'House,' 'Hell' help keep network on top

Fox made it 11 straight primetime demo victories last week, riding the dominant “American Idol” but also getting a nice assist from “House” and unsung reality skein “Hell’s Kitchen.”

The net didn’t make much noise, though, with laffer “Sit Down, Shut Up,” which opened meekly Sunday.

Week also included big numbers for the CBS Monday comedies and nice week-two showings for NBC’s Thursday newbies “Southland” and “Parks and Recreation.” And of note in cable, a pair of scripted programs topped 5 million viewers (USA’s returning “In Plain Sight” and Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob”) and three telepics scored over the weekend.

Overall, according to Nielsen national estimates that include same-night DVR playback, Fox cruised in adults 18-49 with a 3.3 rating/10 share, well ahead of runner-up CBS (2.4/7). ABC and NBC tied for fourth (2.2/6), followed by Univision (1.5/4) and cable leader USA (1.0/3).

Fox also rocked in demos ranging from adults 25-54 (3.9/10) to persons 12-34 (2.5/9), but CBS still held the edge in total viewers (9.9 million to 9.3 million for Fox), winning for a seventh straight week.

“American Idol” was up week to week for Fox, crushing the competish with both Tuesday’s performance show (8.5/23 in 18-49, 24.38m) and Wednesday’s results program (8.2/21, 24.11m); on both nights, the music skein more than doubled the demo delivery of its closest pursuer.

Also, “House” won its Monday hour (4.5/12 in 18-49, 12.19m), “Fringe” returned to fairly good numbers behind “Idol” on Wednesday (4.0/10, 10.15m), and Thursday’s “Hell’s Kitchen” cooked up a top-20 weekly finish (3.5/9, 8.11m).

On Sunday, the bow of animated laffer “Sit Down, Shut Up” (2.3/6 in 18-49, 5.19m) sagged between “The Simpsons” (3.1/9, 6.58m) and “Family Guy” (3.8/9, 7.34m).

CBS, which was once again up vs. the same frame a year ago and remains the only major network up for the season, claimed the week’s No. 1 scripted program among young adults in “Two and a Half Men” (5.3/13 in 18-49, 15.03m). “The Big Bang Theory,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “Rules of Engagement” also shined, ranking among the week’s top 12 programs.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the comedy block’s strength or more a reflection of every net’s struggles to attract viewers at 10 o’clock, but “CSI: Miami” (3.7/10, 13.39m) was the No. 5 Eye show on Monday in the 18-49 demo, behind each of the laffers.

Elsewhere for CBS, “Amazing Race” led its Sunday timeslot (3.0/8, 10.03m) for a third straight week, but new Thursday mystery series “Harper’s Island” declined by 15% in its second outing (2.2/6, 7.82m).

NBC got good perfs out of Thursday newbies “Southland” (3.0/9 in 18-49, 9.61m) and “Parks and Recreation” (2.5/7, 6.02m), increasing their likelihood of returning in the fall (Daily Variety, April 20).

The net was repped in the top 20 by laffers “The Office” (4.2/11, 8.37m) and “30 Rock” (3.5/9, 7.32m) and Tuesday nonscripted skein “The Biggest Loser” (3.8/10, 9.11m).

ABC was paced by top-10 vets “Desperate Housewives” (4.8/11 in 18-49, 13.85m), “Dancing With the Stars” (4.6/12, 19.46m) and “Lost” (4.0/10, 9.23m) but was dragged down in part by struggling Thursday half-hours “In the Motherhood” (1.4/5, 4.62m) and “Samantha Who?” (1.5/5, 4.84m).

And dropping substantially from their sizable lead-ins were 10 o’clock rookies “Cupid” on Tuesday (1.7/5, 6.10m) and “The Unusuals” on Wednesday (1.8/5, 6.01m).

CW had a quiet week, placing eighth in adults 18-34 (0.7/2) even though an appearance by original cast member Tori Spelling provided a lift for “90210″ (1.2/3 in 18-49, 2.13m). Net, which aired repeats on Monday and Thursday, was edged out in total viewers by MyNetwork (1.57 million to 1.50 million).

Notable in cable were three original movies, with ABC Family logging the best numbers for Sunday’s “My Fake Fiance” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 3.69m) — the season’s No. 1 TV movie in women 18-34 (3.0/8) and cable’s No. 1 pic in women 18-49 (2.4/6).

Also, Lifetime Movie Network drew its best-ever movie numbers for “Natalee Holloway,” which averaged 3.21 million viewers and led cable Sunday in women 25-54. And HBO’s “Grey Gardens” averaged 1.77 million viewers in its preem telecast Saturday, ranking as the fourth most-watched HBO telepic since 2004.

USA’s “In Plain Sight” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 5.11m) performed nicely kicking off its second season, meshing well with lead-in “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” (1.5/4, 4.58m). And Nick spec “SpongeBob vs. The Big One,” featuring Johnny Depp, pulled in 5.78 million viewers on Friday.

Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch” scored record numbers Tuesday with its fifth-season preem (2.0/5 in 18-49, 4.17m). Net kept that momentum going Wednesday with the bows of “Mythbusters” (0.8/2 in 18-49, 1.86m) and “Pitchmen” (0.8/2, 1.88m), with the former standing as cable’s top draw for men 18-34 for the 9 p.m. hour (1.2/4).

Sci Fi continues to shine on Wednesday as a Titanic-themed seg of “Ghost Hunters” achieved season highs (1.4/3 in 18-49, 2.94m) and the show once again ruled as cable’s top 25-54 program of the night (1.4/3).

Other highlights for the week included MTV’s “Making the Band” on Thursday (1.0/3 in 18-49, 1.97m) and Wednesday’s “The Real World/Road Rules Challenge” (1.1/3, 1.73m), with the latter leading cable at 10 p.m. in persons 12-34 (1.4/5).

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