Both benefit from hoops on CBS; Fox's 'Idol' tops night

With CBS powerhouse comedy ”The Big Bang Theory” on the sidelines Thursday while the net aired college basketball, ABC saw a pretty good premiere for Ashley Judd drama ”Missing” while NBC’s ”Community,” a hot topic on social media sites last night, returned from a four-month hiatus to its best numbers in more than a year.

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, ”Missing” averaged a 2.0 rating/6 share in adults 18-49 and 10.6 million viewers overall , topping the demo score for six of the seven episodes of ”Charlie’s Angels” to air in the timeslot last fall. While the 18-49 score is adequate , especially during daylight savings time , it was among older viewers that the show fared best, including a healthy 2.8/8 in adults 25-54 that left it behind only ”American Idol” in the 8 o’clock hour. The drama, in which Ashley Judd plays a former CIA operative looking for her son, is scheduled to play Thursdays at 8 for the rest of the television season.

Elsewhere for ABC, ”Grey’s Anatomy” (3.0/8 in 18-49, 9.7 million viewers overall) couldn’t take advantage of the sizable female audience from ”Missing,” dipping a tick below its most recent original episode for its lowest demo score of the season. And ”Private Practice” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 7.0 million viewers overall) was in line with its last original.

Fox won the night thanks to the ”American Idol” results show (4.5/14 in 18-49, 15.5 million viewers overall), which was down week to week in its first try this season during daylight savings time but dominated its hour and was easily the top-rated program of the night. It was followed by a repeat of the ”Touch” pilot (2.2/8 in 18-49, 8.7 million viewers overall) in advance of the Kiefer Sutherland-fronted drama’s return to originals next week.

NBC saw a nice return for cult favorite ”Community” (2.2/7 in 18-49, 4.9 million viewers overall), which gave the net its best regular-series score in the timeslot in 14 months (since ”Community” in January 2011); it was up more than 35% from the show’s same-night 18-49 average in the fall (1.6) and up 29% over the comparable night a year ago (1.7) when it also faced basketball. The young-skewing comedy even beat out ”American Idol” in adults 18-34 (2.8/10 to 2.5/9) and easily stood as broadcast TV’s top-rated series on the night in men 18-34 (3.3/12); in 18-34, it was the top-rated episode of ”Community” since early in its run in 2009.

The strong showing at 8 o’clock helped ”30 Rock” at 8:30 (2.0/6 in 18-49, 4.0 million viewers overall), which scored the net’s best showing in the timeslot since mid-November. But 9 p.m. vet ”The Office” (2.3/6 in 18-49, 4.9 million viewers overall) was down a few ticks, and ”Up All Night” (1.7/4 in 18-49, 3.6 million viewers overall) held steady week to week. At 10, the third week of ”Awake” (1.6/4 in 18-49, 5.1 million viewers overall) matched last week’s score, as the show continues to perform better than the other dramas the net scheduled in the hour earlier this season (”Prime Suspect” and ”The Firm”).

Reliable preliminary nationals are very murky for CBS as the net aired live basketball throughout primetime in most of the country, but the Eye’s stations averaged a 1.7/5 in 18-49 and 4.7 million viewers overall from 8 to 11 , about on par with last year. Cablers TBS, Tru and TNT were also airing games Thursday in the second year of the new TV deal in which every game is available via one of the four networks.

At CW, ”The Vampire Diaries” returned to originals (1.2/4 in 18-49, 2.6 million viewers overall), with its 18-34 score (1.4/5) up a tick vs. its last new episode four weeks ago and enough to edge out ABC’s ”Missing” in the hour. It was followed by ”The Secret Circle” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 1.6 million viewers overall), which held pretty steady in most categories while rising 11% among women 18-34 and 18-49.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: Fox, 3.4/10; ABC, 2.4/7; NBC, 1.9/5; CBS, 1.7/5; Univision, 1.5/4; CW, 1.0/3.

In total viewers: Fox, 12.1 million; ABC, 9.1 million; CBS, 4.7 million; NBC, 4.6 million; Univision, 3.6 million; CW, 2.1 million.

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