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‘Survivor’ snaps up auds

Reality skein surges in 10th-season bow

Absence seemed to make the heart grow fonder for fans of CBS reality skein “Survivor,” which, after a nearly 10-week hiatus, returned to the airwaves with very strong ratings Thursday night.

Premiere of “Survivor: Palau” and mega-numbers from “CSI” dominated Thursday’s primetime action, racking up the best demo averages (9.0/22 in adults 18-49, 10.7/24 in adults 25-54) for a regular CBS lineup in nearly four years and the largest overall audience for a regular Thursday lineup on CBS (25.2 million) since at least 1987, according to Nielsen.

While some unscripted skeins seemingly launch one edition after another — NBC allowed 35 days between editions of “The Apprentice,” and CBS is bowing “The Amazing Race 7” a mere 21 days after the finale of “Race 6” — CBS was very patient with “Survivor.”

Whetting appetites

By allowing 67 days to pass between editions, easily the longest such stretch between the show’s two in-season versions, CBS programmers whetted the appetites of fans waiting for the 10th go-round of the series and also assured its run would extend three weeks into the May sweep. A new twist, in which three of 20 Survivors were booted on the first night, probably didn’t hurt tune-in, either.

In its debut Thursday, “Survivor: Palau” (9.1 rating/23 share in adults 18-49, 23.66 million viewers) dominated its timeslot, more than doubling NBC’s fading combo of “Joey” (4.0/11 in 18-49, 9.84m) and “Will & Grace” (4.4/11, 9.93m). It’s the best start in 18-49 for a “Survivor” since “Amazon” in February 2003 and the best in adults 25-54 (10.5/24) since “Africa” in October 2001.

“Survivor” helped “CSI” to its best averages since mid-November (10.9/26 in 18-49, 30.72m), and “Without a Trace” followed with solid numbers at 10 (6.9/17 in 18-49, 21.01m).

Alphabet’s ‘Secret’

ABC improved its standing on Thursday with spec “Michael Jackson’s Secret World With Martin Bashir” (3.0/7, 8.75m), airing under the “Primetime” banner. Still, this was well below Bashir’s original documentary in 2003 and left the Alphabet third.

Elsewhere in sweeps action on the weekend, ABC rolled Sunday but each of the other major nets had something to be happy about as well.

All four ABC shows won their slots in 18-49, led by “Desperate Housewives” (roughly 11.0/24 in 18-49, 24.2 million) and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (prelim 7.8/18 in 18-49, 18.2 mil), which easily racked up the night’s top demos. Also, “Boston Legal” (roughly 5.7/14 in 18-49, 14 mil) should approach series records.

At CBS, well-reviewed telepic “Stone Cold” (prelim 3.7/9 in 18-49, 18 mil), starring Tom Selleck as a small-town cop, provided the net with above-average scores on a tough night.

Out of the closet

Also above average was NBC with its two-hour “First 5 Years of ‘Saturday Night Live’ ” spec (4.6/10 in 18-49, 12.2 million), and Fox’s “The Simpsons” at 8 (4.9/12, 10.5 million), whose sweep stunt involved one of the toon’s characters coming out of the closet.

NBC scored Friday with its “Third Watch”-“Medical Investigation” crossover event, with the conclusion on the latter uncovering the rookie skein’s best in-season results to date (3.7/11 in 18-49, 11.4 million). “Third Watch” (prelim 3.0/9 in 18-49, 10.2 million) also led its timeslot, as did “Dateline” at 8 (prelim 2.7/9 in 18-49, 10.0 million).

Struggling on the night was CBS soph drama “Joan of Arcadia,” which set a firstrun series low at 8 (prelim 1.7/5 in 18-49, 7.4 million).

On Saturday, ABC’s repeat of “Green Mile” (3.0/9 in 18-49, 8.4 million) edged past Fox’s “Cops” (3.2/10 in 18-49, 7.8 million) and “America’s Most Wanted” (prelim 2.6/8, 6.9 million). “Cops,” featuring an hourlong “Las Vegas Heat” spec, easily led its hour outright, though, with the show’s best scores in 53 weeks.

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