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‘Big Bang’ best, but Fox wins Thursday

'Community' holds up while 'Touch,' 'Missing' slide

Fox won a competitive Thursday race that was highlighted by the return of CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” which was off the air the last two weeks because of the NCAA basketball tournament.

“The Big Bang Theory” drew a 4.5 rating/15 share with 13.6 million overall viewers, according to initial estimates from Nielsen. The Eye laffer defeated “American Idol” in the timeslot (3.7/12), but “Idol” kicked up in the second half-hour to finish at 4.2/13 and 15.2 million, making it the most-watched program of the evening.

NBC’s “Community” held up well against a new “Big Bang” and reality powerhouse “Idol,” staying flat from a week ago with an identical 1.7/6 in the demo. The 3.6 million who tuned in, however, was down 200,000 from last week.

Best in the 8:30 timeslot against everything except “Idol,” CBS’ “Rules of Engagement” (2.8/8) returned flat from its first original episode since December but shed nearly 5 million viewers from “Big Bang.” NBC’s venerable “30 Rock” (1.5/4, 3.1m) has been steady but lost viewers from “Community.”

Over on ABC, the hourlong “Missing” continues to slide. After premiering March 15 with a 2.1 rating, it slipped to 1.6 a week ago and dropped again Thursday night to a 1.4/4, 7.7m. The downward trend would make its chances of being renewed for a second season fairly slim.

At 9 p.m., “Person of Interest” returned from its basketball-induced layoff to gather a 3.3/9, 14.4m. Fox’s “Touch” fell 16% from its official debut a week ago and scored a 2.8/7, 9.1m. Not only was there demo erosion but 2.7 million viewers who watched last week didn’t come back for the second episode.

NBC countered in the hour with a repeat of “The Office” (1.2/3, 2.5m) and a new “Up All Night” (1.3/4, 2.9m), while ABC offered a rerun of “Grey’s Anatomy” (1.2/3, 4.2m).

“The Mentalist” (2.7/8, 13.4m) dominated at 10 o’clock. NBC’s “Awake” (1.0/3, 3.1) continues to lose traction and was barely able to edge a repeat of “Private Practice” (0.9/2, 2.8m) on ABC.

The CW aired original episodes of “The Vampire Diaries” (1.1/3, 2.3m) and “The Secret Circle” (0.6/2, 1.3m).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: Fox, 3.5/10; CBS, 3.2/9; Univision, 1.5/4; NBC, 1.3/4; ABC, 1.2/3; CW, 0.9/2.

In total viewers: CBS, 13 million; Fox, 12.1 million; ABC, 4.9 million; Univision, 3.6 million; NBC, 3.1 million; CW, 1.8 million.

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