Sluggish 'Sarah' doesn't help 'Dollhouse'

Fox’s “Dollhouse” got off to a credible start in the ratings Friday, but the Joss Whedon drama could be hamstrung by lack of lead-in support.

The net’s decision to sked the high-profile skein on such a low-wattage night had raised some eyebrows, but Fox maintained it was the best place for it. The net was hoping to stake out a destination for young adults by pairing “Dollhouse” with “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” but the latter, second-year series opened meekly on its new night.

According to preliminary Nielsen nationals, “Dollhouse” opened Friday with a 2.0 rating/6 share in adults 18-49, ranking second in the demo to ABC’s “Supernanny” (prelim 2.2/7) and third in total viewers. The Fox entry maintained its demo rating from its first half-hour to its second and beat competing dramas on CBS (“Flashpoint”) and NBC (“Friday Night Lights”) in 18-49.

Fox has long struggled on Friday night, and “Dollhouse’s” preem repped a decent improvement over previous slot occupant “Don’t Forget the Lyrics,” which had averaged a 1.5/5 in 18-49 in its final handful of airings.

Not helping “Dollhouse” was its “Terminator” lead-in, which averaged a prelim 1.3/5 in 18-49 and 3.7 million viewers overall (and a 4 share in the demo and 3.5 million viewers in its 8:30 half-hour), placing third in most demo categories for the hour.

The star of the night was ABC’s “20/20,” as Diane Sawyer’s report on children living in poverty in Appalachia dominated at 10 o’clock with a prelim 3.4/11 in 18-49 and 10.9 million viewers overall — the largest aud for the newsmag since September 2004.

ABC also had good news on Thursday with its crossover episodes involving “Grey’s Anatomy” (5.9/15 in 18-49, 15.16m) and “Private Practice” (5.7/15, 14.10m), both of which led their hours in 18-49. “Private” hit a series high in demos and retained more of its firstrun “Grey’s Anatomy” lead-in than any show to date.

Also on the night, CBS reality vet “Survivor” kicked off its 18th season with solid numbers (4.4/13 in 18-49, 13.63m), easily winning the 8 o’clock hour and nearly on par with its recent openings. And Fox’s coverage of the NAACP Image Awards (1.4/4 in 18-49, 4.20m) was up slightly in several categories vs. last year.

On Sunday, TNT’s coverage of the NBA All-Star Game averaged a preliminary 6.9 million viewers, up 8% from last year (6.4 million). Its preliminary 3.1 rating in 18-49 (up slightly vs. last year) put it second on the night behind ABC, which was paced by “Desperate Housewives” (prelim 4.9/12 in 18-49, 13.9 million).

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