CBS comes on strong, but Fox tops

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The ratings gap between first-place Fox and its competitors narrowed during the past couple weeks thanks to the return of some scripted programming, college basketball and ABC's strong reality shows.

In early March, Fox had a mammoth weekly lead, outperforming its nearest competitor by an average of about 2 rating points among adults 18-49. During the past two weeks, that margin has shrunk to a 0.6 difference as CBS leapt to second place (Fox's 9.9 million viewers, 3.7 adults 18-49 rating and a 10.2 share vs. CBS' 9.5 million, 3.1/8.8). The shift doesn't change the overall picture for the season, which Fox is expected to win by a clear margin.

Fox held steady this week, though Tuesday's "American Idol" hit a season low (24.8 million, 9.7/25). "Idol" also lifted an episode of " 'Til Death" into the top 10 shows (10 million, 4.3/11), with the comedy posting its best number since the last time "Idol" gifted it with a lead-in. Despite "New Amsterdam" getting a stronger lead-in Monday, the freshman drama fell 13% (6.2 million, 2.0/5).

In second place, CBS had another strong week of Monday night comedy performances, with "How I Met Your Mother" hitting a series high thanks to a guest appearance by Britney Spears (10.7 million, 4.5/12). Drama "CSI: Miami" also resumed its run, earning a higher-than-average rating (16 million, 4.9/12). Canceled apocalyptic drama "Jericho" went out on a flat note (6 million, 1.8/5). CBS' presentation of NCAA college basketball regional semifinals was about on par with last year and Thursday night helped CBS lock the No. 2 spot (8.4 million, 3.7/11).

In third, ABC's freshman Sunday night reality shows "Oprah's Big Give" (11.4 million, 3.9/9) and "Here Come the Newlyweds" (7.3 million, 3.0/8) seemingly found their footing, bouncing about 15% week-over-week. Monday's "Dancing With the Stars" continued to perform strong (20.5 million, 5.1/13), though it was down 9% from its premiere week. "The Bachelor" was about average (7.7 million, 2.6/7).

NBC's fourth-place finish was up slightly week-over-week thanks to a surprisingly strong two-hour season finale of "The Celebrity Apprentice" that matched its season high (12.1 million, 4.5/12). But on Monday night, competition series "My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad" fell to a dire low (4.2 million, 1.2/3).

The CW was down a notch, with "America's Next Top Model" (3.5 million, 1.7/5) continuing to lead the network's lineup. Led by repeats of "Jail" (1.8/0.8/2) MyNetworkTV was down a tenth.

On cable, the Season 1 finale of "America's Best Dance Crew" on MTV was the network's highest-rated first-quarter telecast among total viewers (4.9 million).
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