Fox checks its rearview: CBS gaining

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CBS continued to encroach on Fox last week, narrowing the weekly gap between the networks to a tenth of a rating point.

Despite a healthy debut for "Hell's Kitchen," Fox's average dipped slightly for the week ending April 4 partly because of a decline in Wednesday's "American Idol." Meanwhile, CBS increased its average, sporting six of the week's top 10 programs thanks to the NCAA tournament and returning scripted shows including "CSI."

Nonetheless, Fox won its 13th week in a row (averaging 9.6 million viewers, a 3.5 rating among adults 18-49 and a 10 share), led by Tuesday's "Idol" (26 million, 9.6/26). The first in-season debut of "Hell's" took advantage of its "Idol" lead-in to score its largest premiere ever (11.9 million, 5.5/13), though it retained fewer "Idol" viewers than the premieres of "The Moment of Truth" and "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" (which isn't an entirely direct comparison since the latter shows were series premieres and not in their fourth edition).

Fox also had the season finale of "Truth" (10.2 million, 4.1/12), which was up slightly and completed its run as the highest-rated new show of the season.

On CBS, procedural power duo "CSI" (20.6 million, 5.9/15) and "Without a Trace" (15 million, 3.9/11) returned Thursday night to seize control of their respective hours. The post-strike magic of scripted shows returning has diminished somewhat, as new shows are no longer receiving the eye-popping season-high spikes of CBS' comedy block from a couple of weeks back. "CSI" (20.6 million, 5.9/16) was down slightly from its prestrike average, while "Trace" was on par.

On Saturday, CBS was boosted by its NCCA Final Four coverage, earning its best numbers in the time period (14.4 million, 5.2/16) since 2005. During CBS' Monday comedy block, a visit from Jason Alexander helped bubble show "The New Adventures of Old Christine" go out on a high note (12.6 million, 4.5/11), increasing the likelihood of a renewal.

CBS' gains also impacted third-place ABC and fourth-place NBC, both of which dropped a bit this week.

ABC's best performer continues to be Monday's "Dancing With the Stars" (20.1 million, 5.1/13), but Sunday night reality shows "Oprah's Big Give" (9.4 million, 3.2/8) and the season finale of "Here Come the Newlyweds" (9.4 million, 3.2/8) continued to defend their time periods. On Friday, game show "Duel" returned as the night's lowest-rated telecast (3.8 million, 1.1/3).

NBC's top show was "The Biggest Loser" (8.2 million, 3.3/8), with the return of "My Name Is Earl" coming in second (7.5 million, 3.2/9). "Earl" was down a bit from its average. NBC's attempt to transport USA Network's top-rated shows to broadcast was shrugged off by viewers: The NBC debuts of "Monk" (5.7 million, 1.5/4) and "Psych" (4 million, 1.3/3) finished last in their Sunday night hours.

The CW was down a notch, with "America's Next Top Model" continuing to lead the network (3.9 million, 1.9/6).
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