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Ratings Five-Spot - Touch, CSI, The Big Bang Theory, The Finder, Chuck

Here's the Ratings Five-Spot for the week ending January 29, 2012:

  • Touch - Kiefer Sutherland returned to TV on Wednesday night. New drama Touch aired on the same network that aired the eight-season run of Sutherland's previous show 24, and it looks like some of that network's viewers missed him. Touch's "preview" pulled in 12.01 million viewers and a 3.9 A18-49 rating. That marked the second-biggest drama premiere in 18-49 this season (only one notch behind Once Upon a Time). You always have to keep in mind in these situations that the show aired after American Idol (6.5 demo), and it probably wouldn't have done as well without that support, but it still seems like a solid start. Those numbers aren't too important considering the show won't air again for almost two months. Its regular run kicks off on Monday, March 19.
  • CSI - At the same time Kiefer's return episode was wrapping up, Marg Helgenberger's goodbye episode of CSI was just under way. And it was a fitting send-off for one of the last original CSIs, pulling in season highs with 14.26 million viewers and a 3.4 demo. Those marked the highest numbers for CSI in over a year (since October 21, 2010) and were up by 21% from the previous week's episode. That's a bigger percentage bump than some recent similarly hyped procedural departures have brought. For example, William Petersen's final CSI back in 2009 was only up 14% from the previous episode.
  • The Big Bang Theory - In the last decade, reality megahit American Idol has developed a reputation as a "Death Star" because it so reliably damaged the ratings of everything in its path. Even though some shows are still struggling against Idol (like NBC's Whitney/Are You There, Chelsea? block), it looks like 2012 may be the year we can put that term to rest. There are two big ways of illustrating this. First, Idol is way down itself; each of its first four Wednesday/Thursday data points have been down at least 25% from the corresponding episode last year. Apologists will continue to note that it's still on top of the primetime landscape, but that gap is narrowing fast.
    The second way Idol is much less a "Death Star" is that there are actually shows this year that seem completely unfazed by its arrival. TV's two biggest scripted hits in 18-49 haven't blinked.  Modern Family's January 18 episode against the Wednesday Idol pulled a 5.1 demo, which was exactly equal to its not-against-Idol ep from the previous week. Even more amazing has been CBS' The Big Bang Theory. When it, too, held its full 5.3 rating from the previous week against Idol, I thought it may have been because of the extra hype from the 100th episode. Then the show went and picked up two more tenths last week. That 5.5 demo represented the highest numbers for Big Bang in its 1.5+ seasons on Thursday night. For most of the aughts, shows just weren't supposed to do the same or better against Idol than without Idol. It looks like times are changing.
  • The Finder - I wrote about The Finder's practically dead on arrival 1.7 demo a couple weeks ago but cautioned that it wasn't necessarily as dead as most shows with those ratings because it would get the American Idol lead-in starting in week two. And, indeed, The Finder was up 29% in week two to a 2.2 demo even though Idol returned below expectations. Then, in week three, things got really interesting, as the show rose another 27% to a 2.8 demo. Once again, there was a pretty clear reason; literally all of the competition it faced in week two went away. ABC and CBS went into repeats. The CW had a movie. NBC was original with 30 Rock, but 30 Rock is no The Office by a long shot. So even though The Finder's early trajectory is almost unprecedented, there are still reasons to be skeptical. It can wipe out a lot of those reasons by holding that 2.8 or thereabouts against the full slate of competition this Thursday.
  • Chuck - The final season of Chuck wrapped up last Friday, scoring season highs with 4.10 million viewers and a 1.2 demo at 8:00, then further season highs with 4.31 million viewers and a 1.3 in the 9:00 finale. Not that it "matters" in terms of a future for the show, but at least it means the show will have grown in each of its last three episodes. That's a small bragging right to take away from an otherwise really low-rated final season. Chuck was just another show to get murdered ratings-wise by the Friday night treatment; its final season finished with a sub-1.0 average (0.98 to be exact) and was down a whooping 43% from the season four average.
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