the show building throughout and winning its final hour among young adults. The net shined as well on Tuesday with “The Biggest Loser,” which ranked 10th for the week in 18-49 despite facing Fox’s “Idol.”

Also continuing to click is ABC’s performance edition of “Dancing With the Stars,” which placed in the top 5, and CW’s “America’s Next Top Model,” which led its hour among adults 18-34.

“American Idol,” however, is still head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the field. Its two shows — Tuesday’s performance seg (8.2/23 in 18-49, 23.96m) and Wednesday’s results skein (8.3/21, 23.95m) — delivered very similar numbers and more than doubled the demo rating for any program it faced directly.

The music megahit helped Fox extend an 18-49 winning streak that started the week after NBC prevailed in early February with the Super Bowl.

Overall, according to Nielsen national estimates for the April 20-26 frame, Fox cruised to victory among adults 18-49 with a 3.0 rating/9 share, followed by ABC (2.4/7), CBS (2.3/7), NBC (2.0/6), Univision (1.5/4), TNT (1.2/3) and USA (1.0/3).

Fox rolled as well in adults 25-54 (3.6/9) and persons 12-34 (2.3/8) while finishing a solid second in total viewers (8.6 million) to CBS (9.2 million).

Also highlighting Fox’s week was a second-place demo finish Tuesday for “Fringe” (3.9/9 in 18-49, 9.90m), airing behind “Idol.” And “Lie to Me” (2.3/7, 7.97m) won its Wednesday slot leading into “Idol.”

Not so hot was the second outing for Sunday laffer “Sit Down, Shut Up” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 4.21m), which has since been yanked from its 8:30 slot. And Friday’s combo of “Prison Break” (1.0/4, 3.06m) and “Dollhouse” (1.2/4, 2.92m) is struggling.

At ABC, “Grey’s Anatomy” (5.0/13 in 18-49, 13.51m) and “Private Practice” (3.3/9, 9.08m) won their hours in demos Thursday with their first original episodes since March.

“Desperate Housewives” (4.7/12, 13.64m) and “Dancing With the Stars” (4.7/12, 20.53m) also won their slots, but new drama “The Unusuals” bombed in a special Tuesday airing (1.5/4 in 18-49, 5.61m), hurting its chance of returning in the fall.

Aside from “Amazing Race” (3.2/9 in 18-49, 10.27m) and “Survivor” (3.5/11, 11.30m), CBS was led by Monday comedies “Two and a Half Men” (3.9/10 in 18-49, 11.48m for a repeat) and “Rules of Engagement” (3.8/9, 10.59m for an original).

CBS too has its struggling newbie in Thursday’s “Harper’s Island” (1.9/5, 7.02m), which has been banished to Saturday for the rest of its run.

NBC’s top performers were “The Office” (3.8/10 in 18-49, 7.28m) and “The Biggest Loser” (3.7/10, 9.26m), both of which are excelling in drawing young adults despite airing in very tough timeslots. Still solid but down in week 3 were Thursday newbies “Southland” and “Parks and Recreation” (Daily Variety, April 27).

Univision had a strong start Thursday for the premiere of miniseries “Mujeres Asesinas” (Killer Women), which opened with a 1.7/5 in 18-49 and 3.99 million viewers overall.

It was another quiet week at CW, although “America’s Next Top Model” (1.9/6 in 18-49, 4.01m) posted its best scores since November.

Don’t count out the net’s “Reaper”: Last week, it drew more viewers and delivered the same 18-34 share as lead-out “90210” even though “Reaper” had to face “American Idol.” And “90210,” of course, has been renewed.

The NBA Playoffs lifted TNT to a rare first-place cable finish among key young-adult demos, although hoops action was actually the No. 4 sports draw for the frame.

USA’s “WWE Raw” drew 5.29 million viewers on Monday, ESPN’s Saturday coverage of the NFL Draft pulled 5.06 million, and an early-season Red Sox-Yankees baseball contest on ESPN attracted 4.60 million Sunday.

The most-watched NBA game on TNT was Thursday’s opening-round contest between the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz (3.82 million).

Top entertainment skein was VH1’s finale of “For the Love of Ray J” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 4.22m), which stood as tops on television in its hour among adults 18-34 (3.0/9).

At Disney Channel, the preem of original movie “Hatching Pete” was Friday’s most-watched cable program (4.14 million), bagging 1.7 million kids 6-11 and 1.6 million tweens 9-14.

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