Playoff basketball, reality shows, '60 Minutes' shine

As the networks kicked off the May sweep last week, auds continue to drift toward programs that thrive on immediacy.

The NBA Playoffs, elimination-style reality shows nearing the end of their seasons, and a timely “60 Minutes” piece clicked with viewers, but for the most part scripted hours — perhaps more likely to take up space on DVRs during warmer weather — are taking a backseat. These shows may make up ratings ground in DVR playback, but they’re not “must watch tonight” TV right now.

This is also a tough time of year for shows battling for a spot on next season’s schedule.

Ratings for ABC’s late-season debut of “Happy Town” didn’t exactly make net execs smile, and a trio of first-year medical shows — NBC’s “Trauma” and “Mercy” and CBS’ more recent addition “Miami Medical” — appear to be beyond saving at this point. ABC’s “FlashForward” hurt its cause when it opened the sweep sluggishly, while the net’s “V” is hanging in there a bit better but remains well off its fall pace.

There were a pair of notable exceptions to the spring swoon for scripted skeins, though, courtesy of hot newbies: Fox’s “Glee” was TV’s top scripted show among young adults for a third straight week, and ABC’s “Modern Family” matched a demo high.

Overall, Fox maintained a sizable demo advantage over its rivals last week, with “American Idol” and “Glee” claiming the top three spots in the young-adult program rankings. CBS still claimed the week’s most top 20 shows in 18-49 (eight), and was back on top in total viewers.

NBA playoff action drew the evening’s top demo score on both Friday and Saturday, driving TNT to the top of the cable pack for the week.

Overall, according to same-night Nielsen nationals for April 26-May 2, Fox cruised to victory in adults 18-49 with a 3.0 rating/9 share, with ABC and CBS tied for second (2.2/7), followed by NBC (1.9/6), Univision (1.5/4) and TNT (1.3/3). Fox also led in adults 25-54 (3.4/9 to 3.0/8 for CBS) and persons 12-34 (2.3/8 to 1.5/5 for ABC), while the Eye had it in total viewers (9.5 million to 8.3 million for Fox).

“American Idol” accounted for the week’s top two programs with Tuesday’s performance seg (6.9/20 in 18-49, 19.42m) and Wednesday’s results show (6.7/18, 20.06m). Also for Fox, “Glee” ranked third (5.2/13, 12.18m), “House” tied for fifth (4.2/12, 10.85m), and “Family Guy” made some Sunday noise (3.5/9, 7.40m).

“Bones” was a solid second in its Thursday slot (2.6/8, 9.28m), but lead-out “Fringe” ran a distant fourth (2.0/6, 5.55m) in its tough hour.

ABC’s highlight was Wednesday laffer “Modern Family” (4.2/12 in 18-49, 10.01m), which matched its highest 18-49 score to date and notched its outright best deliveries in all male categories. And leading into it, “The Middle” hit a five-week high and led its slot (2.4/7, 7.10m).

Also, “Dancing With the Stars” (4.4/12 in 18-49, 20.40m) cracked the top 5 in demos and was No. 1 in total viewers, and vets “Grey’s Anatomy” (3.8/11, 10.47m) and “Desperate Housewives” (3.8/10, 12.12m) bounced back from their recent series-low scores to win their hours.

On the downside, “Happy Town” had a soft bow on Wednesday (1.7/5, 5.25m), and “FlashForward” (1.6/5, 5.17m) ran fourth on Thursday. Monday laffer “Romantically Challenged,” airing behind “Dancing,” is looking a bit better (2.6/7, 9.06m).

Consistency was key for CBS, which was shut out of the week’s top 5 in 18-49 but claimed eight of the top 20. “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” (4.1/13, 12.74m) posted best-since-preem scores and teamed with “CSI” (3.0/9, 13.63m) and “The Mentalist” (3.2/10, 14.84m) to help the Eye open the sweep a winner on Thursday.

Net also had a solid Sunday with “60 Minutes” (2.2/8 in 18-49, 13.50m), which was above its recent average and easily led its timeslot thanks to Steve Kroft’s heavily promoted interview of Conan O’Brien, and “Amazing Race” (3.0/9, 10.29m), which wraps this week.

Not working well is Friday’s “Miami Medical” (1.2/4, 6.57m), although the whole night is slumping for the Eye.

NBC claimed only two of the week’s top 20 shows in 18-49 — “The Office” (3.6/11, 7.01m) and “Law & Order: SVU” (2.9/8, 9.49m) — but had reason to be pleased with Tuesday rookie drama “Parenthood” (2.4/7, 5.81m), which led its hour in 18-49.

Two other rookies, Monday’s “Trauma” (1.5/4, 5.00m) and Wednesday’s “Mercy” (1.4/4, 4.92m), performed meekly, and midseason entry “The Marriage Ref” (1.9/6, 4.37m) was low opposite firstrun drama competish.

In five nights of NBA action, TNT’s top numbers came from Saturday’s Boston-Cleveland matchup (2.2/8 in 18-49, 5.71m) and Tuesday’s contest between Los Angeles and Oklahoma City (2.2/8, 4.69m). ESPN also scored with the sixth and final game of the L.A.-Oklahoma City series on Friday (2.1/8, 4.83m).

Hoops action was the top demo draw on both Friday and Saturday, with Fox’s NASCAR coverage also faring well on Saturday (2.0/8 in 18-49, 6.19m).

Also in cable, Comedy Central’s “South Park” (2.1/6 in 18-49, 3.55m) had another big outing and was primetime’s No. 1 show for the week in men 18-34 (4.1/13); MTV’s final season of “The Hills” opened well on Wednesday (1.7/5, 2.75m); Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” was the week’s most-watched cable entertainment series (4.87 million); and gay cabler Logo established a new high with Monday’s second-season finale of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (633,000 viewers).

Outside of primetime, Adult Swim’s third-season preem of “The Boondocks” set series records in adults 18-49 (1.58 million) and adults 18-34 (1.26 million) while averaging 2.55 million viewers overall. It was the first original episode of Aaron McGruder’s animated series since February 2008.

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