New NBC series wins hour, but not dominant

NBC’s “Parenthood” opened to modest numbers Tuesday, winning its hour among young adults but not pulling off the triple Salchow the net may have hoped for coming out of the Olympics.

The family drama, of course, was not conceived to be the net’s savior. It was originally skedded to bow in the low-key Wednesday 8 o’clock hour last fall; its start was delayed due to health issues for one of its leads — and it eventually became the centerpiece of the net’s post-Vancouver Games strategy when NBC’s cupboard went bare following the “Jay Leno Show” disaster.

Looking at the numbers, Nielsen estimates that the Imagine TV-produced “Parenthood” averaged a 3.1 rating/9 share in adults 18-49 and 8.10 million viewers overall, retaining 94% of its demo lead-in from the final half-hour of “The Biggest Loser” (3.3/8). (“Loser” itself was weaker than usual due to competition from an expanded seg of Fox’s “American Idol,” and “Parenthood” will eventually get a stronger lead-in to work with.)

Certainly as a 10 o’clock drama on NBC, “Parenthood” had a respectable bow — in line with the net’s most recent preems in the hour like 2008’s “My Own Worst Enemy” and last year’s “Southland” launch. Those two shows both faded, and how “Parenthood” performs over the next two months will determine its long-term prospects on the net.

The 3.1 average isn’t that far from the 3.7 or 3.8 that top 10 p.m. dramas deliver these days, thanks to DVRs, which are in heavy playback mode at this time. It’s also well above the 1.9 that the (admittedly much less expensive) “Jay Leno Show” had averaged with its final 10 Tuesday outings.

In a good sign for “Parenthood,” viewership stayed steady or grew in the second half-hour among adults under 50.

In a crowded drama hour that will become more so in a few weeks with the return of ABC’s “V,” “Parenthood” drew the most 18-49ers Tuesday, victorious among both men (2.2/7) and women (4.0/11) and also easily winning among the 12-34 set (2.2/7).

CBS rookie “The Good Wife,” which likely shares some potential audience with “Parenthood,” ran second in 18-49 (2.7/8) while winning narrowly in 25-54 (3.8/10) and cruising in total viewers (13.32 million).

ABC, which benched struggling rookie drama “The Forgotten” for a special Oscar-themed edition of “20/20,” wasn’t much of a factor (1.7/5 in 18-49, 5.20m).

The hour also featured a pair of high-profile cable dramas: the TNT premiere of “Southland” and USA’s fledgling hit “White Collar.”

Among adults 18-49 rating, the hour’s dramas stacked up as follows: “Parenthood” (3.1), “The Good Wife” (2.7), “White Collar” (1.1) and “Southland” (1.0).

In adults 25-54, it was “Good Wife” (3.8), “Parenthood” (3.6), “White Collar” (1.3) and “Southland” (1.2).

And in total viewers: “Good Wife” (13.32m), “Parenthood” (8.10m), “White Collar” (3.48m) and “Southland” (2.49m).

Fox dominated the night’s opening two hours with an two-hour performance episode of “American Idol” (8.6/22 in 18-49, 23.53m), which was down a bit vs. last week’s two-hour installment. It peaked at 9:30 p.m. with a 9.0/22 in the demo and about 24 million viewers overall.

The extra hour of “Idol” cut into the ratings for 9 o’clock dramas “Lost” on ABC (4.1/10 in 18-49, 9.29m) and “NCIS: Los Angeles” (3.1/8, 14.84m) on CBS, although both remain potent players.

“NCIS” ran a solid second to “Idol” in the 8 o’clock hour for CBS (4.1/11 in 18-49, 19.62m).

Next week, CW jumps back into the fray with original episodes of “90210” and “Melrose Place.” Neither has aired in firstrun since Dec. 8.

In latenight Tuesday, NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” (1.6 rating in 18-49, 5.8 million viewers overall) again easily beat both CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” (1.0 rating, 3.7 million) and ABC’s “Nightline” (0.9 rating, 3.3 million), according to prelim Nielsen nationals. In his second night back, Leno was boosted by high-profile guests Sarah Palin and Olympian Shaun White and matched his Monday delivery in the demo.

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