'Motherhood' defeats 'My Name Is Earl'

March Madness continues to perform well for CBS Sports, with ratings for the men’s college basketball tourney up 10% vs. last year.

Auds are turning out in sizable numbers for matchups of the top-seeded teams in each bracket in a year without any real Cinderella stories.

Friday’s late action, highlighted by Michigan State’s narrow victory over Kansas in the Midwest semis, averaged a strong 7.4 household rating/13 share in Nielsen’s metered-market overnights. This repped a whopping 42% improvement over the same window a year ago and the best score for the late Friday contest in four years.

Overall through Friday, the tournament on CBS was averaging a 5.7 rating/12 share in the overnights, up from last year’s 5.2/11. Action continues Saturday with the Final Four and April 6 with the championship game.

Meanwhile, in series premiere news, ABC’s laffer “In the Motherhood” opened Thursday to a decent 2.2 rating/6 share in adults 18-49 and 6.70 million viewers overall, edging past fellow laffer “My Name Is Earl” on NBC (2.1/6, 5.89m).

“Motherhood,” starring Megan Mullally and Cheryl Hines, was up a bit over recent perfs in the 8 p.m. half-hour for “Ugly Betty.” While its overall score is nothing special, it’s a credible start considering it was up against Fox’s “American Idol” (7.7/21 in 18-49, 23.10m from 8 to 9 p.m.).

Airing behind “Motherhood,” returning comedy “Samantha Who?” averaged similar scores in its new timeslot (2.2/6 in 18-49, 6.57m).

ABC captured the night’s middle hour with “Grey’s Anatomy” (5.6/13 in 18-49, 16.10m), though Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen” (4.5/11, 8.65m) and NBC’s “The Office” (4.5/11, 8.65m) also excelled opposite basketball on CBS.

In its penultimate episode, NBC’s “ER” (3.5/9 in 18-49, 10.36m) was neck and neck at 10 p.m. with ABC’s “Private Practice” (3.6/10, 10.12m). The Peacock vet wraps its 15-season run April 2 with a two-hour seg following a one-hour retrospective.

Also Thursday, Univision drew an impressive 2.9/8 in 18-49 and 6.6 million viewers overall for its three hour “Premio lo Nuestro 2009” — the top numbers to date for the annual kudocast honoring the best in Latin music. For the night, among adults 18-34, Univision (3.2/9) trailed only Fox and ABC.

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