ABC, CBS neck and neck for night's lead

ABC’s “The Bachelor” surged to season highs Monday but CBS comedy “How I Met Your Mother” was the night’s top demo draw as the Alphabet and Eye finished in a close battle for the lead in both demos and total viewers.

According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, ABC edged out ABC for the evening’s lead among adults 18-49 behind its two-hour reality hit “The Bachelor” (3.3 rating/9 share in adults 18-49, 10.4 million viewers overall), which ran second in the 8 o’clock hour before prevailing in demos from 9 to 10 — taking advantage of CBS airing a repeat “Two and a Half Men” due to star Charlie Sheen’s unavailability. Also for ABC, “Castle” ran a close second in the 10 p.m. hour (2.6/7 in 18-49, 9.0 million viewers overall). For the night, the Alphabet logged its highest 18-49 average (3.1 rating/8 share) since the Monday fall finale of “Dancing With the Stars” on Nov. 22, and its highest 18-34 average (2.6/8) since late October.

CBS, a close second in 18-49 and the night’s leader in adults 25-54 and total viewers, opened strong with “How I Met Your Mother” (3.6/10 in 18-49, 9.4 million viewers overall), which led its half-hour in demos and was Monday’s top program in 18-49. It was followed by the second week of “Mad Love” (third-place 2.8/7 in 18-49, 8.0 million viewers overall), which retained more than 90% of its premiere score. At 9, the net settled for second place as “Two and a Half Men” (3.0/8 in 18-49, 11.5 million viewers overall) aired a repeat on a night that it would have normally aired an original. From there, rookie comedy “Mike and Molly” built some (3.2/8 in 18-49, 11.3 million viewers overall), standing as the night’s most-watched program overall, and “Hawaii Five-0″ led at 10 p.m. (2.7/8 in 18-49, 10.2 million viewers overall); both “Mike” and “Hawaii” were at firstrun lows as a result of the lower “Men” lead-in.

Third-place Fox saw both “House” (3.5/9 in 18-49, 10.4 million viewers overall) and “The Chicago Code” (2.1/6 in 18-49, 8.0 million viewers overall) edge up week to week, with the former winning the 8 o’clock hour and the latter first-year cop drama placing third in the 9 o’clock hour.

NBC was status quo with its low-rated lineup of “Chuck” (1.7/4 in 18-49, 5.5 million viewers overall), “The Cape” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 4.1 million viewers overall) and “Harry’s Law” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 8.7 million viewers overall). Rookie drama “The Event” returns to the night next week.

And CW dramas “90210″ (0.7/2 in 18-49, 1.5 million viewers overall) and “Gossip Girl” (0.8/2 in 18-49, 1.6 million viewers overall) grew some vs. their low-rated performances on Valentine’s Day.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: ABC, 3.1/8; CBS, 3.0/8; Fox, 2.8/7; NBC and Univision, 1.5/4; CW, 0.7/2.

In total viewers: CBS, 10.1 million; ABC, 9.9 million; Fox, 9.2 million; NBC, 6.1 million; Univision, 3.9 million; CW, 1.5 million.

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