'Teenager,' 'Love' good for cable

In a week when football dominated the primetime schedule, it was the network that aired the most — Fox — that finished on top.

Fox scored big with a pair of college games and the concluding hour of the most entertaining opening-round NFL playoff contest of the weekend. NBC, meanwhile, drew the best numbers for any program in the frame with its NFL game on Saturday, which topped ABC’s coverage of the college football championship game two nights earlier.

Outside of football, it was also a week when some entertainment series returned with strong numbers, including ABC’s “The Bachelor,” NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” CBS’ “Ghost Whisperer” and Fox’s “The Simpsons,” with the latter celebrating its 450th episode. And on cable, ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and HBO’s “Big Love” also sparkled.

Not every returnee did, however, as NBC’s “Heroes,” ABC’s “Ugly Betty” and Fox’s “Dollhouse” posted downbeat deliveries in their comebacks.

Overall for the first full week of the new year, according to same-night Nielsen averages, Fox led in adults 18-49 with a 3.6 rating/10 share, followed by NBC (3.5/9), ABC (3.2/9), football-less CBS (2.3/6), Univision (1.3/4) and USA (1.1/3).

Fox also tied with NBC for the week’s lead in adults 25-54 (4.0/10), and the Peacock prevailed in total viewers (10.3 million).

Leading the football pack last week was NBC’s Wild Card NFL playoff game on Saturday between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles (11.8 rating/33 share in adults 18-49, 32.12 million viewers overall) — the largest primetime audience for any net on any night since the Super Bowl on NBC nearly a year ago.

And for the Peacock, it was its most-watched Saturday in nearly 22 years (since a February 1988 comedy lineup that included “Golden Girls” and “Facts of Life”).

Nearly as big was ABC’s coverage of the Bowl Championship Series title game between Alabama and Texas (10.5/28 in 18-49, 30.78m), which drew its best scores in four years and the second largest audience on a Thursday for ABC in 18 years.

Fox’s football fix started on Monday with the Fiesta Bowl (4.6/12 in 18-49, 13.82m for Boise State-TCU) and continued Tuesday with the Orange Bowl (3.6/10, 10.88m for Iowa-Georgia Tech). And it also aired the week’s highest-rated hour of primetime with Sunday’s conclusion of the wild Arizona-Green Bay playoff game, which averaged a 14.6 rating in 18-49 and about 40 million viewers overall from 7 to 8 o’clock.

And following football Sunday, “The Simpsons” celebrated its latest milestone with its highest-rated episode in five years (6.9/17 in 18-49, 14.62m) and then logged impressive numbers for the show’s hourlong 20th anniversary special (5.5/13, 11.43m).

At NBC, “Heroes” sputtered in its return Monday (2.2/5 in 18-49, 4.92m), but weight-loss skein “The Biggest Loser” set a series record for a season premiere one night later (4.6/12, 11.74m).

Also, the third-season premiere of “Chuck” on Sunday hit a nearly one-year ratings high (2.9/7 in 18-49, 7.45m), and “Law & Order: SVU” hit a season high on Wednesday (3.1/8 in 18-49, 10.58m).

At ABC, Monday’s “The Bachelor” (3.3/8 in 18-49, 9.54m) attracted its largest opening-night aud in four seasons, and lead-out spec “Conveyor Belt of Love” (2.6/7, 6.34m) held up pretty well in winning its hour.

Net was dragged down by Tuesday’s tame “Better Off Ted” (1.1/3, 2.60m) and “The Forgotten” (1.2/3, 4.38m) but rebounded Wednesday behind best-since-preem scores for “Modern Family” (4.1/11 in 18-49, 10.22m) and above-average deliveries for “The Middle” (2.6/7, 8.07m) and “Cougar Town” (3.3/8, 7.88m).

Ugly Betty” was sluggish Wednesday as it returned on a new night (1.6/5, 5.02m), but improved on both its Friday averages and the Alphabet’s delivery in the time period with “Eastwick.”

Highlights for CBS included its Tuesday trio of “NCIS” (4.4/12 in 18-49, 21.37m), “NCIS: Los Angeles” (3.7/9, 18.07m) and “The Good Wife” (3.0/8, 13.98m), which hit a high in total viewers, and the 36th annual “People’s Choice Awards,” which posted its best scores in 18-49 (3.4/9) and total viewers (10.81 million) in three years, and its best in persons 12-34 (2.6/8) in four years.

Net also did well Wednesday with the spec “I Get That a Lot” (2.9/8, 8.31m) and won Friday with its best regular-lineup demo averages of the season for “Ghost Whisperer” (2.2/7 in 18-49, 8.94m), “Medium” (2.1/6, 8.87m) and “Numbers” (2.1/6, 9.24m).

In cable, USA won easily behind a strong Monday showing for “WWE Raw” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 5.51m for its two-hour average) and numerous repeats of “NCIS” and “Law and Order: SVU.” Also on the night, Spike surged with its wrestling spec “TNA Before the War” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.54m).

ABC Family’s winter premiere of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 4.55m) hit series highs in demos (Daily Variety, Jan. 6), and MTV’s “Jersey Shore” set series records (1.8/5 in 18-49, 3.27m) and was the No. 1 series on television Thursday among adults 18-34 (2.7/8).

And HBO’s “Big Love” kicked off its fourth season Sunday with 1.73 million viewers, a 49% improvement over its third-season debut last year (1.16 million).

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