'Heroes' premiere down 25% from last year

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The two-hour premiere of NBC's top drama "Heroes" was down 25% compared with last year's one-hour opener, taking an expected hit following a creatively middling second season and an extended nine-month hiatus prompted by the writers strike.

The "Heroes" debut (9.9 million viewers, 4.9 preliminary adults 18-49 rating and a 12 share) ranked second in the 9 p.m. hour after ABC's "Dancing With the Stars' " return, and second at 10 p.m. following CBS' "CSI: Miami" debut. ("Heroes" was actually down even more, 33%, if you include NBC's heavily protested move to push Nielsen last fall to roll its Saturday repeat rating into its premiere). Clip show lead-in "Heroes: Countdown to the Premiere" (6 million, 2.6/7) placed third in the hour.

NBC's weaker standings gave CBS a clear opening to lead the night, and the network took it: CBS won its first premiere week Monday since 2002.

Proving that not every show is returning weaker than last year, CBS' "Two and a Half Men" (14.9 million, 5.3/12) -- whose repeats were on like a ratings champ nightlight during strike -- returned up 10% from last year to top the night with its best premiere rating in four years.

"How I Met Your Mother" (9.7 million, 4.0/10) retained the newfound energy the show built poststrike (Britney Spears, etc) and came back a very impressive 21% higher than last season. The second-season debut of "The Big Bang Theory" (9.4 million, 3.6/10) was down a tenth, however.

CBS' critically well-regarded new 9:30 p.m. series "Worst Week" (11 million, 3.8/9) lost 21% of its "Men" lead-in, putting a pothole in CBS' comedy block momentum that otherwise built with each successive show. It was also down 16% from the time period last year. Still, the relatively sluggish "Week" did little to hurt the 10 p.m premiere of "CSI: Miami" (16.9 million, 5.1/12), which was nonetheless up 11% from last season.

Overall, this is a very impressive Monday-night return for CBS that should give some hope (or sleepless nights) to rivals wondering if 2008-09 is inherently going to be lower than last year because of increased DVR penetration and the ongoing rise of cable. Mondays were once an evening that NBC dominated, but last night the network came in third. Let's see how NBC performs next week with its full regular lineup, which includes the premieres of "Chuck" and "My Own Worst Enemy."

In second place, ABC premiered a two-hour "Dancing" (21.1 million, 5.3/13), which was down only 9% from last year and was the night's most-watched show. In fact, this was ABC's most-viewed premiere week Monday since 1999. The 10 p.m. return of "Boston Legal" (9.4 million, 2.5/6) matched last season's bow to place last in the hour.

Fox placed fourth, with "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" (5.8 million, 2.2/6) the lowest-rated show among the major broadcasters, dipping a tenth from last week, followed by "Prison Break" (5.9 million, 2.5/6).

The premiere week competition hit the CW, whose fourth week of "Gossip Girl" (3.4 million, 1.6/4) took a rough knock, down 20% from last week (but down only 9% in its target W18-34 demo). "One Tree Hill" also declined (3.1 million, 1.5/3) down 17%.
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