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Comedy king in early TV season

Half-hours account for top six shows among young adults

The broadcast networks don’t regularly air any comedies on Friday, but that may change before too long.

While Friday — the only weeknight without half-hours on the sked — continues to generate depressing Nielsen numbers, auds are clearly looking to laugh this fall, based on the season’s early ratings returns.

In a premiere week that included a Simon Cowell-fronted reality show and several high-profile dramas, it was half-hour laffers — from vets like CBS’ “Two and a Half Men” and ABC’s “Modern Family” to newbies “2 Broke Girls” on CBS and “New Girl” on Fox — that emerged as the true standouts.

In fact, through Saturday, the frame’s top six entertainment series in adults 18-49 were half-hour comedies — and that number could go as deep as seven or eight based on how Fox’s “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” fared last night.

Even NBC, which doesn’t have the tentpoles that its rivals do out of which to launch new comedies, has reason to be happy with the Thursday debut of “Whitney,” and its Wednesday leadoff hitter “Up All

Night” has also showed a spark.

While comedies have excited viewers, no new drama has really popped in the early going. ABC’s “Revenge” exhibited some promise, but none of CBS’ three new drama offerings was particularly impressive, nor were any of the drama newbies that came with a built-in hook (NBC’s “The Playboy Club” and “Prime Suspect,” and ABC’s “Charlie’s Angels”).

And though Fox’s “The X Factor” posted good numbers in its two nights last week, it was not anywhere close to “American Idol” territory. At the same time, veteran reality contests like “Dancing With the Stars,” “The Biggest Loser” and CW’s “America’s Next Top Model” have seen noticeable early erosion. On the first Thursday of the season, CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” ruled as the No. 1 program with a pair of episodes including an 8:30 seg that did a big 5.1/14 in 18-49 and 14.94 million viewers overall. The Eye couldn’t really capitalize on that influx of young viewers, though, as new crime drama “Person of Interest” had a so-so bow (3.1/8 in 18-49, 13.33m), placing fourth in 18-49 (behind last year’s “CSI”) while winning its hour in total viewers.

NBC’s “The Office” opened the post-Steve Carell era with good numbers (3.9/10, 7.64m), and the new “Whitney” followed (3.3/8, 6.85m), holding a nice 85% of its lead-in. At 10, though, “Prime Suspect” dropped off (1.8/5, 6.05m) but was still better than last year’s “The Apprentice.”

ABC’s “Charlie’s Angels” had a decent bow (2.1/6, 8.76m), upgrading the 8 p.m. timeslot for the net despite its third-place finish. And “Grey’s Anatomy” (4.1/10, 10.38m from 9 to 11 p.m.) was down 24% year-to-year, but its eighth-season preem won its second hour in demos.

At Fox, “The X Factor” (4.3/12 in 18-49, 12.52m) nearly matched its Wednesday delivery — with the net claiming victory in demos on the opening Thursday of the season for the first time. “X” peaked at 9:30, where it swept its timeslot (4.8/12 in 18-49, 13.72m).

Meanwhile, CW’s dramas “The Vampire Diaries” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 2.52m) and “The Secret Circle” (0.9/3, 2.12m) fell off from their solid preems of the previous week.

CBS won Friday, led by returning crime dramas “CSI: NY” (prelim 1.8/6 in 18-49, 10.7 million) and “Blue Bloods” (2.0/6, 11.8 million), both down a bit from last year. Leadoff newcomer “A Gifted Man” (prelim 1.4/5 in 18-49, 9.3 million) had an older skew, matching last year’s “Medium” in the slot but up sharply in total viewers, a category it dominated.

Fox, with “Kitchen Nightmares” (prelim 1.6/6 in 18-49, 3.8 million) and “Fringe” (prelim 1.5/5, 3.5 million) was up from its tiny premiere Friday numbers of a year ago. And NBC’s “Dateline” had a good showing from 9 to 11 p.m. (prelim 2.0/6, 7.1 million), winning its second hour in 18-49 and 25-54.

The second week of the season will see three more series preems, including tonight’s “Terra Nova” on Fox and “Hart of Dixie” on CW.

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