'Talent' leads way as genre draws audiences

Reality ruled in primetime for each of the major nets last week, as “America’s Got Talent” scouted the biggest audience, “The Bachelorette” finale came out smelling like roses, “Hell’s Kitchen” cranked up the heat, and more eyes were fixed on “Big Brother.”

In all, 14 of the week’s top 18 programs in adults 18-49 were reality series, and comedy repeats filled the other four spots.

It was also another good week for cable dramas, as young entries “Royal Pains” and “Burn Notice” on USA and “True Blood” on HBO remained hot. Also, TNT vet “The Closer” drew its largest aud of the summer, and several of the net’s younger hourlongs are performing fairly well.

On the reality side, cable standouts included Food Network’s “Search for the Next Food Network Star,” Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch” and E!’s “Kendra.”

Overall, according to Nielsen estimates for the week of July 27-Aug. 2, Fox prevailed in the 18-49 demo with a 1.8 rating/6 share, followed by CBS (1.5/5), ABC and NBC (both 1.3/4), Univision (1.2/4) and top cabler USA (1.0/3).

Fox and CBS tied for the lead in adults 25-54 (2.0/6), and the Eye dominated once again in total viewers (6.2 million to 5.1 million for second-place NBC).

Among the smaller broadcasters, MyNetwork (1.57 million viewers), outdrew CW (1.15 million) for a 10th straight week. And thanks mostly to the addition of “WWE Smackdown” to its Friday sked last fall, the net has now improved upon its perf for the year-earlier frame for 45 consecutive weeks.

And last week marked the end of the July sweep, in which Spanish-language broadcaster Univision stood as the No. 2 network on television — behind only Fox — in adults 18-34.

Among individual programs last week, NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” (3.5/10 in 18-49, 13.24m) and ABC’s conclusion of “The Bachelorette” (3.5/10, 10.00m) tied for the top spot in 18-49. The talent show was also the week’s No. 1 program in adults 25-54 (4.2/11) and total viewers, while the dating skein was the week’s top draw among persons 12-34 (2.7/9) and all key female demos and all key female demos and also gave the Alphabet its strongest summer showing in its Monday timeslot (exluding sports) in seven years.

Elsewhere for Fox, which remains the summer leader in adults 18-49, “Hell’s Kitchen” (3.4/11 in 18-49, 7.04m) was up vs. its timeslot bow of the previous week, and “So You Think You Can Dance” remained in the top 10 on both Wednesday (3.0/9, 7.81m) and Thursday (2.6/8, 1.24m).

Not as big, but respectable enough, was the launch of Tuesday dating show “More to Love” (1.9/5, 4.01m).

CBS saw “Big Brother” achieve more highs, including segs on Thursday (2.1/8, 6.46m) and Sunday (2.2/7, 6.77m) that won their timeslots. Also of note was Monday repeat laffer “The Big Bang Theory” (2.8/8 in 18-49, 8.48m), which built on its demo lead-in from “Two and a Half Men” (2.7/8, 9.06m) for the first time.

Aside from Monday’s “The Bachelorette” finale, ABC was paced by the same night’s “Dating in the Dark” (2.4/7, 6.01m) and Tuesday spec “The Bachelorette: After the Final Rose” (2.8/8, 7.99m). Not so hot was Sunday’s two-hour series preem of astronaut drama “Defying Gravity” (1.1/3, 3.66m).

Outside of “America’s Got Talent,” things were pretty quiet at NBC, which continues to be weighed down by low-rated originals such as “Great American Road Trip” (0.9/3 in 18-49, 3.37m), “Wanted” (0.4/1, 1.98m) and “Merlin” (1.1/4, 4.44m).

In cable, USA had another big Thursday, as dramas “Burn Notice” (1.9/6 in 18-49, 6.63m) and “Royal Pains” (2.0/6, 6.38m) beat ABC, CBS and NBC among young adults from 9 to 11.

Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Atlanta” opened its second season to impressive numbers Thursday (1.3/4 in 18-49, 2.66m) — in various categories, delivering three or four times the audience of the show’s series preem last October. In the 10 o’clock hour, it stood as television’s No. 1 program among women 18-34 (2.1/7).

At TNT, Monday vet “The Closer” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 7.46m) matched a season high in 18-49 while drawing its largest overall audience. Lead-out “Raising the Bar” was on the rise as well (0.8/2, 3.54m), and rookie drama “Hawthorne” (1.0/3, 3.61m) rose to best-since-premiere scores in several categories on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, HBO’s “True Blood” hit another high on Sunday (2.2/6, 4.27m); Tuesday’s fifth-season finale of Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch” (1.8/5, 3.75m) was the night’s top cable show; and the season finale of E!’s “Kendra” 1.2/3 in 18-49, 2.11m) was television’s No. 1 show among women 18-34 (2.5/8) during Sunday’s 10 p.m. hour.

And it was a big finale on Sunday for Food Network’s “Next Food Network Star” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 5.49m), which logged the franchise’s largest aud since its bow in 2005.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more