Networks crowd night in pursuit of ratings

Thursday may still be home to most of TV’s biggest shows, but Tuesday ain’t too shabby either.

Known mostly as the night on which Fox’s “American Idol” dominates with its (oft-expanded) performance show, Tuesday could be the strongest for the broadcasters this spring.

In fact, beginning this week, the Big Four are loading up on the night in perhaps unprecedented fashion — and are expected to collectively produce numbers in the 8 o’clock hour that we may never see again.

ABC’s decision to move the “Dancing With the Stars” results show to the night’s opening hour means it will square off not only against “Idol” and NBC’s potent weight-loss skein “The Biggest Loser,” but also CBS military crime heavyweight “NCIS.”

“Idol,” “Dancing” and “NCIS” are each the most-watched series on their respective networks, and when “NCIS” airs original episodes, a combined Big Four tally of roughly 60 million viewers can be expected — a lofty figure in an era of digital video recorders and more than 100 cable channels.

ABC has long resisted airing the Tuesday “Dancing” results show at 8 p.m. opposite “Idol,” but, based on ratings for the 10th edition’s premiere March 22, it should be able to hold its own opposite TV’s No. 1 program. Ratings for “Dancing” will be lower than they would be at 9 removed from “Idol,” but ABC recognizes the need to better program the hour, in which it has been running a distant fourth opposite “Idol” for years.

The night stays very interesting — but assumes more of a drama slant — at 9 o’clock, where ABC’s “Lost” airs its final episodes against Fox’s high-school musical dramedy “Glee” (the season’s top new show among auds under 50, which returns April 13) and CBS rookie “NCIS: Los Angeles” (the season’s top new show in adults 25-54). “Glee” has a bit of an advantage, as it’s the hour’s only show going for laughs and has “Idol” as its lead-in, but “Lost” is expected to gradually grow as it nears its conclusion.

The hourlongs also will be going up against the second half of NBC’s two-hour “Biggest Loser,” which often is the Peacock’s top-rated 60 minutes of the week among adults 18-49.

“Loser,” which will be overwhelmed in the three-way reality battle at 8, will at least benefit from being the only reality show from 9 to 10.

The 10 o’clock hour, meanwhile, isn’t nearly as strong, though ABC’s “V” should spice things up some with its return this week. But DVRs will be firing off sparks in the hour as auds catch up on the surplus of smashes earlier in the evening.

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