‘Big Bang Theory’ Handles ‘American Idol’ While ‘Rake’ Looks Rocky on Thursday

NBC improves its standing with sports-themed 'SNL' clips show

Big Bang Theory

CBS comedy juggernaut “The Big Bang Theory” easily toppled Fox’s “American Idol” in their first head-to-head encounter of the season Thursday, a night that also saw slippage for Fox’s “Rake” in its second outing.

The Eye won the night in key demos, also getting a strong performance from “Elementary” to close the night. NBC improved its standing with another “Saturday Night Live” clips show, while ABC remained limp on the night without its popular “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.”

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, “The Big Bang Theory” was the night’s No. 1 program in adults 18-49 (5.1 rating/15 share), total viewers (18.9 million) and other key demos with its first episode in three weeks; it was down about 10% from that Jan. 9 installment. Thursday’s half-hour, featuring guest star James Earl Jones, beat Fox’s “American Idol” head-to-head in just about every category — from kids and male teens to women 55 and older — with the exception of kids under 12.

The advantage in adults 18-49 for “Big Bang” rose to 82% (5.1 vs. 2.8) after sitting at 28% on the comparable night a year ago (5.4 vs. 4.2). And in adults 18-34, the CBS comedy grew its advantage from a slim 5% last year (3.7 vs. 3.5) to 57% last night (3.6 vs. 2.3).

“Big Bang” was followed on CBS by “The Millers” (2.8/8 in 18-49, 11.8 million viewers overall), which ran a strong second to “American Idol” in just about every category while moving ahead of it in men 25-54. CBS placed first the rest of the way with “The Crazy Ones” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 8.3 million viewers overall), “Two and a Half Men” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 8.5 million viewers overall) and “Elementary” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 8.5 million viewers overall), though the comedies were at about season lows despite facing softish series competition.

Elementary, on the other hand, seemed to thrive in its first airing of the season opposite no drama competition. The second-year drama hit a season high in adults 25-54 (3.0/8) while drawing its largest overall audience since its season opener in September.

For Fox, “American Idol” (3.1/9 in 18-49, 11.2 million viewers overall for its full hour) limited its week-to-week declines to 9% in 18-49 and actually grew in adults 18-34 (2.7 vs. 2.4) — pretty good considering the CBS comedies were back in original. But not holding up as well was new Greg Kinnear series “Rake” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 5.3 million viewers overall), which tumbled more than 20% from its unexceptional bow of last week; it finished third, behind CBS and NBC.

The Peacock’s opening-hour comedies “Community” (1.1/3 in 18-49, 3.0 million viewers overall) and “Parks and Recreation” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 3.0 million viewers overall) held steady despite the increased CBS competition. And from 9 to 11 p.m., the net’s “SNL Presents: A SNL Sports Spectacular” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 4.7 million viewers overall) was a big improvement over the net’s regular Thursday schedule. Looking specifically at the 9 p.m. hour, the compilation of sports-themed sketches from the latenight show more than doubled the 18-49 average of last week’s “The Michael J. Fox Show” and “Sean Saves the World” (1.7 to 0.7).

ABC’s cooking contest “The Taste” continues to weigh down the net on the night (1.0/3 in 18-49, 3.5 million viewers overall), and a repeat “Shark Tank” closed things out (1.0/3 in 18-49, 3.8 million viewers overall).

At CW, “The Vampire Diaries” was on the low side (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.4 million viewers overall), but “Reign” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 1.7 million viewers overall) continues to hang in there, holding steady or rising in various categories week-to-week.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: CBS, 2.6/7; Fox, 2.2/6; NBC, 1.6/4; Univision, 1.3/4; ABC, 1.0/3; CW, 0.8/2; Telemundo, 0.6/2.

In total viewers: CBS, 11.3 million; Fox, 8.3 million; NBC, 4.2 million; ABC, 3.6 million; Univision, 3.2 million; CW, 1.7 million; Telemundo, 1.4 million.