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 of 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 easily.

Fox held steady this past 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.

In second place, CBS had another strong Monday night, with "How I Met Your Mother" (10.7 million, 4.5/12) hitting a series high thanks to Britney Spears. "CSI: Miami" also resumed its run, earning a higher-than-average rating (16 million, 4.9/12). The canceled "Jericho" went out on a flat note (6 million, 1.8/5).

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.

NBC's fourth-place finish was up slightly thanks to a surprisingly strong two-hour season finale of "The Celebrity Apprentice" that matched its season high (12.1 million, 4.5/12).

The CW was down a notch, with "America's Next Top Model" (3.5 million, 1.7/5) atop the lineup.
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