‘Big Bang’ sets viewer record

16.3 million watch CBS sitcom, beats 'Idol' in demo too

CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” continued its assault of “American Idol” Thursday, defeating Fox’s reality giant for the third straight week in the 18-49 demo and second consecutive week in total viewers.

According to early estimates from Nielsen, “Big Bang” was seen by a series-record 16.3 million viewers (assuming the number doesn’t decrease when final numbers are received Friday afternoon). In the demo, the laffer earned a 5.4 rating/16 share at 8 o’clock.

For the half-hour, “American Idol” drew 15.8 million viewers and a 5.0/15.

Fox won an all-originals Thursday night as over the hourlong telecast “Idol” averaged a 5.4/15 and 17.1m, down slightly from a week ago. “Idol” lead-out “The Finder” (2.4/6) took a bigger hit from last week, off 14%.

Following “Big Bang,” “Rob” (3.4/9, 11.2m) was down a notch from a week ago and was best in the 8:30 timeslot after “Idol.” From 9-11 p.m., CBS offered its procedural doubleheader of “Person of Interest” (3.3/9, 14.9m) and “The Mentalist” (2.8/8, 13.5m).

In the 9 p.m. post-“Wipeout” (1.8/5, 5.9m) timeslot for ABC, “Grey’s Anatomy” was best for the night for the Alphabet. Longtime Shonda Rhimes drama drew a 3.5/9, 5.9m, an improvement over its most recent original episode, and was tops against all competition. “Private Practice” (2.3/6, 6.6m) was slightly below “The Mentalist” at 10 o’clock.

After being off the schedule last week, “The Office” returned to the Peacock’s lineup and drew a 2.7/7, 5.2m. That was the high-water mark for the net, where “30 Rock” (1.3/4, 3.2m) started the night down and “Park and Recreation” (1.8/5, 3.6m) slightly up. Airing at 9:30, “Up All Night” (1.8/5, 3.7m) has been a consistent freshman comedy performer this season and could likely be back next season.

The same can’t be said for “The Firm (0.8/2, 2.9m), which continues to flounder at 10 p.m. Despite lower production costs because of having Canadian-based E1 as an outside producer, the series has been a major disappointment.

Both “The Vampire Diaries” (1.2/3, 2.7m) and “The Secret Circle” (0.7/2, 1.7m) were up for the CW from their last original airings. Net, however, can’t be happy with the million-viewer drop-off from one show to the next.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: Fox, 3.9/11; CBS, 3.5/9; ABC, 2.5/7; Univision, 1.5/4; NBC, 1.5/4; CW, 0.9/2.

In total viewers: CBS, 14 million; Fox, 12 million; ABC, 7.4 million; Univision, 3.6 million; NBC, 3.6 million; CW, 2.2 million.