Viewers make ‘House’ call

Fox's hit medical drama brings in big numbers

New night, same results for broadcasters on Tuesday: A returning smash (this time Fox’s “House”) was afire, but frosh fare was greeted with a lukewarm reception.

Even Jimmy Smits’ television return in CBS’ “Cane” and some of the best reviews of the young season for CW’s “Reaper” couldn’t get auds excited for the nets’ new offerings.

Hopes remained high for last night, which pitted ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff “Private Practice” against NBC’s “Bionic Woman” — two dramas with presold hooks. But if neither of those clicks, it could be a troublesome autumn for the industry.

According to “live plus same-day” DVR viewing estimates by Nielsen for Tuesday night, “House” opened to a 7.8 rating/19 share in adults 18-49 and 18.31 million viewers overall, dominating the night’s middle hour and delivering the show’s best rating to date for an episode that didn’t follow “American Idol.” It was up 32% in rating and 3 share points from last fall’s Tuesday bow (in the 8 o’clock hour).

It’s also the highest-rated series or season premiere for a Fox drama since “The X-Files” kicked off its eighth season in November 2000.

While “House” surged by 36% vs. the same night a year ago in female teens (5.3 vs. 3.9), it was flat among male teens (3.9 vs. 3.9) — presumably due to the release of a much-anticipated videogame. Sure enough, Nielsen reported a 44% increase in primetime videogame usage by males 12-24 vs. the same night a year ago.

Fox opened its winning night with good numbers for “Bones” (3.3/9 in 18-49, 8.40m), which was up from its August 2006 season premiere and logged its best numbers since November 2005 for an episode that wasn’t paired with “Idol.”

At CBS, “Cane” — a sudser revolving around a Cuban-American family that runs a rum and sugar business — averaged a second-place 3.0 rating/8 share in adults 18-49 and 11.21 million viewers overall in the 10 o’clock hour, performing a bit better than its lead-in but coming in below the demo delivery of “Smith” in its timeslot preem a year ago (3.6/10).

It did deliver a larger preem aud than the four other dramas the net has bowed in the slot over the last two years.

Earlier for the Eye, “NCIS” opened its fifth season with solid numbers (3.2/9 in 18-49, 13.89m), and “The Unit” held onto most of its demo lead-in at 9 (2.8/7 in 18-49, 10.70m), but came in down from last year when “House” wasn’t its competition.

At CW, “Beauty and the Geek” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 2.98m) performed decently in its second week, and new drama “Reaper” followed with similar numbers in its premiere at 9 o’clock (1.5/4, 3.28m).

In the net’s target demo of adults 18-34, the slacker-meets-Satan comedic drama matched “Geek” with a 1.8/5 and was slightly better than the bow of CW’s “Veronica Mars” in the slot last fall.

Because “Reaper” skews both young and male, it’s reasonable to surmise that it was hurt by the vidgame release of “Halo 3” on Tuesday. Net may want to give it a second airing prior to next week’s second seg.

Elsewhere, ABC was strong from 8 to 9:30 p.m. with “Dancing With the Stars” (4.7/13 in 18-49, 18.51m), but “Boston Legal” fell off sharply after that with its fourth-season preem (2.5/7 in 18-49, 10.30m) — losing about 25% vs. its year-ago premiere.

“Dancing” was Tuesday’s most-watched program overall, even if it wasn’t as potent as the previous night’s premiere.

NBC held in there with a two-hour “Biggest Loser” (3.0/8 in 18-49, 6.62m), which grew with each half-hour against tough competition. Net then won the 10 o’clock hour with vet crime drama “Law & Order: SVU” (4.8/13 in 18-49, 12.12m), which opened its ninth season well.

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