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Ratings: CBS wins big while Pee-wee gives Leno a rise

September 23, 2009 |  9:17 am

CBS took the night in viewers and key demographics with its all-drama lineup of "NCIS" and rookies "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "The Good Wife," according to preliminary ratings from Nielsen. 

Coming in second in viewers was ABC, followed by NBC, Fox and the CW. In adults 18-49, CBS was the easy winner while Fox just nipped ABC for second place and NBC slunk into fourth place.


Now for the details: CBS averaged 17.3 million viewers on the night. The network got off to a strong start with "NCIS" opening the 8 p.m. hour with 20 million viewers. That is an 11% gain over the show's average last season. Its spinoff, "NCIS: Los Angeles" attracted 18.3 million people, which is a drop of only 8.5%. 

At 10 p.m., "The Good Wife" averaged 13.7 million viewers. While that was a drop of 25% from its lead-in, "The Good Wife" has a more female appeal than the heavily male skewing "NCIS." It still won its time period. That said, CBS might want to think down the road about the flow from its two "NCIS" programs into "The Good Wife."

Both "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "The Good Wife" improved on the time period average of a year ago. The network said it was its best Tuesday premiere night since 1993 and best 18-49 performance since 2004.

At ABC, the network averaged 13.3 million viewers. Two hours of "Dancing With the Stars" brought in a little over 15 million viewers, while new lost persons drama "The Forgotten" averaged 9.5 million viewers. That's not bad for "The Forgotten," but not great either, having lost 41% of its lead-in audience from "Dancing."

There was a bright spot for NBC in "The Jay Leno Show," which jumped in viewers to 6.8 million from 5.8 million on Monday and won the adults 18-34 demographic. The big guest was Pee-wee Herman, who apparently still has some staying power with the kids. This will probably be the pattern for the show. When Leno has a guest that draws interest, his numbers will spike a little and when he doesn't they'll dip. The real question will be what is happening to the local news that follows his 10 p.m. program. In a few weeks, a real assessment of that can begin.

At the CW, "Melorse Place" averaged about 1.45 million viewers. Any chance Heather Locklear can start a little earlier?

-- Joe Flint

Photo: LL Cool J in NCIS: Los Angeles. Credit: CBS/Cliff Lipson.